Id Software is responsible for single-handedly defining the first-person shooter genre, with games like Doom, Wolfenstein and Quake. We all played these games, and regardless of personal taste, most of us can agree that they changed the face of the industry forever. Now, id Software released Rage – their first original IP since 1996, and one of the most anticipated games of 2011. Set in a beautiful post-apocalyptic world and populated by believable characters with real and compelling problems, Rage definitely feels, at first, like the great game you want it to be. Unfortunately, some gameplay limitations and the various visual bugs mar the experience, and prevent Rage from taking its rightful place next to its spiritual ancestors.

As the game starts, the player awakens from a prolong hypersleep in an underground shelter called an Ark. As the Ark’s doors open, you are introduced to a beautiful, desolate place, known only as the Wasteland. Apparently, the world above suffered a meteor strike that nearly wiped up all life on the surface, and the surviving humans now live in little settlements and ruined underground cities. As you explore the Wasteland, completing various chores and quests, you soon learn about “The Authority”, a militant group dedicated to finding “old world” technology and controlling it by any means necessary, and that includes finding and capturing Ark survivors. As the game progresses it becomes harder and harder to follow, or even care about the main story, simply because there is nothing to draw you in, and because the plotline itself isn’t very original. You take on the main quests not because you care about the story progression, but because the action is so much fun.

Rage is first and foremost a first-person shooter, and a good one at that. The action is fun, fluent, and intense, especially when fighting a group of enemies all at once. The weapons feel strong and are fun to shoot, and although most of them are standard FPS weapons (shotgun, machinegun, rocket-launcher) they still feel fresh thanks to a variety in ammo types. For example, the crossbow can fire regular steel bolts, explosive bolts and even bolts that let you take over an enemy, march him over to his buddies and make him explode from afar. This combination of different guns with different ammo types really helps the combat to remain engaging, and encourages the player to find out new and exciting ways to survive through a firefight. Apart from the weapons, the player has at his disposal a few items and gadgets to help him along the way and offer even more fun ways to dispose of his enemies. These gadgets include a small spider-like robot with a mounted machine gun, and even a remote-controlled car packed with explosives. But the most simple and useful gadget is the Wingstick: a small bladed boomerang-like weapon that can take out multiple enemies in one throw, which is really fun to use.

When not engaging in first-person action, Rage’s other main attraction is racing dune buggies in a variety of courses and challenges. While mostly optional and not as fun or exciting as the shooting, racing can be a nice break between missions, and does offer a few car combat events for those who enjoy that sort of thing. Racing is also the best way of upgrading your vehicle with better weapons, armor and other parts, and since you’ll be spending a lot of time in said vehicle, driving around the Wasteland fighting bandits, it might be a smart move. While exploring the Wasteland in your stylish armored buggy, you’ll find out that you are not alone on the roads; bandits of all sorts are roaming the dusty trails, and they don’t like visitors. Your vehicle’s mounted weapons, be it a mini-gun or a rocket launcher, and a few disposable items, such as mines and a flying turret, are more than enough to send most of the opposition to an early grave in a ball of flames. This little bit of car-combat is a nice way of spicing up the otherwise dreary drive from point A to point B.

The Wasteland itself it a beautiful place, filled with remnants of the world before the apocalyptic meteor strike. At first glance it seems like a huge place, populated with an array of unique, believable characters, each with its own story and real-life problems. However, as the game progresses, you soon discover that this open world filled with excitement and possibilities isn’t all that rich as you were lead to believe. Sure, there are a few things to do except for taking on the story missions, such as races, arena fights and more, and while Rage does an excellent job introducing the player to all these activities and side-quests, it offers little incentive to try them out more than once. Adding to that the fact that most side-quests take the player back to places he’s already explored, and force him to pretty much repeat the same thing he did there during his first visit, there is little reason not to stick to the more interesting and fun main missions.

Similarly, Rage’s presentation is also very inconsistent and misleading at first; at least on the PC version. While the character and vehicle models are extremely detailed and great looking (especially the characters, with their amazing facial expressions and attention to details), the surrounding textures are muddy and tend to pop in and out of existence every time the camera moves around. Other more serious graphical problems have been reported by PC gamers, and while most of them were addressed in the form of updated graphical drivers, there are still a lot of issues that have yet to be resolved. It’s a shame really, since the game looks so beautiful at first glance. The in-doors environments are diverse and unique, and each bandit hideout is designed differently, and really reflects the essence of the people inhabiting it. It’s a real treat to move through these linear areas, find every little secret and learn about the different clans and factions in the Wasteland.

The sound department did an especially good job of helping the player feel like he is a real place, and that the action around him is as intense as it feels. All the characters’ voice acting is top-notch, without exceptions, and the sound effects for every type of gun and explosion turn each firefight into a symphony of destruction. While the soundtrack doesn’t play a big role in Rage, it feels appropriate and suites the action well, though it isn’t memorable in any way.

Apart from the main campaign, Rage sports two multiplayer modes: one competitive and one cooperative. The competitive multiplayer mode, called Road Rage, focuses on the racing and car combat aspect of the game, and pits 4 vehicles against each other in a closed arena. Players must collect rally points or fallen meteors and destroy others to earn more points. It’s a really simple mode that does no justice to the main campaign’s intense and fun action. In Legends of the Wasteland, two players fight side by side against waves of bandits in 9 different missions with different objectives. This co-op mode is a sort of prequel to the main story, and offers the player a chance to view the wasteland at an earlier time, before the emergence of the protagonist’s Ark. They are fun and offer a nice challenge, but pale in compression to the single-player campaign.

Rage is a fun first-person shooter through and through, with intense action and a varied arsenal of weapons and gadgets that makes the single-player campaign an experience worth having, albeit a somewhat linear one. The driving, be it in the multiplayer or single-player, is a fun little distraction from all the face-to-face combat, but an unnecessary one, since the first-person gameplay is really the game’s forte. The graphical presentation can’t keep up with the fast paced combat, which is really too bad considering how promising it seemed at first, and how beautiful the game can be at times, when the full potential of id Software’s new engine – id Tech 5 – is realized. If you are in the market for a fast paced, fun FPS, and are willing to stomach a few visual bugs and blemished (that will probably be fixed with a patch or two), Rage is definitely the game for you, as long as you stick to the main campaign. But considering the developer’s rich heritage, the fact that Rage didn’t turn out to be the masterpiece it should have been is simply outrageous.

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