Destiny Beta Debrief: Vintage car muscle, new car smell

image credit: Bungie

Rally your fireteam, guardians. The creative geniuses behind the first several Halo titles poured their experience and passion for the genre into Destiny, a new IP that would both encompass everything they loved about the original Halo universe and bold new ideas that weren’t possible at the time. The result is far greater than the sum of its parts, and it plays like a dream.


Being one of the oldest tricks in the book doesn’t make it any less important. Bungie understands what some developers seem to overlook – user experience is more than just the cool shooting parts, it includes finding a group, being social, choosing a game mode to play, and managing your character and advancement. Rather than defaulting to a polished menu system to find a game to play, Bungie encapsulates the “menu” experience and gameplay selection within the game world itself. The resulting level of immersion makes the competition’s nested menus look decidedly last century. What seems like it could have been a trivial detail turns out to be one of the finest bits of polish on an already outstanding game.

From the opening cinematic sequence, your guardian is on the move. No time is wasted establishing a sense of urgency and impending threat. Completing the new player experience concludes with the escape in a barely flight-worthy spacecraft and a beautiful cutscene arrival at “the tower”, the last safe city. At the tower, the player manages his character and gear and (later) finds missions. Leaving the tower to continue a story mission, embark in open world exploration, a cooperative PVE challenge or competitive PVP arenas is as simple as returning your spacecraft to orbit. The transition between land and orbit includes a stunning low orbit vista and cinematic quality scene of your ship and your friends ships should you form a fireteam. Select your destination from the map, and your ships fly there in spectacular fashion. At no point did the transition between game modes or forming a fireteam feels like leaving the game to a menu or a lobby.

“Goldielocks” Multiplayer

Player population in each region in the game and at the tower is managed by the server to always be at a median “just right” number of players to run into, preventing crowds or unnervingly vacant places. Venture into the wilderness alone and eventually you will encounter another player or group of players. Most of the time they will already be engaged with enemies, and on occasion may be in hot water. The way this dynamic matchmaking occurs is completely invisible to the user; it simply happens. I arrived at the wreckage to discover another player already dispatching foes, but enemy reinforcements are flanking the firefight. Time to jump in.

Public Event Challenges

Emphasis on challenge. Unlike other recent MMO titles to implement “public events”, Destiny’s do not occur only at easily recognizable, purpose-built outdoor locations. Here in the wild, these invasions and timed heavy encounters can occur anywhere. The type of event and method of finding out about it varies from simple communication, an unexpectedly darkened sky, to dramatic screen shaking scene entry. They are also scaled to be almost certain death in difficulty. The well prepared are rewarded with a chance to show off their prowess and earn superior rating and bonus upon completion of the event, which occurs whether the players win or not. As added incentive, players earn further bonus for the first “gold star” public event rating they earn each day in addition to the XP, currency and loot.


Turning what could have been another trivial detail into something wildly awesome, once you are on the ground getting from one place to another in a hurry is far from boring. “Summon” your speederbike mount and open the throttle boost wide. They are wicked fun to ride. Fully upgradable at the shipwright in the tower, your speederbike will become a staple for getting into and out of trouble fast.

Your favorite shooter, your way

The four main game modes are each well rounded enough to stand alone as games themselves, but are also tightly bound to one another. Unlock new areas by advancing the plot in story mode. Prior story missions can be replayed on higher difficulty for better loot and XP. Once you’ve unlocked an area, you can also opt to return in open world explore mode. When exploring you encounter enemies at a steady rate, earning decent currency, loot and XP without fixed goals. Chests of loot and other secrets lay scattered about waiting to be found. Also available are endless simple “quests” that provide an easy, defined task to earn bonus rewards and faction for one of the five plus factions back at the tower. These tasks are random and self replenishing, and are usually in the form of “Go to Point A”, “Kill N bad guys” , “Collect Y rare things”, “recover item X”, and so forth. They are random enough to avoid tedium and blessedly short, making it a great choice for casual play. The faction reward is also random, and includes the various PVP factions so players have an alternative way to earn the superior gear from those PVP faction vendors.

