Rage is set in a time after a massive asteroid struck the world forcing people underground to survive. You are one of these who have emerged only to find out you should be murdered. Some scenarios play out that put you to work for the guy that saves you which starts you on your path. Id is not a company that heavily relies on its narrative to drive you forward which shows in Rage. The story has moments where you can see it coming together, but the payoff is one of the worst I’ve seen in years. A big gripe I have with the narrative is that your character is mute. I don’t see why you would care for this character since he has nothing to say, especially a guy who we have no prior knowledge about, at least I never cared. I had a hard time gaining any affinity with the protagonist.
Not only that, but the game is short. You have a massive world with virtually nothing to do within. I put less than a dozen hours into the single player which includes some side quests, playing card games, and racing. It has plenty of distractions but they are all mediocre and only serve to pad out the short main campaign.
To put it simply, Rage is a straight-forward linear shooter. You collect quests and drive the wasteland that takes you to your linear level to collect whatever you are after all while shooting generic enemies with your boring guns. The shooting feels fine but it handles shouldering your weapon a bit differently. For instance, you can buy a monocle for your pistol which automatically equips and appears to be permanent. This means every time you pull your pistol you pull up the monocle and zoom in. Every weapon feels different, but they are nothing new except for using different types of ammo, which doesn’t help the weapons feel unique from any other shooter.
To get to these shooting areas, you must travel the wasteland, which is a drag to do. You have a vehicle that you can upgrade through racing (more on that in a bit) which helps with the threat of your surroundings. You get a mission, which puts the marker on your mini-map to your destination which eliminates any excuse to go exploring, but trust me, there is nothing worth searching for. While traveling to your objective you will get ambushed by enemies which more often than not I ignored; fixing your vehicle in town doesn’t cost much anyway.
The levels you run through are decent at best; some you even have to run though a couple of times. When you start a level, you are stuck in that level and will lose progress if you exit back out into the wasteland. I screwed myself completely during one level where I ran out of bullets near a boss fight. I would lose all my progress I made if I had left the area because this game does not have checkpoints. Yes, you need to keep in mind to hard save your progress throughout each mission. You also need to make sure to spend your money on lots of ammo because you cannot pick up enemy weapons. You can loot their bodies but ammo will not always be the outcome. In this situation I was forced to either melee the boss or play the whole half hour level again. I chose the melee option only because the levels are not worth venturing through again and punched the boss to death.
When you aren’t shooting stuff or driving the empty overworld, you have different side stuff to do to help gain money or beef up your car. Races was heavily promoted before Rage’s launch which I’m not quite sure why. Vehicles handle about as well as you think they should within a first person shooter. The couple of tracks you race on were dull and I honestly just do not see the point unless you want to max out your vehicle specs which is completely unnecessary. Besides racing, you have a Dungeons & Dragons type card game to play that is pretty fleshed out. You start with a basic deck that you add to by collecting cards around the world. Yet another part of the game that could be fun yet hardly spent anytime with.
You have a couple of multiplayer options to play including an arena style vehicular combat that could not be more tedious. You can also co-op with a friends through a list of random levels. I played through a co-op mission which again has zero checkpoints and starts you at the beginning upon death. We thought it was more fun to sit in the matchmaking screen and chat amongst ourselves than playing anymore of those missions.
This is where Rage really shines but also disappoints in ways. Id is showcasing it’s new engine called id Tech 5 which runs at 60 frames per second and is a beauty to look at. Sadly though, it too has it’s share of problems. Texture pop in is some of the worst I’ve seen this console generation for a game this high caliber. They’ve stated in the past that it was a problem but publicly discussing it does not make it any better and is noticeable very early on. It will not distract you to the point where you can’t stand it anymore, but you will notice it the more you play. When the game is in motion it isn’t too bad except when you spin your character around it looks as though it has to reload textures. The game looks great, but the wasteland is an area gamers are getting too familiar with.
I’ve been pretty harsh on Rage so far just because it was such a letdown in so many ways. I did my best avoiding the hype behind it and went not knowing hardly anything about Rage. The game is a weird case that seems like it is missing an identity. They included an open world with nothing to do in it. The levels are plain and force you to venture back to areas you already cleared out, which of course are populated again with new enemies. The guns feel adequate enough but nothing special. Racing is also average. Everything about Rage besides the look and fluidity of your movement is absolutely run-of-the-mill.
Rage is unfortunately coming out into a wide shooter market. It has been years since id has made a shooter, and they have failed to adapt to the times. Their are other games out in the market that do these concepts better. If you have played all of those and have a weekend to kill, then Rage might be something you are looking for. Just because this is the company responsible for the uprising of the fps market, does not mean they can’t do no wrong. My advice would be to rent Rage, it can be completed within a weekend and has a few great moments, just keep your expectations to a minimum.