If you’re not oblivious like me, then maybe you’ve been following the development of Rage, and I’m sure some of you had it pegged as a Borderlands clone – with good reason, of course, there are some similarities there. It’s also been a long time coming, something we’ve begun to see as a ill omen – also with good reason – but is Rage another one of those hyped titles that falls flat on its face, or does it stand up to the scepticism and warrant a purchase?
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360
First off, know that unlike Borderlands, Rage is primarily a single-player game. There are some competitive online multiplayer modes and a two-player co-op mode, but it’s not co-op through the whole game. Instead, there are a handful of co-op specific missions you can play, and a lot of the complexity of the single player game has been removed for this mode. I just thought I’d get that in there upfront so that anyone looking for another expansive co-op shooter can stop reading now. Yep, most of your time with this game will be spend tackling this huge, immersive adventure all by your lonesome. And there’s plenty of adventuring to be done.
The story goes that, as one of the chosen few selected to survive the meteor strike that would mean the end of the world, you were cybernetically enhanced and placed in cryogenic suspension in an underground “Ark” to await the day when you could restart the human race. However, you awaken a lot earlier than scheduled to find that the meteor didn’t completely destroy the Earth. It messed it up pretty bad, but humanity managed to survive – and they need your help to continue doing so. Turns out that there are all kinds of dangers out there like bandits, monsters, mutants and even an oppressive, self-appointed government called The Authority making things difficult for the small settlements of decent folk trying to rebuild something resembling society. A tough, cybernetically enhanced Ark dweller like you is just what these decent folk need to stand a chance at survival – and they’ll make it worth your while, too.
So, after waking up and being ferried to the nearest town, you’ll spend the first hour or two of the game following a linear path through several tutorials as you are introduced to Rage‘s various facets. There’s a main story to follow, and the missions are pretty clearly explained to you and marked in your mission log, so it’s hard to forget, but if you try to gun it through the entire mission, you’ll find that you quickly run into stiff resistance. You’ll need to do some side missions, courier assignments and maybe even a bit of gambling to earn cash and items to beef up your arsenal and your vehicles to make the going easier. The enemies you’ll face on your missions range from gun toting bandits and small mutants to power-armoured soldiers, sentry robots and genetically engineered abominations the size of buildings – so you’re going to need some pretty respectable firepower to take these guys on.
Luckily, you can amass quite an extensive arsenal of different weapons. Each weapon can accept different kinds of ammo, like buckshot or pop-rockets for the shotgun; standard rounds and fat boys for the pistol; and normal and armour piercing rounds for the assault rifle. There are also upgrades available for each weapon, such as stabilisers for the assualt rifle, and a laser sight for the Authority machine gun. You can also equip and use a myriad of support items, like bandages, grenades, wingsticks (boomerangs) and bizarre but cool things like little remote controlled car bombs, mini sentry drones that follow you around shooting enemies, and lock grinders that open locked doors to hidden areas. As you wander around, you will pick up all kinds of junk, which you can use to engineer these support items. You can also sell it to the various merchants you’ll meet to earn cash for weapons, ammo, armour or new item-creation schematics.
While you’re at it, don’t neglect to upgrade your vehicles. Driving plays a huge part in Rage, whether you’re driving to your latest mission objective, doing a delivery assignment or just looking for hidden areas in the wasteland. The wasteland is full of bandit cars kitted out with machine guns and rocket launchers – so you’ll want to stay competitive. The only way to upgrade your vehicles is to purchase upgrades with racing certificates, and racing certificates can only be acquired by winning races in the various racing leagues the game offers.
The scale of the game is probably starting to come into focus now, but that’s not the only impressive thing about Rage. The challenge is quite solid, and you’ll need to fight carefully to get through it. The enemies won’t make it easy for you. Bandits use coordinated assaults, hiding behind cover, flanking and lobbing grenades to flush you out of hiding. The mutants jump, strafe and roll to make it difficult for you to hit them. The Authority guys’ armour alone makes them tough, but some of them show up wielding shields, which makes taking them on from the front all but impossible. But when you manage to kill these enemies, it’s immensely satisfying thanks to the many hit and death animations they go through when you shoot them.
Apart from that, I think the visuals speak for themselves. The graphics are splendid on both a technical and an artistic level, and the characters are a joy to talk to and watch thanks to the attention to little things like idle animations. Everything in the game has been streamlined to make the experience as painless as possible, whether you’re gambling at a street game, crafting an item or shooting a house-sized mutant in the face. Anyone looking for a solid shooting adventure with hours of play value should look no further.