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Rage Review(Xbox 360)
Rage is a brand new first person shooter from the creators of the genre, ID. Rage's story revolves around "what if" a meteor crashed into earth causing a global apocalypse. The terrain has been transformed into vast wastelands of dust and ash littered by debris of a past world. Before the meteor hit the government set up "Arks" which are underground dwellings where select individuals were cryogenically frozen to be awakened years later. Pretty much this is the Fallout story but story is not what you play an ID game for.
Gameplay is where Rage truly shines. This game is just downright fun to play. Rage is broken up into various aspects: shooting, racing and exploring. First off the shooting feels great. Each and every weapon has a great kick to it and the location specific damage on the enemies makes it even more satisfying. You are given numerous weapons like a crossbow, shotgun, pistol and machine guns and thankfully you aren't forced a stupid limit on how many you can carry. Yes you can do it DOOM style and carry around 10 or so guns at once but you are limited to 4 for your quick select interface. Each of these weapons also have numerous ammo types which drastically change how the weapon is used. The pistol, for instance, gets big momma rounds which turn turn it into a magnum as well as Killbursts which turn it into an auto pistol. My favorite has to be the ammo for the shotgun that turns it into a glorified grenade launcher., Heck there's even a minigun later on and one of the ammo types turn it into a BFG. Oddly enough this game doesn't focus mainly on the shooting. You are thrown into wide open wasteland areas where you can mildy explore areas of interest. This is by no means Fallout, though, but more like Borderlands. The wasteland serves as a hub world that connects you to either the one large city that acts as a smaller hub world in which you receive the majority of your main mission quests as well as the various sidequests or this wasteland connects you to separate areas where the shooting action takes place. These "action areas" for lack of a better term are more reminiscent of say a Doom level where your goal is to run through various corridors gunning down bandits or mutants in an attempt to reach the exit. You could also think of these areas as almost like dungeons in an RPG except you're not grinding to level up and instead of looking for colored loot you're picking up junk to sell and components for crafting. The crafting in Rage isn't very deep but it's streamlined enough to let you know this game is about the action and not about role-playing. The crafting works very much like other games where you are given schematics or formulas to make items and your goal is to find the ingredients needed to make said items. These ingredients can either be looted during the dungeon areas or bought from a vendor. With these ingredients you can craft items such as gun turrets, spider bots, bandages that instantly restore your regenerating health or my personal favorite the Wingstick. The Wingstick is pretty much the equivalent of the glaive found in Dark Sector. What's great about the Wingstick is that it's a quick item that is not only powerful but can be used while holding any weapon. The kills with it are very satisfying and can be pretty brutal as well. You'll be lopping off heads or in some cases the Wingstick will become lodged into the enemy's head in which case you can get it back when you loot the corpse. Yes you get a 100 limit on these Wingsticks but they can be purchased at any vendor and believe me you will want them. All in all the shooting does what it needs to do and is very much like most modern shooters. LT is used to enter iron sights and RT fires. Also LB is used for your quick items like the Wingstick and bandages.
The other aspect of Rage is the driving of various vehicles. You will start off really early with a 4-wheeler but will quickly upgrade to armored buggies with miniguns, rockets and even vehicle-specific quick items like shields and mine drops. To earn new vehicles and gain upgrades for them you will go through various races and car combat scenarios in either of the world's hub cities. The races include time trials and traditional races against ai bots. These races will either be weaponless or will focus on either all racers having either the minigun or the rocket launcher. The ammo in these vehicles is limited so you'll have to find ammo pick-ups during races but when out in the wasteland you'll need to buy ammo at a vendor before venturing off. Other than races are a few car combat scenarios where you're goal is to either get the most kills or try to capture randomly generated goals on a map while preventing others from reaching them. The driving is extremely loose and takes a little time to get used to. It's really hard to hit a corner at optimal speed and drift since normal braking in turns leads to wide turns where you will most assuredly get stuck in the game's geometry when hitting a wall or using the emergency brake will stop you immediately causing you to lose your lap time. The upgrades earned from these races will carry over to your vehicle used to drive to missions out in the wasteland. Here you'll encounter bandits in vehicles that you can destroy using the weapons equipped fired with the A button and the quick use items with LB. The vehicle driving is OK and thankfully is kept to short bursts that break up the exploring and shooting.
