Monday, March 18, 2013
Post Mortem Review: Rage
So after more than a year of playing this game a bit here and a bit there I am at last finished with Rage (PC version). This poor game...gorgeous graphics, excellent gunplay physics and some cool ideas, all tainted by a shoddily executed storyline, lame race mechanics and a half-assed effort at making the game feel a bit more "open world" in a post-Fallout 3 era of gaming.
The ending to Rage was sort of anti-climatic. If you've played it, you know what I mean. If not, here's some spoilers to be wary of. Basically, the plot of Rage in a nutshell is that you're a survivor of an apocalyptic event, hidden away in stasis inside an "ark" of which a great many containing the best of humanity were scattered around the world before a massive meteor impacted, destroying most life on the planet. Survivors exist, mostly humble wastelanders and raging mutants, a byproduct of "feltrite," a form of unobtanium dropped by the meteor on impact. After awakening you become a pawn of various friendly locals trying to use your unique talents as a armored bad ass from a bygone era to get stuff done. You are, in the finest tradition of all id games, a silent loner. Note that silent loners with no conversation options do not work for games with any meaningful amount of story-driven content anymore. I know that id's devs came out in defense of this option, I guess imagining that the player him/her self would insert their own voice, or something....but not, doesn't work anymore, time to abandon this mode of thought, especially for a Triple A title.
Somewhere around the middle of the game it is revealed, rather unexpectedly, that there is a group called the Authority which apparently has the arms, armor and resources to carve out a fascist military state and for some reason they like to subject people to their control and also don't want anyone waking up the survivors in the many arks. Before you're done with Rage you will kill a lot of these guys, as well as mutants, and eventually end up assaulting the woefully insecure Authority facility where they have the satellite data necessary to broadcast a "wake up" signal to all the Arks full of frozen survivors in the world.
Unlike other id games this one gets you to the end without a boss fight. Heavily armored but still easily taken down authority soldiers do not count. There's a quick cut scene, in which the arks get their satellite signals and then emerge from the earth, and The End.
Not quite. Presumably added with the DLC download, the game gives you a brief "you finished the main story!" message and then kicks you back to town to finish whatever else you missed en route to the end. This is accomplished in the most unsatisfactory way possible, with no evidence that your brilliant strike against the Authority, and subsequent awakening of an army of frozen survivors, amounted to much of anything, at least locally (which, locally, means the Authority's backyard, I should mention).
The game restricts you from taking violent action in designated zones where merchants and quest givers might get shot. This is a shame, because when you're at the end, and a half dozen Authority dudes are messing the town up, it would be nice to at least show up, mow them down, and liberate the population.
I lost my motive for playing at this point. Rage suffers from an interesting problem, which boils down to "it came out after all these other games which do this thing better." It drew too many comparisons both to Fallout 3, Borderlands and other shooters as well as to its own forebears, Doom and Quake.
Rage especially suffers in comparison to Fallout 3, which of course was a fantastic open-world game. Fallout 3 had a plot, sure....but its side plots were usually so involved and interesting it was possible to play for countless hours without ever setting foot down the path of the main quest. Once you did complete the main quest, assuming you had the Broken Steel expansion, Fallout 3 showed a world changed, with evidence of what you had done having a permanent effect on the world around you....hell, all of its quests do this, really.
Rage is the opposite of Fallout 3's sandbox universe, although you can tell that someone somewhere during development thought maybe they should try and structure bits of it to have the illusion of such. Rage is an on the rails shooter where you can occasionally pause for a moment on tedious and mundane side quests before getting back to the only real direction available to you: forward.
Rage also has its vehicle segments, which on a certain level are fun, if a bit trite. Anyone who gets into driving games can attest that there's lots of ways to mess them up, but very few ways to do them right. When you're modding a shooter engine to handle wasteland racing.....it's just not going to work. The best driving segments are the ones where you need to get somewhere else, and often face opposition in the process. The racing segments were simply hollow, shadowy excursions into a realm I think id ought to stay away from unless they are dedicating more time and effort to it.
Hopefully, since id is a chunk of Bethesda now, Doom IV will benefit greatly from this association in its design...or will at least not feel like some corners were ultimately cut in the story department, like Rage feels. I really got the feeling that somewhere in development there was about two or three times the volume of game and story intended, when someone came in and cut a large chunk of it, then instructed the developers to make the tattered remains work in whatever Frankensteinian fashion they could.
Anyway, if you find this one for cheap ($20 or preferably less) and like other id games you'll probably enjoy exploring Rage, just be aware its going to let you down in the end, and at numerous spots throughout. Since this is sort of a review, I'd have to give it a C-, with the caveat that the actual "shooting and fighting moments" were a solid A, dragged down by poor storytelling, faux open-world design, awkward racing moments, and an anti-climatic ending that did not leave me wanting anything more than for the game to end.