Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rage Review*

*Originally posted on 7bitarcade.com

Always at the forefront of graphical prowess, id Software have some frankly amazing heritage. With the likes of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D under their developer belts it’s difficult to have anything but awe for their works. Difficult, but not impossible. id Tech, id’s engine family, is also responsible for such games as the first Call of Duty, Half Life, Prey and the recent Brink. The big question is whether their latest title, Rage, can live up to the pedigree or not.

Before booting up, I had no real knowledge of the game so was immediately struck but just how beautiful Rage is - stunning in fact. Get it running on a big TV in full 1080p HD and you’ll see what I mean. Everything feels incredibly crafted from the landscapes right up to the diversity of characters you’ll meet across the campaign. It’s a shame that frequent texture pop ups ruin the up close experience.

We pick up the campaign following a rather nice intro sequence depicting the apocalypse avec asteroid and our character going into cryo to one day return and kick the shit out of whatever inhabits the world. It’s ironic really, as this is pretty much as far as the story goes. My first few hours with game were literally nothing more than running a series of odd jobs for a few folk that I had zero attachment to. It’s somewhat disconnects the player from the game when there’s no real explanation as to why you are agreeing to go into a random hideout and kill everything. Even the ‘twist’ at the end wasn’t enough for me to want to call it a ‘story’.

Thankfully, killing everything is mighty fun. While the weapon count isn’t quite as high as other post-apocalyptic games - like Borderlands and Fallout - each weapon has a selection of ammo types. These can be used to combat harder enemies or different situations but can also be used for your pleasure (pop rocket shells + standard enemy = red goo messy joy). There are only four slots for your quick select, but I found this didn’t bother me as I quickly discovered my four weapons of choice and sacked everything else off. Of course, it’s impossible to talk about weapons without mentioning the Wingsticks. Think of them like smart, brutal boomerangs. Chuck one just right and it’ll lop the head of a weaker opponent or embed itself neatly in the cranium of a tougher foe. Using them takes a bit of practice, but it’s highly rewarding!

It’s not all a murderous jolly though. A couple of minor elements spoil the experience for me. First is the quick menu. Holding your right trigger brings up two wheels in real time allowing you select a weapon with the right stick and its ammo with the left. The point of this is to be able to swap in a pinch to deal with a particular enemy type. In reality, the fact the game doesn’t pause during this action means too much pressure is placed on quick fingers, often resulting in you drawing the wrong item and wasting even more time in a tense fire fight.

My other gripe is the completely broken stealth mechanics. You are given a crossbow quite early on and told that it is often easier to sneak up on enemies rather than engage them. If you make a kill with said crossbow you will indeed be silent, but it will still alert everyone to your exact location. Similarly, moving silently is completely impossible and a massive waste of time. Given the incredibly confined setting of the shooting sections, it is often easier to get your quarries attention then back track to a choke point and mow everything that comes to find you down with a shotgun.

In addition to all the other tacked on elements, you have the multiplayer. You’d be forgiven for assuming I mean ‘tacked on’ due to it being an FPS and therefore must have all the standard FPS modes. In fact there are NO shooter modes at all. Instead, we are presented with the weakest gameplay mechanic, vehicular combat. Yawn. It works well enough but it won’t be the defining aspect of the game and, frankly, it could have done without it.

Unfortunately, it has all been done before. I’m about as tired of the typical wasteland as I am with zombie DLC. As fun as the shooting bits can be, the sheer lack of tangible plot made the experience to a very pretty but entirely forgettable one. In the presence of blockbusters like Deus Ex and, the soon to be released, Skyrim, I find it simply unacceptable to allow weak writing to be slapped onto such a beautiful game. In addition to this, the game is extremely linear. Very rarely will you have side missions of any importance to complete, and the ones you do get are just revisiting a previous location for some other object that wasn’t there before.

Are you a fan of the pretty but brainless shooter? Or do you prefer strong narratives? Comment it up!

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