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Rage Review

publisher: Bethesda Softworks
developer: id Software
genre: Action

ESRB rating: M

release date: Oct 04, 11
» All About Rage on ActionTrip

So I finished Rage from id Software last night. Total play time took me about 12 hours and I was trying to make sure I did as many of the side quests as I could find. As I shut down my PC, my mind kept wandering to a kid I knew in high school. He was a bit like a chameleon. Depending on who he was hanging out with, he would take on bits of their mannerisms, vocabulary and personality traits. Around a couple of the Motorheads, he was all about heavy metal. Or he'd have a class with a couple of jocks and it was all sports, all the time. What is interesting is that he did not do this copycat routine on purpose. In fact mimicry of one's peers is quite common as children mature and develops their own personalities. When it comes to video games, imitation is either the sincerest form of flattery, a blatant/cheeky attempt to cash in on another's success, or a sign that the developer could not figure out where they wanted their game to go, creatively speaking. Honestly I am not sure what the correct diagnosis here is, but maybe I can come to decision as I try to explain my confusion.

Rage starts out with a massive meteor passing through our solar system and eventually colliding with the Earth. As we watch the giant rock pass through Saturn's rings and scrape our moons suffice, we flash to scenes of a man getting geared up to go into stasis and hear audio transmissions of Earth's attempt to move people into Arks. Arks are giant subterranean time capsules that will keep some of humanity safe, deep underground until the cataclysm has passed. I have to admit, the intro movie was strangely moving for me although I am not sure exactly why. After the movie stops the screen jolts and we are informed that more than 100 years have passed and you are in the process of being defrosted due to some sort of emergency. After briefly orienting yourself you see the small interior of your Ark has sustained some pretty serious damage. Sparks are flying, wires are dangling loose and all your fellow sleepers lie in their cryo-chambers looking like mummies, long dead and withered. A computerized voice tells you everything is offline and it's opening the door so you can make your exit.

No sooner do you get outside then you are jumped by two bandits who are quickly gunned down by a Good Samaritan in a dune buggy. He urges you get in so he can take you someplace as you both will be in a lot of trouble as soon as the raiders find out that you are a newly hatched ark survivor and that he took out two of their group. Riding back to his enclave your rescuer explains that the wasteland is a dangerous place and that if the bandits are not trying to use your skull as a cereal bowl, then the Authority is snapping up Ark survivors like a fat kid picking up candy from a busted piņata. Once you arrive back at his walled and defended compound, he suggests the best way to solve both his and your current problems is to take a pistol, a 4 wheeler he has in the garage and go to the bandit base and wipe them out. If you do this for him and get back alive he'll give you some armor to cover up that Ark suit you are wearing.

So here we go: You are a newly arrived man out of the past, who has been sheltering below ground for decades only to arrive in an apocalyptic wasteland where a hodgepodge of humanity cluster together trying to preserve a form of civilization against ruthless bloodthirsty savages. And here you are armed with just a pistol and a promise that if you complete a quest for your new friend, you'll get a reward and info to help you on your way. Hmmm, this sounds a little familiar. But that's ok; this kind of setup has worked well in the past so let's go with it. Once you get to the bandits hideout and start dropping the bad guys, you get a couple of surprises. The first one comes when one of the guys wielding an automatic rifle goes down and you rush over to pick up his fallen weapon and you watch as dissolves into the ground along with the corpse. That's right; you can't pick up weapons from fallen foes. The bodies will stay along until you loot them for some cash or ammo but you are going to have to buy or be award other weapons. Ok fine. We can deal with that. Moving into another section of the base, a trap is sprung and you find yourself dead. Well, mostly dead. You are then introduced to a mini game to where you have to press a key when two circles intersect to fire off a defibulator within your chest that will revive you with some health and stun everyone around you with an electric shock. Yeah, not what I was expecting either.

As you play along further, other mini-games are available around town. You can play a collectible card style strategy game, stab a knife between your fingers on a table in a bar, and even play a note repeating game as a guitar player strums a tune all as a way to win some cash from others. You also have to race vehicles around a track in order to win new vehicles or currency to upgrade your car. You are going to need those upgrades as once you are away from the city you will have to battle you way through bandits driving cars armed to the teeth. So now we have a wasteland with armed vehicles that you use to fight your way to quest locations. It's d'jā vu all over again.

Rage also has some crafting elements. As you move through locales you can pick up or purchase items that can be used to create ammo, support equipment or bandages. The game clearly labels what items are used for crafting and what items can be sold as junk so it takes some of the guesswork out of inventory management. While it's not a very deep crafting system, there are some things I crafted quite often such as the lock grinder used to open some locked doors and ammo that had more of a punch to take down tougher enemies. One curious point is that there is no weight or room restriction for your inventory. So, by the time I have completed the game, between, ammo, components and other items I had hundreds of items in my inventory and that diminished the impact of the whole crafting system for me.

First there is the fact that the story itself is completely linear. While there are some optional side quests you can pick up, they are few in number and whether you complete them or not has no real bearing on the story. Next, quite a few locations only unlock when you have the proper quest. Not too big a deal except that the world itself is really quite small. So even though I had the urge to wander around and explore as I drove from one plot point to another, or while I was on foot in a mission, I felt I was always channeled to EXACTLY where I was supposed to go. If I cannot explore and try to find various ways to play within the world, why would I want to spend more time there? That point alone takes the replay value for me, down to zero.

Second is the addition of the mini-games to the overall gameplay seemed like an afterthought. On the one hand, I was bit irritated that there were several times that I *HAD* to race in order to advance the main plot line. But the car racing was very easy and I could understand how this kind of tied into the main story line. But the strategic collectable card game, the knife around fingers and music repeating games were completely unnecessary. Yes, you could play those mini-games to earn extra cash but there was never a point where I was in need of money. I always had plenty of ammo, my post-combat car repairs were never higher than $100.00 and I got all of my vehicle upgrades by killing bandit cars. Yes the games were a surprising feature but I felt no compulsion to play them after the first time I encountered them.

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7.0   Good

Great graphics, stunning character models, production that mixes equal parts Fallout, Borderlands and Serenity;

Game is far too easy even on the hardest setting, numerous bugs on the PC, linear game play, questionable story development.


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