RAGE – act one? (spoilers)

Epic, post apocalyptic blank canvas. Id software leaves us wanting more in it’s latest shoot-em up “RAGE”. The successor to the popular Doom and Quake series is built on the long anticipated id Tech 5 engine, which like it’s flagship title is a great start.

RAGE takes place in a barren, near future world ravaged by a meteor impact, where survivors of the armageddon struggle to survive swarms of mutants, and each other.  Your character gets a familiar set of weapons ranging from the indispensable settler pistol, your trusty shotgun and a sniper rifle to more fantastic weapons. For example, once you’ve got the hang of the wingstick, a self returning thrown blade, you’ll keep a few of them handy in all situations. There’s a lot more – a silent crossbow with various bolts including explosive tipped and mind control darts. Remote controlled bomb cars, automated gun turrets, pet sentry robots, EMP grenades and much more.

Each area of the game has a distinct style and several types of opponents including various mutant types and many different styles of bandits. The AI keeps the combat fresh despite the mostly simple smash-and-loot and occasional escort mission style. The enemy tactics, reactions and audio feedback are very well thought out and add rich texture to the combat. The fights are frequently difficult, some with emphasis on learning how to properly use all of your equipment to come up with creative solutions to big, mean and ugly problems. A shooter, well done.

Adding depth between sessions of frantic closed-quarters shootouts is tightly integrated armored vehicular combat. The size and detail of the outdoor world is only more complimented by the relative lack of loading screens, with the exception of the two main quest hub cities. Exploration is rewarded and there are plenty of distractions to keep you busy. Mysterious robot drones hover in various places in the wasteland, and like any post apocalyptic armored buggy driver worth his spit, you are rewarded for finding the correct way to launch your vehicle off available terrain to crash into them. It gets tricky. While the racing mini-games in the main cities themselves are mostly a distraction from the story, they provide a fun way to gear up your buggy for hours of mayhem demolishing bandits in the wasteland. In RAGE, the vehicle game play could stand by itself.

Spoilers here. If you have read any reviews at all, you may have read about the ending, or lack of one. I absolutely loved the game but brace yourself now: there is no boss fight. It’s not even an anti-climax. It just.. ends. If this effect was deliberate, gimme part two already! Without going into the story itself, you could summarize that this was just the beginning of a bigger picture. This was back story, a canvas. It’s primed for downloadable add-on content, or could even make a good stage for an MMO or persistent world.

I felt the amount of time to beat the game without solving the numerous side quests and exploring each optional area to be just right. I’ve read folks beating it in just one day, skipping non-essential content. I could have stayed longer. I look forward to seeing what’s next.

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