Having dedicating most of my teenage years to games like Doom and Quake, itâ€™s difficult not to bring up id Softwareâ€™s pioneering history. Although they didnâ€™t create the original first-person shooter game (that honour would have to go to Maze War in 1974), they revolutionised a comparatively unknown genre and cemented its place for the many years to come.
However it appears that id are now reconsidering what a first-person shooter should be. Tim Willits, the creative director and once co-owner of id Software, stated numerous times that he wanted Rage to be â€˜something differentâ€™. And thereâ€™s little question that this game is very different to idâ€™s back catalogue.
Comparisons to Fallout and Borderlands are just begging to be made. For starters, they all share a very similar aesthetic and setting, while throwing in role-playing elements and a mission based structure to the gameplay. However despite these initial similarities, Rage is a different experience and overall, a much simpler game than these aforementioned titles.
Firstly, Rage only has the illusion of a free-roaming adventure game. Despite a sprawling environment and side missions to explore, players will be completing the game in a very linear fashion. The pseudo-RPG elements are extremely light as well, with only a small emphasis on talking to characters and building up vital statistics. Many id fans will be glad to hear that at its core, Rage is a pure first-person shooter. The problem is, the game often gets confused and seems to want to be more than that.
Rage is set in the not-so-distant future of 2029 after an asteroid crashes into Earth, killing millions and changing the planetâ€™s atmosphere for good. The struggling inhabitants of the altered desolate and dusty planet are fighting for their own survival.
These human remnants have formed small settlements around dwindling resources in a Wild West meets sci-fi sort of way. They are under constant threat from nearby bandits and mutants who are trying to steal, kidnap and maliciously profit in their own grim way.
In typical id fashion, you play as a faceless character taking refuge in an underground bunker known as an Ark. As part of Earthâ€™s recovery mission, the Ark was initiated as soon as the asteroidâ€™s trajectory was confirmed. Manned by twelve specially trained operatives with the intent of helping to rebuild and restore the planet post-impact.
However, something terrible happened during the Arkâ€™s hibernation and you awake to find the rest of your crew has died in stasis. Unprepared and alone, you stumble out of your mechanical cocoon into the horrors that await you on the sun-scorched surface.
Almost immediately, you find yourself involved with the local population - discovering new settlements and meeting colourful characters. As you explore the dusty and treacherous terrain, you complete tasks or missions in order to learn more about what happened to this place, as well as rid the survivors of marauders and homicidal gangs scattered around the wasteland.
Before long, it appears that [Spoiler alert - Ed.] maybe the Arkâ€™s doomed mission might not have been an accident afterall. Matthew J. Costello, who worked on the plot of Doom 3, pens the story that keeps the action flowing, but ultimately fails to push the envelope in terms of a sci-fi thriller. The dialogue, although brilliantly voice acted, isnâ€™t going to win any awards here and the story in Rage is mediocre.
One of the highlights of Rage, however, is the visual spectacular that awaits you. It is simply a beautiful game to play. The Tech 5 engine developed by id takes your over-worked eye-balls, sits them down and makes love to them. The environments are massive and the lighting effects purely top-class. Across all platforms, Rage delivers some of the best photo-realistic graphics seen in the genre.
The PS3 version does fall victim to some bitmap texture popping, though, with objects literally being rendered layer by layer while you look at them. However considering the pixel-perfect level of detail, itâ€™s barely noticeable unless you run up to a plank of wood and stare directly at it while the grain texture gets filled in. You do notice it, but in the greater scheme of things it is easily forgettable.
Itâ€™s not just the environments that are a work of art either. Everything in Rage, from the little shanty-towns featuring a decrepit petrol pump through to an industrial refinery with a maze of pipes. Itâ€™s all breath taking. Quite often youâ€™ll find yourself walking up to a wall to admire a piece of graffiti or a particularly interesting looking lampshade.
Even the character models in the game are incredibly detailed and varied, from the NPCs youâ€™ll meet through to the multitude of baddies youâ€™ll be putting into the ground. Facial animations and even the way different creatures move all seem to be painstakingly created. Just shooting an enemy in the shoulder produces a pain-filled expression and a staggering limp that can make you wince in sympathetic pain.
Which brings us to the second highlight in Rage. The combat mechanics are exactly what we have come to expect of id Software. Every gun-battle youâ€™ll encounter is gruesome, challenging and consistent through out the game. Whether youâ€™re picking off foes with a sniper rifle or ploughing into a bunker with your trusty shotgun, Rage never gets repetitive. More importantly, it remains fun and rewarding. Playing Rage made me remember just how much joy can still be gleaned from an FPS game.
A lot of this comes down to the interesting assortment of weapons, ranging from pistols and crossbows through to wingsticks - a thrown boomerang-like device with three blades. A lot of the weapons have multiple types of ammo as well, opening up a huge array of killing methods. For example you might use electric bolts in your crossbow, sneak up on a group of mutants hanging out by a large pool of water and stun them all by electrocuting the water with a single shot.
Furthermore, players can even engineer their own weapons and accessories via items collected along their travels. Gather together the pieces and the know-how and you can find yourself the proud new owner of a remote-controlled car bomb or something as simple as medicated bandages.
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