Gaming Review: Rage (Campaign)

rage HeaderIt is obvious why the title Rage was given to this video game.  Two seconds out of the pod and some angry albino is trying to shove a knife into my chest.  Clearly there is some much needed anger management on this planet.  Or times have definitely changed from when I was last awake.

Let’s set the scene.  In a post apocalyptic world a voice calls out with the message of mankind’s last hope.  We are not Obi-Wan, nor is there a hologram of Princess Leia, yet somehow it is up to us to save humanity.  Not like any of the other lifeless Ark sleepers are going to do anything.  But how?  Well, that’s still debatable with the ending this game has (more on that later).  But for now it is just simply time to go tearing through the world filled with super violent mutants, bandits, government soldiers, and all that jazz.

Before the blade is plunged into the sternum, a shot rings out, knocking the offender to his above ground grave.  John Goodman calls for us to get in his car, and as we make our way back to his small settlement we learn about what has become of the world.  As we comfortably slept in our underground stasis pods (apparently more comfortably then the rest) the world moved on above us following an asteroid hit.  People survived as they could, and now the Ark Survivors are a hot commodity around the map.  But why hide when we can fight the good fight?

With all the talk around this game about how pretty it was going to be running on its engine that is way better than anyone else’s, I have to admit that it does live up to the hype (and I was playing on the 360).  For starters, I was only attacked because my eyes were still adjusting to the harsh light and awe-inspiring scenery.  Sure it is called the Wasteland, but still, “Oooooo.” Had I known he was coming I would have totally taken him out myself.  Sure, there are a few texturing problems when the worlds load (which will take a while), but that’s pretty much to be expected in games.

The point is that a lot of work went into Rage being top notch.  As we receive new weaponry our FPS view lets us take in the shape, size, and look of the guns we will be using throughout the game, before setting it in a deadly position at our side.  And they look pretty good while being reloaded as well.  But you know when they look the best?  While they’re spewing out bullets at the bad guys, that’s when.

I prefer getting to see my character as opposed to FPS’s, but I still know a good one when I see one.  Rage definitely has the right to gloat when it comes to the AI of the enemies.  While looking through the scope of my sniper rifle, just as my perfect shot was lined up the guy I was aiming at would have an “oh poo!” moment and go scrambling out of my reticle.  In addition to this, the baddies don’t just come right at you.  As these bandits have evolved to their landscape they must have also been practicing on some agility courses.  They will rarely just run straight at you; they will often flip off walls, evasively summersault as they near you, etc, making it a little more challenging to line up a shot, even when using something with a broad spray range.  And those mutants, they’re slippery little guys; climbing over walls in the hopes of bringing up long suppressed memories of the cave creatures in The Descent, all before running at you with their rusty, raised blades.  Worst of all, they disintegrate before you can scavenge their body for supplies!  That’s just rude.

But the best thing about these enemies is that they know how to die as theatrically (all the while remaining realistic) as possible.  Headshots don’t always do the task of shooting off a head with such force that the exposed throat spews out blood, giving more reason to aim for other areas.  Shoot a leg out from under the advancing enemy and they will wobble on it and fall, and when enemies are no longer able to stand they will try to drag their bodies back behind cover to make finishing them off a task.  And then there is always the classic “I’ve been riddled with bullets but I still have the momentum to take a few more steps before face planting.”

As you walk around the different sections of the world, from the Blue Line of Subway Town to the Dead City, be sure to take in the details in the level designs.  The places are still littered with signs of the past as you pass old flat-screen TVs, telephones, and the occasional ATM with easily accessible money.  The unfortunate thing about the design is that the structure of the game in concern to the mission to location ratio still doesn’t sit right with me.  There are numerous factions to come up against, but unless you take a side mission from the boards around the two main towns then it feels like the amount of contact with each is not as high as it should be (other than the mutants and Authority).  Then again, if you do take the side missions (which pretty much adds up to two missions in most locations), you will get to see the damage done as you have to adapt your path through the location thanks to what you did the time before.  The location with the RC bomb cars manufacturing is the best example of this, and while walking through the level the second time you may even hear people talking about the damage you caused on your last visit.  Unfortunately, I still felt as if the structure of driving to the same locations around the Wasteland really dwarfs the scale of the world created, especially because a lot of mission start points are clumped together (especially where subway town in concerned.  A little too convenient, if you ask me).

What is lacking in level locations is made up for in the number of ways to kill people.  A personal favorite was tagging them with an arrow that just so happened to be carrying a stick of dynamite, and then watching them frantically dance around before turning into a mist of red.  Another favorite are the walking turrets, or little spider-like machines that move around the environment ahead of you to help lower the numbers.  But hey, the classics don’t disappoint either.  Instead of throwing a wingstick for a distance kill wait till the little buggers are in shotgun range and then revel in the spray of guts and gore that hit the screen.

With all of this talk of the gameplay, the biggest piece of advice to give is to save, and save often.  Even the game will tell you to do so while sitting through the longer loads.  The player is given one piece of backup equipment with a built in defibrillator, but there is a strong chance that you will die when this thing hasn’t charged back up.  And the checkpoints locations suck, as I found out the hard way.  So again, save and save often.

I thought I had it bad with these checkpoints, but the worst thing was actually still to come.  As I was in the prep stages of the final mission, I might have let that “final mission” fact go over my head thanks to the boss telling me something to the effect of “the war can finally begin!”  At last!  There is one disc left in my 360 case so this war is going to be epic!  Then less than an hour the achievement for beating the game comes up, and I kid you not, I really expected there to be a second achievement going “psych!” before telling me to drop in disc 3.  But I was wrong, and the game went out rather abruptly, leaving the player praying that there will be a sequel because there is no way that story is done.  And if it is, some people over at Bethesda need to be punched in the face.

The gameplay in Rage makes it an amazing game to play at least once, but the story really did a number on me that creates a lack of interest in playing it again.  But hey, maybe the title wasn’t about the characters in the game at all, it was a warning of what you would be filled with as the credits rolled.

Final Grade:  8 / 10     

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