On the technical side I only encountered one glitch and while it was a game-breaker it didn't rear it's ugly head later on. I ran into a scenario in one of the dungeon areas where my game went from it's steady 60 frames per second down to like 5. The low framerate didn't rectify itself either so I decided to make a hard save and restart the console. This didn't help leading to my game crashing 3 times in a row. The result of this was me having to load an autosave about 10 minutes before where I actually was. So my suggestion is SAVE OFTEN because the autosaves suck and only occur when you hit a loading screen and watch out for this glitch though I assume it's totally random. It should be noted that this glitch occurred when I started the defibrillator minigame. This minigame comes up when you die. Apparently members of the Arks have microscopic machines inside of them and one of their functions is to act as an electric current to the person's heart upon death. This means that everytime you die you are entered into a minigame where you must shock yourself back to life and depending on how good you do this minigame will determine how much life you return with. The thing is that you start off with only one and after you use it you must wait for it to recharge or it's game over.
Rage is absolutely gorgeous and one of the best looking games out there. The wasteland is incredibly detailed. You will never see areas of repeating textures and the skybox is absolutely beautiful. One of the downers in the visuals is the extreme lack of color. This game is very brown, as it should be, but even the towns and dungeon areas are washed-out and are only visually pleasing due to the extreme levels of detail. The character models as well look really good and are accompanied by detailed clothing and great facial expressions. This truly looks like a PC game on an aging console but those console limitations do show their ugly faces. This game doesn't run on the Unreal engine but has the same big problem, pop-in. While the textures and environments are gorgeous they do take a few seconds to load up. Many times you'll walk out into the blinding sun and when you're vision restores you'll be welcomed to textures abound loading in front of you. This will also happen in the indoor areas and even on the character and gun models in smaller occasions. Yes the pop in does kind of bring a downer on the amazing graphics but the level of extreme detail, great animations and great lighting more than make up for it.
Along with looking and playing great Rage sounds pretty damn good as well. The vehicles sound great whether you're hitting the turbo boost or ramming into and destroying other vehicles. The voice acting is also very solid throughout with people like John Goodman in a limited role as well as the new Nolan North, Steve Blum. The British banter of the bandits is not only hilarious but also gives you some good clues on how to engage the enemy. Where the sound really lacks is in the gun feedback. The pistol sounds amazing but the shotgun doesn't sound as thick as it should and the machine guns just sound like large nail guns with an oddly loud and annoying "PLING" sound. It also almost sounds like some of the effects have been sampled at lower qualities because you can hear some feedback in certain situations.
The music is passable but does it's job. When the action gets hot the music will ramp up into faster beats. The race music I must say is pretty good but you will hear it ALOT. The greatest thing about the music actually has to do with 3 specific easter eggs found throughout the game but I won't spoil that for you.
Rage is first and foremost a singleplayer game. I was able to get through the 2-disc campaign in about 8 hours. This included doing about 75% of the side missions. There was still alot for me to do and explore though. For example I never really went exploring in either of the larger wasteland areas and never looked into finding all the collectibles or mastering any of the numerous minigames. These minigames include a very simple holographic board game, 5 finger fillet and an incredibly deep card game in which you must scour the wasteland to build a deck of cards. These cards have individual attributes and abilities that determine how it "combats" the opponent's cards. It can be described as a simplified version of Magic pretty much. These minigames as well as the side missions are there only for the purpose of getting money for buying items. The problem is that you will receive more than enough money doing story missions that these sidequests are either just a waste of time or a purpose to extend the life of the game. Don't expect any of these missions to flesh out any of the story either as most are fetch quests and the giver of them is a jobs board. Once you're done with the campaign that's it. There's nothing to unlock and no reason to go through a second time not to mention the crappy ending will probably leave a sour-enough taste in your mouth that you won't want to return.
Rage is unique when it comes to multiplayer. First of all it comes on it's own disc making this a 3-disc package but also while it is a first person shooter the multiplayer is car-focused. All of the races and car combat scenarios I mentioned above are what makes up Rage's multiplayer where you and 4 others compete in races or just try to kill eachother while leveling up to earn weapons and vehicles. It's surprisingly fun for a short while and I'm kind of glad ID didn't go the easy route and just tack on a shooter multiplayer that would surely die off in a week.
On top of the car multiplayer stuff is a set of co-op missions where you and 1 other person go through the singleplayer dungeons as other character from the campaign. These are relatively short, about 10 minutes each, and the story of each is fleshed out through like 2 lines of dialogue. It's OK and fun in short bursts but with only a few missions to do and no reason to redo them you won't be looking to come back to the co-op in the future. One great thing about the co-op is that ID thankfully put in a splitscreen option as well as the online option. It's good to see some companies still believe people have real friends that they play games with.
Rage does alot of things right. It not only looks really good but is also fun to play as well. The problem with Rage lies in the fact that it is built around it's singleplayer but it is rather short. 8 hours is good for a game that has a very deep multiplayer function added on. Yes you can turn those 8 hours into about 12 if you want to do the unrewarding sidemissions or look for collectibles for achievements but those along with the shallow car combat multiplayer doesn't add up to enough of a package for me and most will get what they want out of Rage in a 3-day rental.