I have been meaning to write something about Rage. I have been putting it off because I partly wanted to replay it first or partly. You see I have very mixed feelings about Rage. On the one hand it was a great experience, one of the better ones I have had in a while. On the other hand, the ending and sudden stop have left me whiplashed, even two weeks later.
So let’s start with the obvious, how did it run? I knew going in that the game will be running great. Carmack made it clear that you will have a good experience on current hardware and the Geforce 570GTX is no slouch. I was also lucky in the sense that the game run really great on the drivers I had installed. Some time ago I got tired of downloading the latest drivers from nVidia, especially since most of their releases are beta. Since drivers do more than just power games, they power your browser as well these days, I am sticking to hardware qualified drivers only.
I will have to give credit to id for their choice of 60Hz gaming. The driving and racing was great from the get go. They really got this right. The vehicle don’t feel like they are on rails. The driving experience feels like a proper arcade racer and the effect of speed is done better than most driving games I have played in a while. The problem with the driving is not the driving, it is the scope. The tracks are small. The wastelands are small. They are big enough to open the taps, but they are very limited. It is not wide open area to play around in. They are limited narrow canyons with limited options.
Exploring in general in this game is very limited. Initially, the game does not allow you to stroll very far, until the story progress and you are given a mission to open up the next section. After that you have free reign of the canyon. The missions are fairly predictable. Clear out this section, grab that from them. Slowly but surely the game sucks you in. You get into the driving and racing to get the parts for your car. The races are a bit of mayhem and I really did enjoy some of it. Some of the race types did not make sense to me, but there was enough to entertain and the driving is really good, until you flip the car over and you watch as it turns itself around. That really could have been done better. I understand why it is necessary; it is just that the execution blows the whole emergence at the spot.
I like run and gun FPS. I do appreciate the odd game that mixes it up, but given the option, I would approach it run and gun style. Rage does this really well, except that the amount of things to shoot is limited. One of the achievements you can unlock is the ability to kill three enemies with a single RC car. Great, except that I never got three together to do it. The power plant stage is one that truly comes to mind as modern shooter doing it old school. It is also the best example of how capable idTech 5 is, by far my favourite level in the game.
Other things I liked are the fact that you can buy your ammo. This to me made perfect sense and I hope more fps can incorporate this in future. It adds something to the game as opposed as taking something away like limiting your guns to just two at a time. So that is cool. The construction portion of the game, well it felt unnecessary. I never made anything else than bandages, pop-rockets (which is awesome) and lock grinders. The RC cars works best in the one stage, for the rest of it I simply ignored it, never once used a turret or spider turret. I must also say that health was done really well in this game. The instant of the bandages as well as the regeneration worked well.
The side missions (job board) was really a waste in the first section of the game, they are basically, sniper missions and felt out of place, especially as I have played them, all back to back. They would have been more worthwhile if they incorporated them into a high octane moment into the main story. The job board in the second wasteland had only three jobs and they felt better, since they entail replaying a section you already played, but this time to achieve different objectives. They made more sense to me, even though you are supposed to have killed everything the first time around…
What else? I really did like the game, the problem is just as you starting to get going and the story started to feel like it is coming together, you play the next mission and then it is it, nothing more. I was so shocked at the abrupt end I sat and stared at the screen and thinking where is the rest. I have just getting into it.
That is Rage biggest problem. You almost feel like there should be more, the progress was so slow and the build-up as well that you cannot but feel like you have been cheated. They made this game, six years have pass, they took 3 months to polish and they ship what they had. That is literally how I felt. As I was sitting there and staring at the screen you start to put things into perspective. You notice the blurry textures. Doom 3 (six years old) looks better today texture wise than Rage. That is a fact. You also miss the great detail on computer screens and the interactivity of them. The details in Rage stages are believable, but fake. You think about the shooter experience and the fact that levels were fairly small and the AI pretty monotone. You think of the very pathetic sewers stages, which I just could not fathom why they are even there. They add noting, just endless cannon fodder for you…
But this is not all bad. You also remember the amount of fun you had and the fact that you want to play this again. Only problem is that you cannot go back and finish races. You will have to load a savegame prior to the departing for the last mission if you want to go back, which is just stupid.
Rage for what it is, is a vision of the shooter of the future, a game that can be more than just level after level or scripted event after the other. Farcry 2 however got the scale right, pity I got bored with that game. Rage got the fun right but lacked the overall scale to really pull this off. I was reminded of Wolfenstein again, where your town is your link between stages, but it does not add really anything. Rage did that better. They got the ammo buying better, but the whole manufacturing of stuff and weapons upgrade is rather pointless. Wolfenstein got the weapon upgrades much better. There you could feel and see the impact. In Rage the upgrades to weapons and vehicles felt cosmetic, not actual.
What I hope id do next is take this technology, and just build a game that can do it justice, less engineering, more game play please!
My final verdict: If you like run and gun and want to play the best driving experience in FPS, Rage is a blast. You think you are playing a First person RPG, forget it. Loved it and will play it again.