I have been playing RAGE for quite a while now, a bit more than 40 hours. I have completed the main campaign and played a reasonable amount of multiplayer matches. It took me around 20 hours to complete the main campaign, that was with all the exploration and with less than one hour of replayed locations. I played on normal difficulty, and now I’m playing RAGE again on nightmare difficulty, which is much more interesting than normal. Normal difficulty was simply too easy, although nightmare’s not too hard either.
RAGE is a post-apocalyptic FPS with RPG and steampunk elements. In RAGE you are one of the special “Ark” people who is being hunted by “the authority”. However your goal isn’t to destroy them from the very beginning. You start as a cool guy helping the locals with bandits and all kinds of stuff.
RAGE offers a lot of great features along with great gameplay experience. Of course there are a few mistakes and bugs, including the infamous ATI bug which prevents you from being able to play the game at all (it will probably will be fixed by the time you read this review).
The environment in RAGE is divided into outer and inner worlds. Outer world is where you are for a minimal amount of time. Basically it’s only for traveling from one dungeon to another (I’ll explain that in the gameplay section), although it doesn’t look very monotonic. Of course it starts to look the same after you complete a few main storyline missions, however the story takes you to different land soon after that happens.
The inner worlds, dungeons where you do the missions, each have more or less unique design. Missions will take you to all kind of places: subways, caves, bunkers, prisons, high-tech bases, you name it. Every place has it’s own design, however sometimes you will have to go back to where you’ve already been, but that’s rare, especially during the later levels. In fact, you will have to go back to one place but you will go trough it backwards, which will make it more interesting.
The engineering of these inner locations often reminds me of a maze – you will go where the developers want you to go, however occasionally you can take a small detour to scavenge a few empty beer bottles or a machinegun.
Basically the outer world is like Dead Island’s – it’s open but at the same time very limited. However in RAGE it fits the gamestyle perfectly and is even more limited, while in Dead Island it’s taken to another level and simply gets annoying.
There is one more feature that I love in RAGE – secrets. There is a lot of stuff that can be found during your adventures, including secret rooms from the past ID games: Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. It feels great to find something like that and go into a state of deep nostalgia, however it requires a lot of attention to get there, unless you follow a guide.
Story is another strong part of RAGE, and I don’t only mean the main storyline. I mean the way the story breaks down and the way it begins. Even the side quests have a good backstory! I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m going to be quick about it.
You begin the story as a special guy from the past, however even though you are being chased down by the government, you still find time to help the locals with their needs, until eventually you arrive at the point where the fighting back is inevitable. Compare this to the usual “I’m cool, f*ck you all. Just show me where the main building of my enemy is and let me kick some ass!” and think – how different is that?
As I mentioned in the introduction, RAGE is a combination of FPS and RPG genres. In RAGE you can complete tons of main and side quests, collect items, explore the world, upgrade your armor, weapons and cars, race, participate in various minigames and do a lot of other cool stuff!
The missions work in an interesting way – if you have ever played Dungeons & Dragons Online, it works just like the quests in there. Although if you haven’t played it, let me explain how the system works.
There are places like bunkers, caves, sewers, and in each of them you have at least one mission, sometimes more. However the environment usually changes when you are doing a second mission at the same location, which makes the game non-monotonic. If you are not on a mission, the enemies will not reappear, nor will the items (items won’t reappear even if you are on a mission). After you complete the quest, you often will be able to go just to a certain point until you face a barricade, usually something caused by you. The downside of this system is that the missions and the events sometimes are too linear.
During these missions, you will find various junk items which you can sell for cash. You will never find any schematics (yes, there is crafting!), armor upgrades, car upgrades or weapons (you can find one if you are an explorer though). Everything is obtainable either in the shop, trough the storyline, or car-part exclusive – racing.
