The game’s intro is slightly vague, but the gist of it is that a meteorite the size of Manhattan is just about to slam into Earth and wipe out the vast majority of the population. Mankind is apparently unable to stop the meteor from crash-landing, but what they can do is set up the Eden Project which sends volunteers deep underground in shelters known as Arks. At preset dates in the future the Arks will rise to the surface and the survivors will begin a new life in a world no-one can imagine.
You awake in your Ark some 106 years after Apophis hits Earth. Unfortunately all is not well in your Ark, and based on the desiccated bodies within every other pod you can see, it appears you are the only survivor. Before you’ve taken more than ten steps in the wasteland that is future Earth you’re attacked by rampaging mutants. Luckily a friendly human named Dan Hagar is nearby and he saves you from a painful death. Of course nothing comes free in the wasteland and before you know it you’ll be doing jobs and killing mutants and bandits just to earn your keep. Welcome to the future.
Many of the guns have different types of ammunition available, most of which add more power and usually bigger explosions too. The Fatboys for example are bigger, more powerful bullets for your pistol, but the tradeoff is only half as many fit in the barrel. With the crossbow you will eventually be able to make dynamite bolts for extra oomph, as well as mind-control bolts that let you take control of your target temporarily. Later in the game you’ll find armor-piercing bullets for your assault rifle, which will are a great help in taking down armored enemies quickly.
While most of the game plays out as a first-person shooter there is also a lot of driving – the wasteland is a sparse place, and with mutants and bandits roaming wild you don’t want to run everywhere. To this end there are multiple vehicles you can use including an ATV, a couple of buggies and an armored vehicle called the Monarch. As part of the Anarchy edition you get the Rat Rod; an improved buggy which is sure to help you win races once they become available.
Vehicular combat makes up a reasonable portion of the game. When traveling from place to place in the wasteland you’re sure to be accosted by bandits, so once you have the funds you’ll start decking your vehicle out with weapons and upgrades. So far as weapons go you’ve got mini-guns, rockets and pulse ammo, and for upgrades you’ve got performance tires, spiked tires, better suspension, shileds and boost upgrades. Every vehicle can boost to one degree or another, but boost upgrades give you that little extra kick.
The races, with the exclusion of the rally events, are quite easy to win and earn you racing certificates you use to upgrade your vehicles. The rally events are a bit tougher partly because the checkpoints appear in semi-random locations often behind you or at the far end of the track, and partly because the CPU opponents instantly know the best way to go to reach the checkpoints. They’re still winnable, but they’re tougher than your average race to win.
The multiplayer modes are not what you’d expect from a modern day shooter. There are two modes; Road Rage, which takes the rally-events from the campaign mode and makes them a four-player free-for-all, and Wasteland Legends, which is co-op shooting in nine short scenarios.
Road Rage is a bit of fun, but it’s hard to see anyone getting more than a couple of hours play out of it. While you do level up and earn upgrades as you go the levels just aren’t interesting enough, nor is the premise engaging enough to keep you coming back.
The main issues with Rage are the story, which is light on content, providing just enough to send you from point A to point B, and how this effects the missions themselves. While some missions are engaging, more often than not you feel like an errand boy, running from place to place with for no other reason than someone asking you to do so.
Here you are in a futuristic wasteland with plenty of firepower at your fingertips and you’re off looking for a missing person (I bet you $1 they’re already dead), or trying to find a flower to make some pain medicine, or going back to a place you just visited for some inane reason or another. Realistically many games are heavy on fetch quests but Rage’s biggest failing is that it can’t make you care about them – the reasons behind them are paper thin and that affects your enjoyment significantly.
I also found it a bit strange that wingsticks, a clearly outdated weapon, is usually far more effective than your guns. You can shoot forty assault rifle bullets at an enemy without them dying, while a single advanced wingstick (which aims itself too) will lop off their head. This is either very strange or strangely fitting – I never figured out which...
One area where Rage clearly excels is in the graphics department. It looks fantastic throughout and runs at a silky smooth sixty frames per second. Much of the game takes place surrounded by cement walls or underground, and while this would usually spark complaints Rage looks too pretty to complain about. When you’re outside the views you’re treated to are crystal clear and occasionally breathtaking.
Environments are full of rusting relics from yesteryear, and graffiti is just about everywhere. While the setting borrows a bit too heavily from the likes of Mad Max it is still beautifully executed. On the downside objects can fall into the floor and enemies get stuck in walls sometimes. On the plus side the targeting is extremely accurate – often in games you’ll shoot through a small gap only to find the bullet can’t get through – that doesn’t happen in Rage, if you can see it you can hit it.
Overall Rage is a functionally solid game that falls short in the story-telling and multiplayer departments. The shooting aspects are well done, and vehicle combat is reasonable without being great. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, and the game never reaches any great heights. And that’s a shame because it looks fantastic and promised a whole lot more than it was able to deliver. With a bit of work on the story and some more interesting inhabitants Rage would be a far more compelling title. As it is this is one for ardent id Software fans and those looking for something a bit different in their first-person shooter.
Review By: Mike Allison