RAGE Review


Play Doom 3 again. You’ll probably feel the same way I did playing RAGE. I kind of liked Doom 3.

id Software invented the first-person corridor shooter and had been reluctant to explore outside the genre since. Then John Carmack and the other industry trailblazers at id did; they made RAGE. Open world, heavy driving component, RPG-lite; these elements are not what we’ve come to expect from the studio that brought us Robo-Hitler. What we expected – a polished-ass corridor shooter – is what makes RAGE worthwhile. What we didn’t expect to expect is what kills it.

A barren orange and grey post-apocalyptic wasteland (is there an echo in here?) unfolds. My eyes adjust to the harsh solar glare of RAGE‘s beautifully rendered id Tech 5 engine at work, a scene both lifelike and artistic. I’m a survivor from an age gone by, unaware of the hostile forces teeming in the burrows of the wasteland and the treasures they… seriously, where is that echo coming from?


OK, so RAGE‘s premise isn’t original, and every time my character turns 90+ degrees the fourth wall comes crashing down with unexpected texture pop-ins. But I loved Borderlands and Fallout 3, so I have every reason to believe that my experience with RAGE will be similar. Until I walk around for a bit.

I notice how alone I am just feet away from the Hagar settlement. There are some baddies in a nearby bandit hideout (apparently among an infinite amount of bandits and hideouts) and a flowing spigot of colorful NPCs just down the road in Wellspring, all tucked behind neat concept art load screens. On the wasteland, I see, it’s vehicles or nothing. Honestly, I can count on one hand the number of random encounters – hostile or otherwise – RAGE hid on that exquisitely lit desert. Is this a picayune, a trifling, or a piddling complaint?

Consider this: When Mafia II released in August 2010, reviewers praised it’s nuanced, referential storyline and balked at all else. It is an open-world game, after all, so compelling side-quests and persistent upgrades should be just spilling out of every unexplored nook, right? A freely explorable expanse implies a genre, and a genre implies requisite features, right?

However poorly executed, RAGE‘s open world serves its intense, frenetic, well-paced, linear shooting segments. When super speedy mutants (not to be confused with Super Mutants…) pour out of unexpected crevices, vaulting skillfully over obstacles, preemptively dodging shotgun fire by ducking or strafing, then explode in a gorgeously bloody mist from a skillful spray of exploding buck shot, my heart pounds and I grip my controller. When I’m down to two bandages and an RC-Car, having laid into an armor plated Authority goon with the last of my bullets, and I weave the explosive-strapped toy through a cracked wall, flanking and evaporating my enemy in a triumphant blaze, my satisfaction nears its peak. When I exit these dark, art-covered hovels of gaming goodness, driving across ubiquitous canyons, shooting a car or two, entering a town, turning in a quest, getting a new one, buying some ammo, playing a wasteland Yu-Gi-Oh card game, and then drive back to the same hovel for a side-quest almost identical to the storyline quest I just returned from… I’m turned all the way off.


Wellspring, Subway Town, Capital Prime – these are great locations littered with uniquely imagined shops, stalls, and mini-games (five finger filet ftw). Although unexplained for most of the game, the drive to complete critical fetch missions (go here, shoot that, get this, return), haunts the player admirably. And bouncing across the wasteland in a souped-up, rocket-fitted dirt buggy isn’t mandatorily an A to B affair – just practically. A few memorable moments outside gargantuan boss battles and last-stand firefights feed the famished open world concept. They aren’t enough.

So it’s no surprise that RAGE is at its best in one of the two multiplayer modes called Legends of the Wasteland. Two players (local or online) can trek through modified versions of the same corridor levels from the game, exterminating waves of foes for points and pride. It’s the purest version of what id has always done so well, spiced up with competitive cooperative play. There’s no uninspiring narrative to muddle the hits, and no placebo town segments to attempt “that RPG feel”. There are precious few of these missions – savor them.


The other multiplayer mode, Road Rash, is a combination of all the race types that the campaign offers for car upgrades. Again, it’s an arcade-style take on what the campaign does with persistence, so it’s only as compelling as it is immediately enjoyable. Shoot a buggy here, stash an asteroid there and the affair is over quickly. It’s a diversion. Whatever.

Far be it from my non-developer perspective to argue that id should stick to its guns (bwah, bwah, bwahhh) when designing a shooter, but branching out from a comfort zone implies risks. The risk here is that of expectation; when gamers see an open world as visually detailed as RAGE‘s wasteland(s), they assume the kind of role-playing depth found in games like Fallout 3, a fantastic game in spite of the piss-poor shooting mechanics. If I approached RAGE as another Doom or Wolfenstein, my disappointments with the cosmetic nature of its landscape would be mitigated by my excitement for precision long-range sniping and frenetic combat shotgun raids. Perhaps it’s the era of gaming that RAGE has arrived in that forces it to couch its core gameplay in an open world, but those acres of empty rock face would have been better served as widened or more levels. The knuckle-whitening, often horror-infused experiences inside of RAGE are essential to the vernacular of modern shooters. The pretty case they come in is not.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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