RAGE – PC
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
RAGE is a first person shooter game developed by id Software, the same company that brought the world a number of groundbreaking games. Their early work included the Commander Keen series, a side-scrolling platformer that was one of the first applications to successfully employ parallax scrolling. In addition, they’re the folks responsible for the Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein franchises and thereby pretty much creating the FPS genre. RAGE is the company’s latest release. I’m reviewing this game now because there are rumors on the horizon that their next release, Doom 4 is nearing completion. Also, I want to see how the POS handles the game for those folks on a budget.
In RAGE, you play the Ark Survivor, the only person to survive cryostasis in an advanced facility designed to safeguard the future of humanity in the event of a catastrophe. The Eden Project was supposed to allow a sufficient number of humans to survive so as to permit re-population.
Unfortunately, the venture is largely a failure as evinced by the fact that you’re the only one left alive. After an asteroid impact, the surface of Earth is a wasteland with small enclaves of survivors fighting for survival against roving gangs of bandits and mutants. You know, your basic post-apocalyptic nightmare world.
After emerging from the subterranean Ark facility, you’re immediately beset by bandits. Luckily, you’re saved by a patrolling survivor named Dan Hagar and taken to a local survivor settlement. It’s during this early phase of the game you learn that you were injected with “nanotrites” before stasis. Nanotrites are your leg up, so to speak. They give you abilities beyond those of normal humans and were meant to increase your chances of survival upon resuscitation. You also find out that a faction called The Authority is looking for you and other survivors, for purposes as yet to be revealed…
Game controls are standard mouse and keyboard FPS, with key assignments available for players who want to change things up a bit. It also supports USB game pads. Movement is standard W, S, A and D. This goes for vehicles as well. Mouse wheel or number keys cycle through weapons. Left mouse punches/fires a weapon, right mouse aims down the sights. Shift sprints, C crouches and V delivers a melee blow with the weapon, which seems a little awkward but if you rest your thumb on Space (jump), your index finger reaches C or V with little difficulty.
Before I start discussing the graphics, let me say first that when I bought this game I knew it would be on the ragged edge of what the POS could handle. I was not mistaken. I initially set the resolution to 1440 X 900, the native resolution on the POS monitor. The game crashed and burned before I had taken more than a few steps out of the Ark facility ground-level entrance. I captured a record POS low of 2 FPS right before it died. I restarted the game and set it for 800 X 600, the lowest possible for the game. With no texture filter and anisotropic filtering set to low, I achieved a fairly playable environment, but make no mistake- if you want to play this game at enjoyable resolution and not be thrown into a stutter-fest, you’ll need better hardware. The game recommends a quad-core processor and a 9800GT. If you can’t get your hands on one of those (they’re no longer available new but do pop up regularly on eBay), I would say you need a GTX 560 Ti Boost or Radeon HD 7870 to get this game to run at decent (1024 X 768) resolution and more graphics oomph if you want to get jiggy with it. Oh, and probably a good quad-core processor (Core i5) or an AMD FX 6300 or better.
That being said, the graphics were definitely acceptable on the lowest settings, but the character models have a weird shiny look about them due to the lack of texture detail. The environments are nicely rendered, but I found the color palette to be a bit boring. Granted, it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland but some different colored rocks would go a long way to adding to the ambiance without ruining the realism. The terrain has a somewhat washed out, bland appearance but I won’t harp on that due to the shortcomings of the POS.
The animations leave a little to be desired, in my opinion. In the grand tradition of id, blood and gore are completely over-the-top. While there are a variety of ways for an enemy to fall, sprawl and otherwise come to rest, they’re not entirely natural-looking, and one is downright silly. If you get a head shot with a shotgun at close range, the enemy’s head just disappears, replaced by a fountain of blood. It just doesn’t look right but is good for a chuckle.
The music kind of fades into the background, which is appropriate for this kind of game I think. It’s mostly lots of driving percussion and haunting strings. NPC (non-playable character) and enemy mobs have a wide variety of phrases and battle cries. Oddly, friendly settlers seem to speak English in an American fashion, while the enemies sound more like they came out of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Level design is decent, with a lot of twists and turns, up and down stairs, ramps and ladders. The bandit lairs give a good feeling of claustrophobia; you know you’re going to be ambushed, you just don’t know when.
AI is decent as well. Enemies armed with guns will seek cover and advance when they are not under fire. Melee enemies perform tuck-and-rolls, vault over obstacles, and even swing from objects hanging from ceilings in order to throw your aim off. Wounded gun enemies are still dangerous, even if they can’t move. They’ll fire on you as you come into their field of fire. Accuracy is important; one or two shots with a weak weapon will kill an enemy, but only if you hit them center mass/head shot. You can graze them all day to little effect. As the mission difficulty progresses, enemies will hurl grenades and other weapons as they become available.