Back at the tower, players can also select “bounties” that are like personal daily quests for any of the games modes, which also carries faction rewards. They include objectives like “Get 200 precision kills” , “Get 20 melee kills without dying”, and also PVP objectives like “Get first strike in a match 10 times” and “Kill the match MVP 3 times”, etc.

The third game mode is “strike”, which is essentially an instanced dungeon-like area with several boss encounters. From Orbit, once you have set your destination to the Strike zone, your fireteam will fill automatically to the ideal number of players for that encounter and chosen difficulty. The boss fights are much harder than story mode or public event encounters, and the loot rewards scale with the difficulty. If a player drops from your fireteam, another may join dynamically at some point later in the instance story progression. Strike is a great way for an organized fireteam to hone their teamwork and skills to overcome the toughest PVE encounters.

Finally, the various PVP modes tie all of the games areas and factions into a tangible substory that stands as its own game for the competitively minded guardian. It is here that the pillars of Bungie are found: rock solid arena death match. Some PVP events are available only at certain intervals, like the hotly contested “Iron Banner” event, where guardian level advantages are enabled and rewards are much more valuable.

The little details

Bungie knows is audience. These are the same guys who’s games inspired fan creations like Rooster Teeth’s “Red vs Blue”, a phenomenon of its own. Of course, that success was entirely on the talent at Rooster Teeth, but Bungie had created the platform. This comes in part from a passion for attention to detail, dedication to enjoyable multiplayer, and plenty of hidden challenges and easter eggs. Already in beta, at the tower we had discovered a fully usable soccer ball. Yeah, a classic soccer ball. We had fun kicking it around and even managed to kick it into a vendor tent that was shaped vaguely like a soccer goal. Nothing happened, but it begs the question; what is the soccer ball for? What easter egg might it unlock? Plus, impromptu street soccer in post apocalyptic city-scape is fun in its own right.  Secrets are littered everywhere in the open world as well, including some unexpected overworld bosses, tough to reach areas, and more.

On the frontier

In all, by the end of the few day long beta, I had already created memorable characters, made a friend or two, and recorded numerous amazing encounters worth sharing. The ease of the social features reminded me of the best early days of Xbox Live, where meeting new people was fluid and barriers to communication were few. I was hooked – there was no doubt that Bungie’s ambitious Destiny would be their biggest success yet.

My fireteam is ready for September 9. See you on the frontier.



Xbox One Launch Weekend Review


Five launch titles, two gamers and one epic launch weekend later; a fan review.

My wife and I received our Xbox One consoles on release day along with five launch titles, including Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport 5, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Following a remarkable weekend of next generation gaming, here are our first impressions. Spoiler: Xbox One rocks!

“Xbox – ON”

Xbox One endured much criticism since reveal at E3 for many issues including the required Internet Connection, Kinect sensor, DRM changes and higher price compared to the rival PS4 console. Microsoft showed unusual agility in responding to fans, reversing its stance on DRM and the requirement for a persistent internet connection. Users now also have the choice of not using the Kinect sensor – good for them – but from my impressions it is one of the coolest parts of the new system! Gaming is personal, and having the system recognize me or my daughter and instantly customize the view to show just what I am interested in is no small detail – it encapsulates my whole experience, and more.

All weekend could be summed up in three words not used commonly together before November 22: “XBOX, Record that!” Never mind the specific voice command, or that we had plenty of awesome DVR-worthy gaming moments, the breakthrough comes in the value of the voice command shortcuts we can use without taking even a second out of our game. The commercials don’t really do justice to how cool these extra features are. It’s not just the games, folks. This system is built for gamers who wanted more out of their games.

Another detail, one you’ll never see in a commercial, is how the system handles crashes. No game is perfect (any Skyrim player knows even the best games lock up), and on the Xbox 360, a locked game was a locked console. Battlefield 4, for all it’s epicness is also prone to lockup – but on the Xbox One, the running game does not take command of the entire console, which is why switching in and out of games and movies or TV is so quick. When BF4 first locked on my Xbox One, I could just return to the home screen and relaunch it, which may sound trivial but takes some of the pain out of the crash.

