Good morning, world—say hello to the next phase in man (and id’s) evolution
“Your reputation is everything here. If people don’t know you, they don’t like you.”
As much as the impact of a giant asteroid smashing into the planet alters the landscape, Bethesda Softworks’ latest entry into the single-player arena makes one thing painfully clear: The more things change, the more they feel like the line outside a popular nightclub in a major metropolitan area—and, since you’re a recent escapee from one of the government’s last-ditch attempts at post-disaster reclamation, the locals make no bones about the fact that you’re gonna have to fight for every inch of progress.
Such is the stage set for your adventures in a meticulously crafted sci-fi epic from the house that Doom built. Known largely for tenacious technological advances and multiplayer followings that would make most cults blush, id Software sets a slightly different target with Rage, a story-driven shooter that focuses on the lives and struggles of a small pocket of survivors in the wake of a global disaster—and, as the quote above intimates, nothing comes cheap in this patchwork civilization.
Rage hits this point early and often via considerable RPG elements that include resource collection, a robust crafting system, a mess of minigames, and more sidequests than you can fling a wingstick at—and id makes sure you hit each aspect on your quest to salvation. Though the dev team downplayed these elements prior to release, all are expertly implemented and add layer of depth to Rage that most modern shooters save for multiplayer, giving the game a novel feel that really sets it apart from other shooters of its ilk.
Not to be outdone by these newfangled niceties, id made sure to deliver on the game’s bread and butter as well, offering up some impressive AI to fill in those moments when you’re not getting your quasi-quest on. Featuring some of the most intelligent cover-based combatants this side of Half-Life 2, Rage really sells the close-quarters action that defines most of its shooting segments with intelligent movement, amazing animation, and a wide variety of tactical choices that are called into nearly every firefight.
Rage also smartly ratchets up the pressure slowly by introducing new enemy types based on this core combat model, with each making better use of weapons, equipment, and the AI’s general repertoire to pester the player. In that sense, Rage gets away with delivering an intense experience despite one core enemy, a handful of bosses, and sub-baddies without becoming stale—though, I will confess that after a polished campaign filled with so many “holy s***” moments, I expected a bit more out of the final battle.
That said, my—ahem—rage at the lackluster climax was subsided somewhat by the game’s additive online components. While I sit somewhere between baffled and furious with the fact that Rage lacks an FPS-driven multiplayer component, the vehicle-based multiplayer they did include features some of the best car combat I’ve played since the last Twisted Metal, and the game’s co-op missions are surprisingly well-imagined, integrated as clever backstory that puts some of the world’s events neatly into context while adding to replay value in a big way. It’s not the sort of multiplayer I’ve come to expect from id, but it’ll undoubtedly cause gamers to consume countless amounts of playtime after they’ve demolished the 12-hour campaign, so it’s hard to fault the team for going out on a limb and doing something different here.
In the end, it’s this desire to differentiate that takes Rage from the realm of everyday shooter and into something much more rewarding. Not exactly a traditional id aim-and-shoot, just shy of exactly an RPG, and just a few features short of a full-blown car-combat simulator, Rage is a little of all these things—and, as a result, something much greater than the sum of its parts. Though it’s not without its faults, it’s a game that immediately struck me as a new high-water mark for the folks at id, and while its apparent desire to set itself up for a sequel kept it from finishing on as high a note as I would’ve liked, Rage is, without question, the most polished, engrossing id title to date, and it’s a must-play for FPS fans looking for the Next Big Thing in action gaming.
SUMMARY: All things considered, Rage is one hell of an experience. It would be easy to knock this game for some of the elements it lacks, but what is here in is easily on par with some of the best titles in the genre. If you’re a fan of FPS gaming and the kids at id, you won’t be sorry you picked this one up.
- THE GOOD: Stellar shooting, addictive multiplayer, RPG elements
- THE BAD: Lackluster ending, no FPS multiplayer, occasional design hiccups
- THE UGLY: Not even the apocalypse can stamp out evil corporations…
RAGE is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was on the Xbox 360.