The world exploration is quite linear, same as missions. On the other hand, the game world is basically divided into four stages: the first stage is very limited; the second stage probably adds the most free roam; third adds a small amount of completely new terrain; fourth stage adds just a little bit of even different environment. The game world looks quite big when you reach the fourth stage, although there is nothing much to do in it, except a few special jumps. Missions happen in “dungeons” (I’m referring to D&DO) and minigames happen in cities. The only thing is races, although races can be reached from an NPC in a city and you travel to the race location instantly, so I wouldn’t count that as world exploration. Speaking of cities, there is a lot of stuff you can do while you’re in one!
In RAGE there are two main cities, and in both of them you can find a lot of minigames. The first one that you will be introduced to is probably dice. Have you heard about 70s and 80s when black people used to play dice on the streets of poor neighborhoods in US? Well, dice in RAGE is much more fun! There are four holograms and you have three chances to kill them all. During each of these chances, you roll four pictograms resembling a crosshair or a skull. You have three turns to roll a total of four crosshairs to shoot all four holograms, otherwise you lose. If you get lucky and roll all four crosshairs during the first round, you will get your betting money multiplied by ten and if you finish them off during the second roll, your base money will be multiplied by four. However if you kill the holograms only on the the third round, you will get your money back without any bonus. If you fail to roll four crosshairs in three tries, you will lose all your betting money.
Another minigame which you can find in the first city as well is cards. The fun thing about this minigame is that your card deck will upgrade based on how keen you are on looking for cards during your travels, so if you want to win serious cash – you keep your eyes peeled! Although you will receive some cards as quest rewards as well, so you will not be completely doomed if you are not the explorer type. Besides, there are a lot of cards at locations you just can’t miss!
The last minigame that you can find in the first city, Wellspring, is Finger Filet. This is probably the hardest minigame in RAGE – you have to quickly press spacebar right on time and you have only three chances to stab your fingers.
In the second town (subway city) you will find one new minigame. For this minigame you have to have a good memory. The goal of Strum is to remember the notes thay the NPC has played on his guitar and replay them. It kind of reminds me of a game that I used to hate at school, unfortunately the teachers loved it… Whenever there was a new teacher, we had to tell everyone’s that was in a line before the speaker name. Same logic applies to Strum – the guy plays the same notes and adds a few new ones to the end. Afterwards, you have to repeat them all. The good part about this game is that it doesn’t have a time limitation.
Okay, I’ve written a big column about the variety of minigames in RAGE, but let’s get to the real fun stuff, shall we? The real fun is racing! Racing in RAGE is very well-made and contains a lot of features. In my opinion it even could be a separate racing game! There are a lot of different racing tracks, cars, upgrades (both performance and looks) and even weapons! I want to give a few examples of what I mean.
Your first car will be something that reminds me of a dirtbike. This bike is required to do one achievement but other than that, it’s useless – it is very slow, it doesn’t have any weapons, it cannot be upgrade and you can easily fall off of it. However soon you get a new car. Buggy is upgradable, so you might want to complete all the races after you get it, which will happen about an hour after you start playing RAGE (unless you want to explore the wasteland before you even get your car armed or upgrade the chassis armor, which isn’t a smart choice). An hour or two after that, you will get even better vehicle! This car basically is a tank when upgraded, however that’s not all! You will get another one, although you have to spend at least a few more hours on the main storyline missions to get that goodie. There is one more car, however it comes only with the “Anarchy” edition which I don’t have, so I cannot comment on it. Although I can say that looks like a car from 40s, which is pretty cool (as is all the stuff from Anarchy edition).
In short, I would say that this is a huge variety of cars and features for racing as in an FPS. Nevertheless, each of them can be upgraded both visually and performance-wise. You can upgrade your cars by winning races in two cities. Each gold medal will give you 15 racing certificates (the only currency that you can buy vehicle upgrades for). There is a reasonable amount of races, although there isn’t enough to completely upgrade all your vehicles. But not to worry! There is a mission for you to destroy bandit cars which you encounter when you drive around the wasteland. The more bandit cars you destroy, the more money/racing certificates you get. It seems like the developers thought about everything, doesn’t it? Including the possibility to repeat a race, although you will not get any additional racing certificates for doing that, so you should consider playing multiplayer instead.