I believe the Xbox One delivered on all of its next generation promises and more. The graphics are gorgeous, it’s fast, runs cool and quiet and integrates easily with your cable provider to front end the TV experience. The kinect rounds it out with easy to use commands, accurate face recognition and gestures simple enough for children. The sum nothing less than amazing.

With that said a great system is one thing, but to quote Nintendo execs, “software sells hardware”, and a system’s virtues are for not without killer launch titles.

Forza Motorsport 5

The first game out of its case was Forza 5. It is unfair to compare it feature to feature with the other First Person Adventure/Shooters we played, but graphically it is unmatched and races like a dream. This is the worlds biggest car geeks loose with one of the most graphically capable machines, ever. It’s pure car porn. It wastes no time getting you on the track, either – staying very light on the technical aspects of the game until later. I love the way the new Xbox One controller uses many independent internal motors to provide feedback at the triggers and grips – it is very subtle but highly effective. Even across the room, my wife remarked that the controller vibration even sounded accurate to the feedback from the car. It was as if I could feel the road. Further pushing the envelope, the cloud-powered AI is based entirely on other real players – there are no canned AI bots in the games, only other avatars called “drivatars”, which learn from your driving to represent you on line – the drivers I raced against were very sharp and behaved more like a real opponent, even in “single player” mode (wow, will that become a dated term?). Needless to say, I am highly impressed. Top marks for this hard core racer – it is a poster of what a next gen launch title should look and play like.

Battlefield 4

I am a big fan of Battlefield 2: Bad Company and Battlefield 3, so I had high hopes for Battlefield 4. I played it on Xbox 360, where the graphics were more or less comparable to the previous titles. As for story, shooters usually get the short end of the stick in favor of multiplayer features, although Bad Company and a few of the Halo titles were exceptions. Battlefield 4’s campaign story is fairly tight, coupled with amazing graphics, good voice acting and motion capture. It does well to stick to a core set of characters and a single overarching threat to drive plot – something other titles often fail at.

BF4 Multiplayer mode is a huge success. Dice shows its industry experience and delivers peerless, heart pounding, face melting 64 player action, either on epic sized dynamic maps or in tight indoor arenas. “Levolution”, the feature in which major features in a map can change over the course of a battle, simply cannot be expressed in a commercial. You have to be there to understand how fantastic it is to suddenly have the entire building you’ve been defending begin to crumble and collapse – where you heroically dive out a window to narrowly escape death (or, be heroically crushed…). I’ve clocked many hours into multiplayer mode between the 360 and Xbox One and very few matches were similar, and never got repetitive. Further enhancing the multiplayer experience, the second screen “Battlelog” and game-in-a-game “commander mode” are ahead of the pack in terms of mobile device integration. Any experienced BF4 squad knows the value of having a player in commander mode on your team. As if that all was not enough, the music is explosive and fresh – best of show stuff – adding to already rock-solid shooter game play and fast paced action. I’ve said it before, Battlefield 4 is a shoe-in for GOTY on it’s name alone, and I think the end product deserves it.

Ryse: Son of Rome

Seven years in the making, this roman era epic puts you in the boots of Marius Titus, a fictional hero loosely based on several real roman generals, time periods and legends. Fans will notice some striking similarities to the events in the movie “Gladiator” for good reason as both have common historical inspiration. The combat gameplay could be compared to the melee in Assassin’s Creed – all game controls center around four key melee abilities – dodge, deflect, bash and sword. Individual enemy AI is specific to each enemy type, but handling throngs of them at once is where the real action and strategy begins. While Easy and Normal mode is pretty forgiving, fans desiring a challenge can choose harder “centurion” mode that demands you handle each fight correctly or quickly be overwhelmed. Combat is brutal – limb severing is hardly the most graphic of executions – and it is intense. Fans looking for fast paced visceral combat with depth will not be disappointed. The graphics might be the best of next generation gaming, next to the equally pretty but highly dissimilar Forza.

The story is also strong and very well written, and sports the best human actor capture and performances of any game I’ve ever seen.  It plays like a movie, with gorgeous vistas, memorable characters and great soundtrack. Hat’s off to a solid production that looks closer to the silver screen than your flat screen ever has.

