A post-apocalyptic future has never looked as inviting as it does in Id Software‘s latest shooter
When we think of post-apocalyptic settings in video games, we tend to think of dark, dreary sci-fi landscapes, but in id Software’s Rage the end of the world has never looked quite so astounding. Rage is an adventure RPG which mixes first-person shooting & character interaction with vehicle combat & exploration. It’s an unusual mixture for a developer famed for first-person violence, but for the majority of the game it works well and provides a fascinating departure from the games of id’s past.
You play a survivor of Earth’s apocalypse, chosen to be kept safe from the planet’s asteroid doom , cryogenically frozen below the Earth’s surface in an “Ark.” You emerge years later and find that those alongside you in the Ark have perished while the human race has developed a new society on the planet’s surface. Settlements struggle to survive against the constant threat from clans of bandits and control is in the hands of a mysterious organisation known only as “The Authority.” Most of the game involves taking quests in order to make life safer in the various shanty-towns, by providing supplies or neutralising the bandit threat. As an Ark survivor you must also gain the trust of your fellow humans, most of whom are suspicious of “men from the past.” Later, you discover “The Resistance” and work alongside them to gain a greater understanding of The Authority and their sinister plans. Its all a little cliched, but it serves its purpose reasonably well and provides a decent setup for the action.
As you begin to understand and explore this strange new Earth a sense of awe quickly sets in. id’s new graphics engine, id Tech 5, provides some of the most spectacular visual detail seen on current generation consoles and keeps it all running smoothly at 60 FPS. The quality of the texture work is unparalleled. Towns and gang hideouts are incredibly atmospheric, seemingly cobbled together from whatever items the humans could find, right down to an old urinal working as the outlet for a well in one area. The fantastic design is accentuated by some very cinematic lighting and each character is superbly animated and fascinatingly expressive. Out in the Wasteland you travel through imposing narrow canyons and abandoned, derelict cities which create a sense of how small humanity has become in this ruined world.
In Rage’s open-world RPG structure, there are two kinds of missions. The first kind concerns you with travelling from place-to-place through the mostly deserted Wasteland using vehicles that wouldn’t look out of place in a Mad Max movie. Along the way you will travel through bandit territories and engage in car combat with their patrols. Handling is very loose, similar to vehicles in the Halo series, and cars can be upgraded by winning parts in races which appear as side missions in towns. Initially you simply need to out-run patrols, but you later unlock miniguns and rockets for your vehicles and take enemies on head-to-head. It’s simple enough to destroy them at first, but the enemies will upgrade their vehicles too, with shields, RC bomb cars and other additions. You can also unlock these new weapons for your own car and they allow for more of a tactical approach to the car combat.
Once you arrive at your destination, you will often be tasked with entering a gang hideout, or other similar location. In these levels id’s FPS heritage really shines through in the classic corridor-shooter gameplay. These terrifically designed environments encourage you to use all of the different items in your arsenal and get creative to take down your enemies. Firearms feel punchy and satisfying, from the basic pistol, to the Authority machine gun and magnificent military shotgun. All of your guns can be upgraded with new ammo types, some of which you can craft with items you find in the world and others which can be purchased from traders in towns. The humble pistol can be turned into a powerful hand-cannon. The shotgun can become a grenade launcher and the crossbow can be loaded with poison darts which allow you to briefly take control of an enemy before they explode in typically gory id fashion.
Along with your array of firearms, the game’s crafting system allows you to come up with some very creative ways of dispatching enemies. Throughout the game you can find or purchase schematics for new items and craft them once you have all of the parts required. You can build spider-like robots to chase down elusive enemies, explosive RC cars, new types of grenades, health items and a whole lot more. The amount of choice available to you in a fire fight is massive once you’ve built these items and results in a refreshing and varied FPS experience which is seldom seen in other games.
Rage is a great game, but it does have its fair share of issues as well. While it runs at a rock solid 60 FPS on console, this has come at a cost. There is a huge amount of texture pop-in, with textures sometimes needing to load back in just because you have performed a 180 degree spin. This is particularly jarring at the beginning of the game when you most feel the need to go exploring, but is far less noticeable once you keep moving forward along the natural path of progression. The fetch-quest structure and limited mission types can get repetitive as well and there are a lot of loading screens. Despite being open-world, the game needs to load every time you enter or exit a major town or bandit hideout and this definitely spoils the pacing a little at times. Story environments are continually recycled for side-quests as well. Some side-missions even ask you to repeat the same tasks in those areas. There are also very few auto-save checkpoints. The game only auto-saves when you enter or exit a loading screen, meaning that if you forget to manually save regularly you could easily end up repeating almost an hour of gameplay.
Surprisingly for an id title, the online multiplayer is a little lacking in modes. There are no competitive first-person shooter match types. Instead, competitive gameplay is focused on car combat and racing. Its reasonably entertaining, but the action is no way near as enjoyable as the superb shooting mechanics. Luckily there is also a 2 player co-op mode called “Legends of The Wasteland” in which you experience urban legends, sometimes talked about by characters in the single-player. They provide a little extra insight into the world of Rage, but recycle enemies and environments from the campaign and there is little incentive to repeat these missions after completing them once.
Rage certainly isn’t your typical id game. The world is fascinating and the shooting mechanics & weapons are hugely entertaining, but the lack of competitive FPS multiplayer will be disappointing for fans of their previous work. However, the unbelievable graphics and gory, fast-paced action provide terrific thrills and a refreshing alternative to the other FPS titles being released this holiday season.