Mentioning multiplayer reminded me the most fun part I failed to mention – weapons. In RAGE, each vehicle can have one or more weapons. Ever since you’ll get the third car, you will be able to carry a minigun and a rocket launcher on it. When you get the last one, you will be able to carry pulse guns! Awesome, isn’t it? The minigun isn’t really useful, at least for me. I prefer to hit my enemy hard instead of spending two minutes chasing him down. I prefer the rocket launcher and the pulse gun, which are both very powerful weapons. Although you gotta watch where you shoot, because the rockets cost a fortune… But hey – what you wouldn’t do for an hour of “catch a rocket” game with bandits?
Speaking of weapons… I’ve failed to mention another super-fun feature of RAGE – the weapons that you carry around: Wingstick; Settler Pistol; Striker Crossbow; Combat Shotgun; Sniper Rifle; Authority Machinegun; Settler’s Assault Rifle; Rocket Launcher; Authority Pulse Cannon; HE and EMP grenades; RC Bomb Car; Balloon Bomb; Sentry Bot; Personal Turret and two weapons that are only featured in the Anarchy edition – Saw-off Shotgun and Fists of Rage.
The weapons in RAGE are very adaptive to the situation because the A.I. is good and you have to think constantly in a fight. Personally, I used every single weapon in this list (except the anarchy edition weapons), which proves my point.
My favorite weapons are Combat Shotgun, HE grenades, Wingstick, Settler Pistol and Striker Crossbow. Recently I also felt in love with Sentry Bots, although they cost much more than bullets, so I don’t use them often. The rocket launcher explosion looks good of course, but the lack of bullets just didn’t let me use it for more than a few shots in an occasional mission.
The strange part about guns is that you cannot take them from your enemies, you can only get them from a store (only two though) or trough the storyline. One of them can be found in a part-secret location though. And speaking of looting, RAGE has got a very strange looting system – when you approach an item, you can only take everything that’s there. It’s a cool system in my opinion, but it’s a bit odd and unusual.
Graphics is alright when looking at the big picture, however small objects are undetailed. Sometimes it makes me think that some of the textures are ported from Quake 2 or Doom. Not all of them of course, there are a lot high-quality textures too, like bullets for example.
While the static objects look as described, the characters, weapons, cars and effects look amazing! I have never seen such great body language animations in any game before. When I had my first interaction with an NPC, my jaw made a hole in my floor and hit my neighbor’s floor! It’s amazing what ID did with NPC-player interaction in RAGE! Although there is a character or two who don’t have much facial expressions (or it looks unrealistic for a certain conversation), however that isn’t very noticeable if you are not perceptive in body language/facial expressions. Luckily I’ve noticed only one guy speaking without emotions showing on his face, although there has been quite a few characters with an unrealistic body language. After a while, you can even notice a pattern in some characters, which unfortunately tells us that some characters have very limited body language animations. Although most of the time it looks amazing, nevertheless most people aren’t good at deciphering facial expressions and body language.
Effects is another great-looking part of rage, whether it’s an explosion, a gunshot or a dust cloud – it looks incredibly detailed! I felt in love with the explosions the minute I saw one. As strange as it might sound, I was hunting down bandit cars for an hour or two just to see the explosions.
I should also mention the infamous but sophisticated texture draw logic that is used in RAGE. It’s a great logic, although it works poorly on older machines, and that is why it’s infamous. In fact, I have an old machine myself, so I had a problem with it as well. The textures were always redrawing when I was turning left or right, which means that for a second or two I had to look at very undetailed view until it gradually became more and more detailed. However this happens only for older machines, I specifically asked my friends with newer machines to check that out that for me (with best graphic settings) and they had absolutely no problem with it.
It is a great logic to spare machine’s resources, however it sucks for older machines due to lack of resources. So if you have an old machine, you are likely to have this problem, although I wouldn’t say that it interferes much with the gameplay. Sure it can be annoying sometimes, but I just stopped paying attention at it after awhile.