Multiplayer gladiator mode is very fun, although limited to just two players the arena challenges are well thought out and far from just smashing hordes of opponents. In all, my wife and I together put more hours into Ryse than any other title at launch.

Parent warning: Many games earn an M rating, but Ryse is a strong M for both the obvious graphic combat content, nudity and adult situations. This game is not for kids.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Or as I like to call it, “Riley the Attack Dog Saves the World”. I’ve never been a huge fan of the CoD series, but this was an exception for me. CoD:Ghosts without Riley would be a pale shadow of the finished product. Seriously, this pup saves a potentially pretty-but-just-above-average shooter from the shelf and gives it credibility next to other next generation titles. Like other high-tech, super spec-op titles (cod:mw, cod:bo2, tc:ghost recon, etc), a lot of emphasis is put on gadgets and technology providing situational advantage to forward the plot or solve a crisis. Riley, in that context is one of the new gadgets and not the first case where an animal became an extension of the soldier. However they did such a good job of motion capture and integration of the dogs mannerism and personality that he eclipses both his role and the other characters in the game. At one point in the story where you are briefly separated from the dog and then later get to see him – I was genuinely happy to see the dog, like a real dog. The fact the team at infinity ward were able to pull this off is no small feat. Yeah, sure, at a base level it’s not a far stretch from putting a puppy in a commercial, but it WORKS.

CoD: Ghosts does make good use of next generation graphics, with a story that will not disappoint – it ought to with Emmy winning writer from Syriana and Traffic behind it. Action is solid, also consistent with prior titles. Enemy AI is more complex than BF4 – guy gets shot in the leg, goes prone in a position and movement accurate to the situation (he’s dragging and nursing his leg) but is still firing a hand gun defiantly. Enemies make smart use of cover, and will try to out maneuver you. The run and slide move is great, as is the improved intelligent obstacle jump.

I have yet to play multiplayer, but previews online ahead of next generation launch looked really good, and is popular with many BF4 squadmates.

Assassin’s Creed 4

This swashbuckling title saddles the launch of next generation, and was already near-perfect on Xbox 360, which I wrote about in my prior blog entry. On Xbox One it does inherit improved graphics – they were already outstanding – as well as the dynamic achievements and fantastic ocean physics just not possible on prior generation hardware. The story is much what fans of the AC series come to love, although I feel it suffers from a lack of a common villain or single plot driver to tie the many characters and locations together, and many characters with only small parts in a long game. This is of course in part due to it being loosely based on actual historical events and people – with a crazy high science fiction backstory that ties otherwise distant times and people to one another. I’m not a fan of the story, but am a huge fan of the immersion into the historical places, the music and ambiance, exploration and of course – the action. AC4 is my favorite in the series yet, not for the characters or graphics, but the actual sailing gameplay. I was relieved when the main story concluded so I could get back to what I enjoyed most: commanding the Brig named Jackdaw. The Jackdaw in it’s own way could be the real lead character. It carries the story, both literally and figuratively. It’s the Millenium Falcon if Starwars were set in the Caribbean.

In all, Microsoft hit it home with both a killer console and great titles. I can’t compare it to Playstation 4 yet – we may get one next year to upgrade our PS3. Either way, it’s a great year to be a gamer. See you online!

Deadspace 3: Awakened DLC – Don’t Blink


Don’t blink, or you might miss this fantastically scary, and short, encore. Visceral Games responds to complaints that Deadspace 3 wasn’t a “horror” title, giving us 3 additional missions that follow the end of the main story – each packed with pretty much everything that ever made a Deadspace title scary – condensed into espresso strength fright. They also manage to pack in some of the best dialog and one liners yet for Isaac and Carver. Top it off with a rousing boss sequence and it is well worth the spare change: 800 MSP or approx 10$. I do wish it had been a bit longer – It’s easily completed in a single sitting – but in this case having been left wanting more is hardly a complaint.

