Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rage


  There's much to love and hate about Rage honestly. If it was a movie, this would be a guilty pleasure. As it is, Rage is a breezy little game with eye popping visuals, well crafted game mechanics, and a weak story. It's not just the weak story that kicks Rage in the pants though. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas both have had weak stories. They're still two of the best video games I've ever played. No, the problem here is that the whole game is riding on the story. In the Fallout games, you could explore and discover and craft your own little world in a way. There were choices, and your choices had consequences. The story in the Fallout games was hardly even the main focus. It was merely a vehicle to have you tour the massive world it had waiting for you. You knew, going along with the story, that there was even more to see- it encouraged you to go out and find new places and things. Rage does almost the opposite in every single way.

  Rage isn't an expansive game, and although it's "technically" sandbox, you'd be forgiven for thinking it wasn't. There's nothing to really explore. Everything there is to see and find is explored through the main story. There isn't anything off the beaten path. It's a restrictive game when all is said and done. It teases you with a massive world to explore and discover, but you'll never find an area that isn't crucial to the ongoing story. The maps are confined and the key locations are just spaced far enough from each other in order for you to have driving sequences back and forth. You feel like your hands are tied. It's such a tease. Looting isn't really a thing in this game either. You collect stuff to sell but it's a half baked mechanic that got to me later on. Same thing for plenty of things you have to do in this game. The missions feel like menial tasks, and all in all... they are. You go someplace to get something, you kill a bunch of enemies, you return when said task is done. Repeat 50 times. Game complete.

  Having said that, it doesn't mean it's not fun.  Shooting in this game is really satisfying. From a company that made their fame on the quintessential shooter game, Doom, I expected nothing less from them. They've introduced some nice new shooting mechanics as well. All in all, it's exciting and thrilling to play. The sound effects are meaty and the weapon models are slick. You'll find yourself thinking of Doom 3, but clearly way more refined. I was really tempted to load up Doom 3 here and there whilst playing Rage. The fantastic locales keep you glued to Rage though. Every place you go to in the game seems to be crafted with a lot of care. These little towns are full of personality and are really interesting and fun to walk around in and interact with the people, however limited said interactions might be. Visually, these places pop. From the dusty and rusty post apocalyptic stylings of Wellspring, to the subterranean cyberpunk neon flair of Subway Town. All these locations are fun to visit. Even though in the end there's not all that much to do there.

  The racing is fun if it's something you want to do. However, all too often do you find yourself having to race to buy necessary upgrades for your vehicle. It ends up being stressful. You've thousands of dollars to spend, but you can't buy vehicle parts with money, you need racing certificates. It ends up being a quick and easy way to shoehorn another painfully basic game feature in there. Racing. I raced only when I had to because it wasn't particularly fun or unique. It wasn't awful, and it felt like less of a chore because it was fairly easy... but I beat the game without trying a fraction of the races available. If there were lots of side missions, I probably didn't finish them either. The game shuttles you along from one point to the next with some odd interactivity. Sometimes I didn't know if I had actually completed a mission or not. It was largely frustrating.
No more frustrating than the lack of stuff to do, so I can't level it as a serious complaint since checking my missions list from the select button quickly resolved that.

  The visuals of Rage tend to be absolutely fantastic, though sometimes only in theory. You can see the big sprawling post apocalyptic landscapes, and it's really impressive. Even after playing the Fallout games. They've done a lot to pack a lot of visually interesting things into this game. Never is it dull looking at Rage. It's always full of fascinating things. Frustratingly though, the game has serious issues with loading textures. The impressive scenery will often be marred by textures that take their sweet time to load. By the time they do, you're probably 500 bullets into a big four way vehicular deathmatch with some ill-fated bandits. The spotty reliability of the textures actually loading in the bigger environments really take you out of the game. Which sucks, because when it looks pretty, it looks really damn pretty.

Thankfully the towns are so full of personality and brimming with fantastic detail and visual nuance, you tend to overlook the texture issues.On the flip side, all the neat stuff to look at in the town is just that- stuff you can only look at. In stark contrast to the Fallout games, walking through the towns in Rage is often like walking through a museum where the exhibits can recite prerecorded lines in your general direction. Regardless of all this, when you're in the throes of blasting away mutants and tossing wingsticks (like triple bladed boomerangs) at bandits the game is not only fun, it's ridiculously fun and addicting. I found thoroughly enjoying the game when it was like this. I couldn't get enough of the gloriously gory shootouts that take place in the craziest looking places. It's a much more atmospheric game than those of it's immediate ilk. It's playing the straight man to games like Borderlands, being somewhat of a mid-point between the ideas of Fallout, Gears of War and the simplicity of Borderlands. Yet it manages to be sub par in most ways to all of those games.

  At it's best, it's a great freakin' shoot 'em up. At it's worse, it's a lackluster story that's barely worth mentioning or critiquing because it can't be bothered to be immersive enough or emotional enough to make you care. It manages to unimaginatively rip off everything it has from the Mad Max franchise to The Terminator and beyond. Yet at the same time, the characters you interact with are so much fun. Even if they're all derivative. There's hardly an original idea anywhere in Rage, and the recycled ones only work half of the time. YET that's 50/50. That's not bad. I've seen extremely well polished games that can't elicit a single critical thought from me at all and end up being a waste of time honestly. Namely, anything with the words "Call" and "Duty" in the title. So in that light, Rage was not only worth playing, it might be worth replaying- but I wouldn't hold my breath on the latter.

  The biggest complaint I can level at Rage is that it was too friggin simple. It was simple, short, and easy. It didn't involve me in any significant way, and I was left wanting a lot more. It would've been better as a level by level shooter, and not as a half baked sandbox game. Having said all that, the game tries to be something amazing. You can see it too. In it's best moments, you get completely lost in the game and it's wonderful. There are enough glimpses of greatness that I can recommend playing it. Don't expect anything fancy, and you should have fun. For it's current four dollar price tag at GameStop, it's hardly a waste of money. I've bought superfluous DLC packs that cost me more money and gave me less content for worse games than this. Rage is short and simple, but it can be really sweet and fun if you let it. If you never play it, you won't be missing all that much, but it's a nice companion piece to games like Bulletstorm and Borderlands. Regardless of your opinions on this game, or those, at least we can all agree Duke Nukem: Forever sucked balls.

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