Sound definitely isn’t the weak part of RAGE either. Effect sounds are pretty realistic, which creates a nice atmosphere which therefore allows you to fade into the apocalyptic world of RAGE. Of course that wouldn’t be possible without the soundtrack, which absolutely fits every moment of the game. It isn’t a soundtrack which you would listen outside of the game, but it definitely is something that does it’s job perfectly when in-game.
Another great thing about it is that 5.1 surround is fully supported in RAGE, unlike in some other latter titles (or more commonly, they have poor logic for it). I know it’s not so easy and cheap to get and implement quality sounds, however I believe that at least AAA titles should do it. If they don’t, what does the AAA stand for then? Big budget for nothing?
RAGE features a great multiplayer mode, although there could be more gameplay modes. Currently there are two modes – co-op missions and racing. On the other hand, there are a lot of mission maps available, and racing has sub-categories. Another upside for racing mode is that you can upgrade your car (both performance and looks) by leveling up and unlocking new equipment. Unfortunately cannot do that in the mission mode, which is quite disappointing.
Meteor Rally is probably the most popular one, or at least I was able to find the most rooms with this mode in-action. In this mode you have to collect meteors which fall from the sky in specific time intervals all over the map. The more meteors you collect without being killed by another player (you drop your meteors if somebody kills you) and bring them to a checkpoint (which only stays in one place for 30 seconds and then relocates), the more points you get.
In Triad Rally you have to drive trough three checkpoints without being interrupted by another player. If your chain is interrupted, you have to start again. In this particular mode, you can get a lot of points for killing other players too, so if you aren’t doing well with checkpoint chains, you can have fun killing other players instead.
In Chain Rally you have to drive trough as many checkpoints as you can. The more consecutive checkpoints you drive trough, the more points you get for each drive-through. This seems to be the second most popular mode.
The last mode is Carnage. In this mode you have to destroy other vehicles, which reminds me of an old game called Carmageddon. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to play it, I was simply unable to find a room with it nor players did join mine. Either Carnage is unpopular or the rooms are all full.
As you can see, there are quite a few sub-categories for racing, although there is one potential downside for all of them – Lv1 player can join a match with a Lv20 player, which is a bit unfair. In fact, my first match was with a Lv21 racer and it wasn’t very cool. He was much faster than me, could kill me in one hit with his rockets and had some other cool stuff in his sleeve. Although I beat him with almost double the score he had. This is a proof that even though you are lower level, you can still beat higher level players if you are more skilled, so don’t be afraid of this feature, rather accept it as a challenge.
I think I’ve covered everything about the racing mode, so let’s talk the real FPS now! The co-op mode I mentioned earlier offers some great FPS experience. There are plenty of missions you can do with one of your friends on different difficulties. I can tell you that the nightmare mode can be very challenging, so don’t think that it’s too easy! Although there is one enormous problem with co-op. The players you find are often dumb and have poor shooting skills. It seems that they couldn’t shoot an elephant with a rocket launcher if he would be standing five meters in front of them in a daylight! This leads to constant reviving of your teammates, mission failure, them staying AFK/leaving in the middle of the match and all sort of problems, which then ultimately leads to a poor multiplayer experience. The best example of what I mean would be a German guy who had 200 points and I had over 4000 points (you get points for killing enemies), and that’s not a one-time thing. I often end up having two or three times the points my teammates have.
So in short, you should have a friend to play with if you want to have fun for sure, otherwise it’s all up to chance. Besides – it’s hard to find a multiplayer game in the first place, sometimes I even have to wait for a few minutes for someone to join.
Unfortunately there is one more problem with the multiplayer mode. When I joined my first multiplayer game, I started hearing all sorts of strange sounds. Then I asked what’s up and the answer was that there is no way to turn your mic off in RAGE. That was extremely strange to me, so I went to the options menu and searched for an option like that all over the place. It turns out that the guy was right – it is impossible to turn off your mic. How can ID fail to implement such an important feature?