Dead Space 3 – Suit Up!

image credit

Lights out, surround sound on. I am Isaac Clarke. Visceral Games spares no detail in its latest masterpiece of immersion, wonder and horror. Enter the dark future of Dead Space 3, a science fiction dream come to life that is easily one of the most visually stunning in the genre, surpassed only by how awesome it sounds. With every step, whether it’s peeking around an unlit corner, scrambling for cover, rocketing through space or stumbling blind through a storm, we are listening with dread. By weaving deliciously eerie environments with a symphony of ambient sounds and audible clues, Visceral Games delivers highly engaging gameplay that stands apart from other popular space shooter titles.

Just as Dead Space 2 was a brave leap forward from the first title, which is widely held to be more or less flawless in terms of gameplay and presentation, Dead Space 3 is a giant step for the series – a move that has garnered a lot of criticism. From the moment we are reunited with our troubled hero it is clear that Dead Space 3 is anything but more of the same dark corridors, a risky move for the franchise. Gone is the centerpiece of the focal experience – Isaac, hallucinating, alone in the dark, going mad from horror all whilst fending off hordes of undead necromorphs in vast, gloomy, derelict spacecraft. Dead Space 3 pushes the envelope further with new co-operative gameplay, featuring a second main character, Carver. Players discover his background during multiplayer-only challenges throughout the story. Isaac, still flawed and unredeemed, is no longer alone in the dark. With this the presentation evolves, leaving the corridors of the USG Ishimura behind.

The risk pays off. Multiplayer mode is genius. During the heat of the battle players can help one another using voice commands to trade ammo or health without clicking a button. Many challenges are a race to coordinate both technical puzzles, swarms of enemies and the ability to react to the unexpected. Some challenges cannot be attempted in single player mode at all. Also new is weapon crafting, universal ammunition, and resource gathering. Craft your own gun, make a blue print for it and trade it to your partner. Players manage supplies and medic kits with the help of scavenger bots that can be outfitted with optional AI routines for personality and style.

Of the complaints I have read, the most common is that Dead Space 3 isn’t scary. It’s not horror. True, some scenes weren’t, but I thought the same of Dead Space 2 compared to the original. Actually, except for two very specific, terrifying encounters in Dead Space 2, I though it was only moderately creepy compared to part one. Dead Space 3 in turn finds new ways to get your blood pumping, relying less on monster pops in the dark to create fright and suspense. From a race against freezing temperatures in a blinding snow storm, or rappelling in oh-so hazardous conditions, to navigating space wreckage while counting the seconds till your air runs out, heart pounding thrills abound. And yes, some scenes are downright scary.

Bottom line, Dead Space 3 is a huge success. With a solid story, fantastic multiplayer, numerous achievements, easter eggs, unlockable game modes and more downloadable content in the pipes, there is a whole lot to like. So nevermind the critics – suit up and get stomping!

Serj Tankian’s beautiful “Harakiri”

Energetic, persuasive, engaging. The latest from System of a Down singer Serj Tankian’s solo project is his best work since Elect the Dead and Hypnotize. Fans of his signature style of politically charged rock have come to expect no less, and Harakiri hits the mark.

I missed hearing early previews ahead of the July 2012 release – only picking it up later when the title track music video was featured on Zune. If you haven’t heard it yet, look for it on YouTube or your music store of choice and check out Cornucopia, Figure it Out (also a video), Ching Chime and the title track Harakiri. Great album!




Dawnguard – Icing on the Cake

What do you get a game that’s already won Game of the Year? Skyrim’s first official DLC “Dawnguard” tops the cake – adding fresh dungeons, new factions and more of everything that made the base title so immersive.

Dawnguard is named for one of the new factions, a band of heroes sworn to fight the evil Vampire Lord Harkon’s plot to cast Skyrim into Darkness. The player will make choices that align them with one side or the other, and while the core story progresses much the same either way – the people at the heart of the story and myriad of smaller details make this one of the most enjoyable side stories in Skyrim yet. More significant than the plot itself are the locations and opportunities for players who wanted to play a vampire or werewolf; or to hunt them.

