- The scenery is both gorgeous and dangerous in "Rage"
- Combat is varied and brutal, with plenty of weapon choices to be found
- Despite game being filled with plenty to do, the story tries to hurry you along
- Pausing the game to save after every battle ruins the flow of the action
"Rage" starts off full of promise and beauty but finishes with clunky game mechanics and an ending that was probably the most disappointing I've experienced in years.
The new first-person shooter game from id Software draws heavily from the developer's pedigree for producing intense action and violence in titles such as "Doom" and "Quake." Players start out as survivors in a world hit by an asteroid and wake up from a cryo-sleep inside an ark on a planet full of mutants and tribal clans.
The scenery is both gorgeous and dangerous. The surroundings are wide open and encourage exploration. The level of detail in even the smallest rock really immerses the player in a world that has lost hold of civilization as we know it and is struggling to survive.
Once players get to "cities" where clans have gathered, the graphics continue to shine. At one point, water droplets from a broken overhead pipe cloud your vision temporarily as small furry creatures scramble around your feet.
Other characters in the game are equally impressive-looking, with individual features that make them very lifelike. Everything moves naturally, and there are very few moments where something looks out of place, even in this post-asteroid world.
While non-player characters do look alive, it is when they die that the graphics break down. Dead enemies will often fall through walls or desks, and multiple bodies will occupy the same space, making it seem like you've just killed a three-headed, six-armed, six-legged person. Those are the moments that distract from gameplay.
Combat is varied and brutal. There are plenty of weapons to be found and used to blow away enemies. Although there are only four slots to keep weapons handy, the game allows access to your weapon locker at any time, allowing you to mix and match your selections to your opponents.
From a wingstick (sort of a three-legged boomerang) to a crossbow with exploding arrows to assault rifles and machine guns, players will have many options to exact bloody damage. Each weapon also has a variety of ammo choices that can pierce armor or explode on contact.
A crafting system lets you create health bandages, grenades and remote-controlled bombs, which comes in handy when funds to purchase these things are low. But it does force you to scavenge and pick up everything you can when walking around.
The story is pretty basic at its core. You awaken from the ark and are expected to be humanity's savior in this godforsaken world. Your player moves from city to city as you try to stay one step ahead of the Authority, the military force that acts as the ruler of the planet.
Despite the game being filled with extra missions and plenty to do off the beaten path, the story tries to hurry you along to the next plot point. Non-player characters are constantly reminding you that the Authority is ready to invade their city if you remain too long or telling you to hurry to complete your mission because time is of the essence.
Most of the missions are what you'd expect from a wide-open game: fetch-and-return quests. You are often directed to a location (oh, and use a vehicle, because walking takes WAY too long) and have to kill either mutants or another clan, retrieve some item and return. The quests aren't repetitive in their detail, so each one does hold your interest, plus each presents an opportunity to scavenge for more crafting ingredients.
As the game's story develops, you discover that your bio chip from your sleep time in the ark holds the key to surviving the future. Eventually, you become part of the Resistance, whose mission it is to overthrow the evil (?) Authority and make the world better for all survivors.
The game will offer tips along the way during loading screens. One reminds players to save often.
Do it. I'm not kidding.
The automatic checkpoints are spaced so far apart as to be nearly useless. Many a mission was restarted because I neglected to save after 30 minutes of gameplay and died. Pausing the game to save after every battle ruins the flow of the action.
Ultimately, you are tasked to take a disc to the Authority's main city, upload data to a satellite and wake up people who are sleeping in undiscovered arks. Why they would automatically join the Resistance side is never really explained, nor is how the Authority managed to retain a full army complete with futuristic weapons after the asteroid hit.
Without revealing any details (no spoilers!), the ending was probably the most unsatisfying and disappointing I've experiences in years. When the credits started to roll, I actually shouted at the screen, "Are you kidding me?!?"
After developers obviously invested a lot toward environmental and combat graphics to make the game as immersive for the player as possible, I was stunned by the lack of an ending and answers to obvious and lingering questions. I felt like I just walked out in the middle of a movie.
"Rage" is a beautiful game that lovingly renders a post-apocalyptic world, drawing them in and making them feel part of the whole. However, graphics issues with dead characters and an ending that is weak and incomplete makes players feel like the audience of a magician who just told everyone how he did all his tricks.
"Rage" is available now on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore, intense violence and strong language. This review was done using the Xbox 360 version, which comes on three disks: two for single player and one for multiplayer.