So if you are going to play multiplayer, keep that in mind – don’t speak with your friend about your last night’s adventures or argue with your mother. In fact, it’s best to keep the mic off at all, so you wouldn’t disturb other players by constant keypresses, echo and other sounds that might come from your side. Unfortunately most people don’t care about that and this problem turns into an extremely annoying flaw.
As I kept mentioning throughout the review, RAGE has a lot to offer, ranging from an extensive multiplayer mode to weapon customization and great racing system. In RAGE, you can race in the main campaign, race with other players, do missions with your friends, upgrade your weapons, purchase/make customized ammunition, upgrade your armor, choose your specialty, shoot rockets at other cars, scavenge junk, create a lot of cool stuff, watch the beautiful job on body language, immerse into the post-apocalyptic theme with the help of a great soundtrack and effect sounds, watch great explosions, play cards, holographic dice and other mini-games, find awesome secrets and advance throughout the cool storyline with quite a few side-missions. That’s a lot, isn’t it? I’m sure the list could be doubled if I would mention all the minor features that I more or less mentioned earlier.
RAGE isn’t all that good however, it has some bad features as well. An example of that would be the mic problem, poor collision detection at specific locations (the collision detection is perfect during the other 98% of your gameplay though, so don’t get scared. In fact, it’s much better than in most games), stamina which runs out too quickly, inability to do some actions which would make perfect sense, occasional stupid logic for enemy death animation, annoying need to listen to what the shoppers have to say before being able to buy anything and constant VGA usage. It’s not cool when I have to leave my VGA on a minimum load for a few minutes for it to cool down from 100C+ – I cannot do that in RAGE. Although most people won’t experience this problem, it’s rather a good feature for them – maximization/minimization time is less than a second for RAGE. Also a few other bugs/illogicalities can be found in RAGE, however I’m not working in the QA department for ID nor am I a game designer. I’ll let the guys who actually get paid for doing their job instead.
I believe that every ATI user would say that this is the weakest part of RAGE, however I disagree with this opinion. Even though the game doesn’t work for the majority of ATI VGA owners, I don’t think that a general “RAGE tech part sucks” title could be applied. It’s just one bug, even though it’s a big one, it’s definitely temporal – ID cannot afford to lose 20-30% of the market. You will get to play RAGE soon, and your actions opposite to support certainly won’t make it happen any faster.
Now when we’re done with the obvious, let’s get to the important stuff.
RAGE features extensive controls and medium configuration options, which is great compared to some other titles I’ve reviewed. If you heard something different, the information is about the situation of 1.0 version, which is the launch version. RAGE had a few patches afterwards and that was changed.
As I mentioned earlier, RAGE also offers great physics and great algorithms for uncontrolled and controlled actions in RAGE. An example of that would be 5.1 channel logic or weapon usage when reloading algorithm. The latter is a bit unrealistic though, however it’s extremely convenient to use it. And speaking of convenience – RAGE also has a great interface. Everything is in place and reachable when needed. I believe the inventory has god infinite slots, although the items which can be found in wasteland are finite.
RAGE contains a lot of great features and each one of them is finished and well-made, unlike they were in Dead Island. However you will find some small and a bit bigger bugs or annoying features, like no possibility to turn off the microphone or no graphical details for some small objects for example.
In short, RAGE is a great FPS with RPG elements, a lot of great and well-made features, high quality sounds and great multiplayer mode. It lacks a few features and contains a few bugs, however this aspect is really minor. It seems that ID did a really great job on it and lived up to it’s expectations. I’m saying that because after I’ve written this review, I saw a video talking about RAGE before it’s release, and I’ve actually mentioned all the features that were mentioned in the video. I don’t remember when was the last time I did that, although I think that was a few years ago.
Here you can find more screenshots, and actually I recommend taking a look. There are some amazing views I captured, including screenshots from cinematic, which looks great in RAGE by the way.
If you have any questions about RAGE, feel free to ask. I’ve spend a lot of time playing it.