Previously there were not many options outside the Dark Brotherhood assassin’s guild for a player infected with vamprism (merely a disease, Harkon points out). Werewolves were much more socially accepted by comparison, but the novelty outside the Companion’s Guild storyline was limited. In Dawnguard both get new talent trees and powers, as well as ample opportunity to run wild.

Dawnguard’s best moments are in the delivering of the story and development of the many new characters and locations. The new dungeons are a huge improvement on the original well-worn layouts, with clever use of lighting, new puzzles and thoughtful level design. True to Elder Scroll’s style, much of the add-on content lay outside the central story, waiting to be stumbled upon. The new content is tightly integrated into the old. You may hear of a location from a guard, a wanderer, or in a dusty tome on a shelf in an unlikely location.

Finally, Bethesda gave players much needed bug fixes and gameplay tweaks. Mounted combat and improved “kill cams” for archery and spells are technically part of a patch and not the DLC itself, but were released around the same time and corrected a few progression-killing bugs that had existed since Skyrim’s release. New content *and* bug fixes? Please, you’ll spoil the fans. Seriously, two thumbs up.

Faithful – Diablo III First Impressions

Dress it up how you like, there is no mistaking Diablo 3’s classic roots. Blizzard plays it safe, sticking to gameplay elements, setting and storytelling that worked the first time. New players are quickly acquainted with the lore and characters at the heart of the original, most successful Diablo title.

Speaking of dressing up – Blizzard didn’t skimp. The new animated sequences are beautiful, and tailored to your character choice no less. The voice acting is above par for a Blizzard title. Better still are the ambient tracks and musical score – each lending to a rich and faithful return to Tristram and the blood-chilling catacombs that lay beneath.

Combat and character advancement is familiar and easy – perhaps the most streamlined, usable of the trilogy. Despite borrowing resource and attack synergy concepts from the massively-complex World of Warcraft playbook, the same clever style is tamed to just a few action hotkeys and your two mouse buttons. All the time you might have spent learning a more complex interface and combat system is far better spent doing what made Diablo so fun – clicking on swarms monsters to kill them.

So far, the multiplayer elements seem to combine both their own experience and lessons learned from other popular titles, as well as the familiar matchmaking of systems like XBOX Live. Players each receive individual loot without worry of competition or messy loot rolls, and grouping with others is refreshingly no-fuss and instantly fun. It is clear Blizzard put extra effort into taking the learning curve and tedium out of these key gameplay elements.

While I have only played through the first bit of the story, it is clear that the hype can be substantiated. Full review after the credits roll.


Review: Skyrim rolls a twenty, crits your weekend plans

Not only did it cancel your plans, it called in sick for you and brought you your slippers. Skyrim puts the game back in roleplaying in the latest “Elder Scrolls” title.

Prior experience not required. Even if you have never played (or didn’t care for) the previous four titles in the series, Skyrim is highly accessible to both the seasoned roleplaying game fan and new player alike. It wastes no time drawing you into the story and rich world, easing you into game controls and character creation along the way. It is instantly interesting and difficult to put down, setting a new standard for what an engrossing game should play like.

Like the preceding Elder Scrolls titles, the story, world and flow of game is highly dynamic and open ended. The core storyline drives just a few of your objectives and encourages you to explore and make your own agenda. Even the main story content itself adjusts and adapts to your choices – making no two players game experiences alike. Case in point: both my wife and I started new games individually and had a different gameplay experience. The dialog and even a few of the characters you’d interact with first changed.

Where Skyrim succeeds the most, though, is in the fun factor. It’s one thing to hand the reigns over to the player in an open-ended world, but another to make it actually fun. The places, people, landscapes and dungeons are memorable. Character development is smooth and well thought out. Progression is anything but a grind, and rewards you for simply doing what you want to do. Favor a sword and shield? Put one on and go. Prefer to sneak and dispatch your enemies from the shadows? Just do it. Dabble in spellcraft, but want to blacksmith? No problem.

One more thing – you’ll be playing this RPG with the sound on. The ambient sounds, effects and musical score are a knockout. Look for this title in the “game of the year” section of your favorite gaming magazine soon. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an pesky ice troll to settle a score with….

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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