It is fair to say that since it was originally announced in 2007 Rage from id Software has had some high expectations to live up to. After all the developers are responsible for some classic games including Doom and Quake. Since that original announcement the game has trundled towards release, id favouring a "when it's done" style of development but over the past few months we have seen previews and events where the game was playable and nearing release.
On October 4th gamers in the USA were among the first to get access to Rage and it is fair to say that initial impressions from the gaming masses were less than favourable, even if some of the launch day reviews were reasonably positive.
With reports of stability issues, graphical glitches and other issues this wasn't an average launch and it wasn't helped by AMD's accidental publishing of a driver which made matters worse. Now, with the latest AMD driver designed specifically to improve the Rage experience we delve into id's latest release to find out what all the fuss is about...
Set over 100 years after a meteor has hit earth wiping out civilisation we play as a survivor of the Eden project having been locked away in an "arc" since the impact. Upon leaving our pod we find the rest of our colleagues, who were tasked with rebuilding earth with us, have died. Leaving the Arc we are immediately thrust into a version of Earth that is far from familiar, a wasteland filled with bandits who have lost their humanity and after being attacked we are saved from death by Dan Hagar, our main friend within the game. Hagar runs one of many settlements within the game and sets us our missions which progress the game. From this initial chance meeting with Hagar we begin the game proper, a first person shooter with RPG lite elements.
The majority of the game is played on foot with travel between missions and locations vehicle based, something which is essentially a part of the game to minimise travel boredom with an added twist that we can improve our vehicle as the game progresses. Missions within Rage are reasonably generic for a FPS, go here and clear out the enemy forces or go there and find some information to assist an NPC before returning to base to report our success and move on to the next task.
As we progress, playing with the standard FPS mechanic and improving our weaponry as we go, we gain further skills such as the ability to make items which is a little dip into RPG style gameplay but the game essentially performs these tasks for us, in the same way it controls conversations which follow a set script rather than giving us choices.
In terms of multi-player content the options found in Rage are not what the player might initially expect. There is no capture the flag or standard deathmatch here. Instead we have vehicle based combat and a set of extra missions were we can play solo (yes solo in multiplayer) or with another player online to gain experience.
Of course, as is the norm for games nowadays there are a selection of achievements available which players can aim to gain as they progress.
Graphics and Sound
Rage uses id Software's idTech 5 and is one of the few games released nowadays which uses OpenGL rather than DirectX/Direct3D. From the outset of the games development id have been known for showing off some impressive screenshots taken from the game.
Now that the game has been released we see that there are certain aspects of the visuals which impress however in almost equal measure there are areas which hugely disappoint. The two screenshots above show this mix of visuals well with a large outdoor scene rendered well but a shadow area suffering from terribly low textures.
That said, with the latest drivers it is quite impressive to see our vehicle turbo boost through wide areas which look impressive at speed and the view distance is often striking.
The soundtrack to Rage is not one of the better examples in recent gaming, often coming across as completely over the top and lacking in any sort of theme which suits the gameplay. Voice acting is also uninspired and generic. It would be hard to get environmental effects wrong though and id have at least delivered on that front with plenty of decent weapon sounds and explosions.
Given their experience in the FPS genre it should come as no surprise that id have delivered a game where the main game mechanic is solid. Unfortunately that is all that it is and there is nothing present here to elevate the main FPS sections of the game above any other release in the past few years, in fact Rage tends to suffer from the same problem as Duke Nukem Forever in this regard, it feels very much like a game from a decade or so ago.
Back when we reviewed DNF one of the aspects we criticised was how bland, in fact plain boring the game was and while Rage doesn't quite rate at the same level on that scale the missions on offer here really do very little to inspire the player to continue. Once we have travelled around on our buggy for a while, cleaned out the initial mutant/bandit hideout and then tracked down some items for an NPC we have pretty much seen everything the game has to offer in the single player campaign.
If the plot and mission content ran smoothly or was of a high standard of quality throughout then this wouldn't be much of an issue but sadly there are numerous little gripes with the general gameplay which lessen the enjoyment further. For example the decision to force us down a conversation path means we have to sit and wait while sub-standard dialogue plays out. Then often when trying to reach the next NPC we will find our way blocked by another who won't move or react because their actions haven't been "activated"... why? Because we didn't engage in pointless dialogue with another NPC earlier in the area.
The decision to include basic RPG elements has also been to the games detriment as they offer very little challenge. When we can click a "Build All" button it really removes any skill and looting is another aspect which just wastes time. We can loot pretty much every enemy we kill and must press E to do so. With no challenge it just wastes time and id would have been better to enable auto loot which kicks in as we walk over a body.
So to those quality issues which have been widely discussed on the net in the past few days and in that regard we got off reasonably lightly during our testing. Yes we ha annoying crashes to desktop, yes there were micro stutters with some graphics settings and yes there are textures which are unacceptable for a game released in 2011 but on the plus side we saw none of the popup issues which affected many users.
Sadly the bugs continued into the multiplayer element where id has tried to implement a match making system rather than allow us to browse games/servers. In this section of the game, which launches from a different instance of the game, we were forced to sit for an eternity waiting to be matched, with no way to start a game.
Like "Dead Island" Rage probably could never live up to the hype generated before its release and so in a way it was always going to disappoint in one way or another. Sadly it disappoints in so many that the fairly decent FPS gameplay which forms part of the game gets lost under the weight of the other elements. Racing aspects which are not required, RPG elements that are half-heartedly implemented and a plot which does nothing to inspire the player all combine to minimise enjoyment before we even consider the buggy engine.
We noted earlier that Rage feels like a game from the past and to be honest it seems very much the case that the once great id are in danger of becoming irrelevant in the industry. On this occasion they have failed even to deliver a polished game, something which cannot be said of many of their previous games and the lacklustre writing and minimal attention to detail on the textures point to a development team which is very much going through the motions and is in need of refreshing.
Rating: 50/100. Half finished, half a plot, a game of two distinct halves and clearly approached with less than full effort. Very disappointing.