Review: Rage

Rage is first person shooter, developed by id, the people behind Quake and Doom and fathers of the FPS genre. It puts you behind a random Ark survivor, someone with nanobots in his system, in an inhospitable post-apocalyptic environment. It’s id’s version of Borderlands, basically.

The Good

  • Fun weapons
  • Interesting crafting system

The Bad

  • Terrible plot
  • Terrible characters
  • Driving sections are dull
  • Samey environments
  • Uninspired subquests and rewards

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get this game when it first released over three years ago. I got it recently during the last Steam Summer Sale, because it was dirt-cheap. I’d read average reviews about it, but never had the cash flow to buy it.

In Rage’s world, before a meteor struck earth, people were placed in Arks, underground stasis tombs for the world’s best and brightest. These people were also changed, having nanobots in their bodies that repair their bodies from damage. When the game opens, you are the only survivor of your Ark, the others’ stasis failing so long before they are but desiccated corpses. Leaving the Ark, you see the wasteland stretching to the distance and a few steps into this new world and a bandit lands on you, very intent con killing you. Thankfully, someone saves you and takes you to his compound.

This is where the game starts and thankfully, it wastes no time on annoying tutorials and instead sends you on your first mission, so you get used to Rage’s quest mechanics and ‘plot’. The mission itself is the tutorial, giving you pointers on how to do the basic things like running, jumping and using items. In that first settlement you get your first few missions and rewards, and they are exciting, which sadly doesn’t stay true for the rest of the game. Most missions are uninspired: Go to place X, kill Enemy Y, find corpse of random NPC and report back. Either that or it’s sabotage something or simply go kill people; and the rewards end up being just a bit of cash, so you can buy more ammo. By the end of this relatively short game, you won’t have any motivation to do any of the missions. It’s not like it’s an RPG and there’s experience to be gained.

Get used to this, it's the only scenery you'll see!

Get used to this, it’s the only scenery you’ll see!

Speaking of the wasteland, that’s the only thing you’ll see in this game. While it is visually beautiful, the environments are all exactly the same: blasted rock and barren deserts. Sure, there are a few highways and some high-tech buildings, but every environment in the overworld is exactly the same. You’d think they would’ve been a bit more creative with their engine. The wasteland is aptly named, as there is almost nothing there, it’s just an empty depressing stretch of land connecting hubs and mission locations. Almost every mission, and I mean 99% of them, takes places indoors in abandoned warehouses or factories or sewers and by the third one you’re visiting, they all start blending together and look exactly the same. This is worsened by the fact the game often sends you back to the same places for new missions, so you’re constantly retreading these samey environments.

Gameplay in Rage is both good and bad. The weapons and their different ammunition—especially the rebar launcher—are extremely fun and each has its own purpose and times when they should be used, but ammo conservation is never an issue when you can buy new clips at any store. You get money from fallen enemies, from quests or rom selling junk you find around, and thankfully Rage tells you the categories your items belong to, so you only sell the items marked as ‘$’. While at first it’s difficult to get money, by the end you’ll have more than enough to buy everything you want, such as weapon and vehicle upgrades. Character interaction is a pain in the ass. The game forces you to wait and listen to NPCs before you can press the button to interact with them. It’s not just quest givers, but even shops and racing. Sometimes it’s a one-liner, but other times they won’t shut up and you have to just sit there and wait.

This gun is so fun!

This gun is so fun!

Speaking of vehicles, that’s the other mechanic for Rage. Throughout the campaign, you get different vehicles, from a buggy to a monster car with a pulse cannon. At first, your car has no weapons but you can install them by acquiring them with race tokens. Yes, this game actually forces you to take part in the ridiculous racing and car combat minigame. In some places, you can buy car upgrades with money, but the good ones with race tokens only. Each hub has its race master and a bunch of race categories, but they are so tedious you won’t want to complete anything beyond what is strictly necessary. Driving around the wasteland is fun at the start but much like the racing it gets tedious, more so when you realise you are commuting from the hub to your job and back. Nothing breaks immersion more than realising you are working for a living.

Cars take damage and literally break apart, the different armor plates falling off as it loses health. In addition to your main weapons on the vehicles (minigun, heat-seaking missiles and the pulse-cannon) you have secondary weapons, such as a shield, a healing item and even mines. Finally, cars have a boost, which you’ll mostly use to get away from the useless bandits or to perform stunts.

Personally, what broke the immersion the most for me was the silent protagonist. There’s no reason for him to be mute and he has no motivation whatsoever, not even his own survival. You’re supposed to care about this world and the characters you meet and the rebellion and how evil the ‘Authority’ is (wow, what an original name), but if you don’t care about your avatar, you can’t care or be invested in anything they’re telling you, not that there’s anything good to tell.

By the end, all these warehouses look the same

By the end, all these warehouses look the same

The plot is terrible and ends in a way that will have you saying, “That’s it?” Nothing gets resolved. It’s not the end of a story, but feels more like a prologue. You’ll go from one quest hub to the next, then meet the rebellion and join them because there’s no other choice, and help them stick it to the Authority, not that they seem much of a threat. Rage’s storytelling and characterization is terrible from start to finish.

Rage is a game that shifts tone constantly, with dead serious moments coupled with half-assed attempts at being zany. There are bandits everywhere and the roads aren’t safe, except for when they’re used for Mario Kart-like racing. Mutants are a pest and a threat to survival, but there’s a TV station centered around killing them in hordes in colorful stages. The wasteland is a dangerous place, but you can run around and perform stunts, crashing into robots with seemingly no other use but be there for you to ram them during a stunt jump. I couldn’t tell if the designers didn’t know what they wanted or if these were id’s honest attempts at humour and craziness.

The voice acting is pretty good, though the rest of the soundtrack is mostly forgettable, with each of the zone’s background music sounding pretty much the same, or at least it did for me. There wasn’t a single memorable tune in the entire game or any memorable character for that matter.

Mutants are the only read challenge here!

Mutants are the only read challenge here!

Enemies are at least varied, with your several bandit gangs acting differently and the mutants having their own maneuvers. In fact, it’s the latter that make up the most exciting combat, because they crawl, dodge, jump and even climb and move through the location on their way to you. It becomes a bit predictable later on, but they still remain the best enemies.

I mentioned how the weapons were fun, but they are also extremely unbalanced. The aforementioned rebar launcher kills everything but heavy enemies in one hit, no matter how much armor they’re supposed to have on them. The Wingstick subweapon kills everything in one or two hits, even the heaviest of enemies. It’s so completely broken I mostly stocked on them, or crafted them.

In Rage, if you buy the recipe and have the required materials, you can craft subweapons and items, ammunition, and even deployable turrets and explosives. The crafting system is well done and helps out a lot, and you’ll often abuse the stores, buying the materials for items instead of the items themselves, as the components are usually much cheaper than the finished product. By the end of the game, I was fully stocked on bandages because I’d crafted them all. The only thing I would’ve loved to see is the ability to craft weapons and armor or vehicle upgrades.

Looks exciting but it isn't

Looks exciting but it isn’t

In the end, Rage tries very hard to do a Borderlands impersonation, but at best, it’s the only thing it is, an impersonation. If you want to play a post-apocalyptic shooter with both zany and serious moments, with vehicles and quests, go for Borderlands.

The Mental Attic Score: Not worth the money. While it’s really cheap at this point, use that money and get Borderlands or Borderlands 2. It’s more fun and even longer.

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