Boss fights range from easy to relatively difficult. It doesn’t take much time to figure out how to defeat a boss in general, but making it happen can be another story.
Weapons available to you run the FPS gamut from pistols, shotguns, automatic rifles and more. Each weapon has different rounds of ammo which can be found/bought from vendors, and can increase the effectiveness of weapons considerably. Ammo is scarce during mission, though so be sure to stock up from a town vendor before you hit the Wasteland. Of particular note are “wingsticks”- these are basically glaives and do a number on enemies, but they must be found/bought and work on an ammo system, just like guns. You can sometimes, but not always retrieve a wingstick after you’ve thrown it.
One interesting element of the game is the engineering screen. After you get a “recipe”, you can make useful items like lock grinders to open locked doors and bandages, etc. to keep you alive longer. This is a little different from most FPS games I’ve played, and more like a role-playing game. The presence of vendors, too says RPG to me.
If you do die, you can revive yourself one time. RAGE uses a mini-game where you have to press E when two icons approach one another on a bar. The closer you are to perfect, the more energy you receive when you come back to life, and the excess will even kill enemies who have come over to loot your corpse. Die again, though and you’ll have to resume the game from the last checkpoint, unless you had the forethought to save your game as you progress.
The Bottom Line
RAGE is a pretty cool game. I don’t play a lot of FPS and I’m not very good at them, but I am enjoyed this one quite a bit. One of the novel parts of the game is that you get to ride from mission to mission, instead of getting there via cut scenes. You can have some fun and catch some air as you travel to your next job (in fact the game measures the number of jumps you’ve made in various parts of the world). And the game gets you right into riding around. From the very first mission you get to tool around the Wasteland on some kind of iron horse. It’s not long before you have your own, after going on the obligatory parts-fetching mission. If you get your ATV or buggy stuck in the desert, you have a radio to call a truck to tow your vehicle (the service also includes a free repair).
The game rewards stealth. You’ll have a much easier time defeating groups of enemies if you sneak up on them rather than charge in, guns blazing. If you do kill a number of foes in a short period of time, the survivors will often panic and beat feet in the opposite direction, until they come upon more of their fellows and get their courage back.
As I mentioned earlier, I was not impressed with the terrain. While I’ll give the game the benefit of the doubt due to the graphics issues I encountered, I think the monotony of the terrain has more to do with the color palette than lack of detail. It’s as if the developers were rushed at that point in the game’s creation, or just got lazy and assigned the same color to a number of different objects/tiles. The character models for NPC’s/enemies also have a weird homogeneity about them. But this minor flaw doesn’t detract from the overall experience.
No, if I have a single big problem with RAGE it’s the lack of ingenuity and groundbreaking features I expect from id. I’m probably being too hard on them, but I have certain expectations from an id game that I don’t attach to other developers. After all, they were the guys who started it all. But then, none of those guys are still around anyway. John Carmack, co-creator of Doom, left id to work on a VR project and John Romero left a long time ago. So the first name in FPS is now just that, a name. I’m sure the folks who are working there now will do a great job on Doom 4 and other franchise titles we’ll see in the future, but it just won’t be the same. Playing Doom was like watching Star Wars for the first time. Yeah, I’m that old. I can remember just being awed by the movie; it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Likewise, I was hooked on Doom from the very first map. Like Lucas’ first Star Wars film, Doom was THE game that woke gamers up to a whole new genre.
Maybe it’s a genre that’s already reached its zenith and will now slowly choke under the weight of the unoriginal, rehashed franchise titles that dominate the FPS market. RAGE isn’t one of those, but it does have the inherent limitations of every FPS- once you run a map, there’s precious little reason to do it again. Sure, you can crank up the difficulty but even the challenge of that wears thin quickly. If you look at the shooter genre, arguably the only progression we’ve seen is the introduction of better and better graphics. The games themselves haven’t changed much at all. AI has gotten a bit better, but most FPS gamers seem to either rush through the campaigns or skip them entirely to get to the multiplayer.
Whatever, the case, RAGE is not a bad example of an FPS. It combines some elements of RPG in workable fashion, and overall its a positive experience. But none of it wowed me. Maybe we gamers are just spoiled or maybe my expectations were just too high. Whatever the case, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend RAGE to fans of the genre. It’s not a bad game, just not great. With Steam’s constant sales, titles like this can be had for as little as $5. Just don’t expect anything that will make you sit up and take notice. In my opinion, you won’t find it here.
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