Leave this one out in the wastes
For a game as well-respected and influential as id Software, they're not exactly as prolific as they used to be. Known for frequent entries in the Wolfenstein, Quake and Doom series, the company seems more well-known for their graphical prowess than their multitude of games and with Doom 3 being their last big game, many were wondering what exactly were they up to. Enter "RAGE": a new first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic setting and featuring their brand new engine: id Tech 5. The godfathers of FPS finally presenting their brand new entry to an already crowded genre; would they show everyone how it should be done and really leave its mark on the industry? Well no and that's arguably the biggest surprise about the game: had you not been told who made it, you'd probably consider it yet another somewhat uninspired entry in the genre but the fact it came from id Software is bizarre. Graphically stunning and filled with tons of potential, it irks me to say that Rage commits an actual gaming sin and one rarely lobbied at them: it's kind of boring.
The game takes place 100 years after the real-life asteroid Apophis has collided with the Earth, leaving it a barren and desolate wasteland. Prior to its impact, so-called "Arks" were developed to let members of society be revived once the Earth has recovered. You play one of these Ark survivors, exiting the Ark and seeing a destroyed and changed landscape. After being rescued from one of the wilder inhabitants, you're tasked with taking on jobs, meeting new people and eventually, saving everyone by joining a rebellion versus an army called the "Authority".
Before I get really into it, I'll just say that the premise of Rage is one of the more intriguing and laden with potential out of most post-apocalyptic scenarios. The idea of "what would civilization be like after such an event" is fascinating and Rage's take, with mankind faced with a new world, combined with a steampunk style, makes way for a really interesting universe. However nothing is being done with it as the story is paper-thin as the evil and to-be-feared Authority is really only such because you're told they are. The characters are also unremarkable save for maybe some of the more cuter women and other impressive character models. And once the game starts to introduce mutants and weird-looking things and 60 feet behemoths (I kid you not), what was once an impressive and potential-filled Earth post-apocalypse becomes videogame-y and the goofiness starts to distract.
Then you have a problem similar to the first Dead Space where the structure of it quickly becomes noticeable but unlike that game's great use of atmosphere and limb-severing gameplay, Rage has no such hooks to dig into you and make you follow it. Talk to a character (who for some reason requires you re-talk to them in order to get your actual mission), drive in your vehicle where you'll be attacked by bandits and other such pests, enter the instance, shoot your way to the end, complete your objective then head back and hand it in. And it's literally rinse and repeat in many occasions and quickly becomes tiresome. Trying to break up the action is a racing component where you can race other players or do time trials to earn certificates to spruce up your cars, which can range from decals to better handling tires to additional armor but since the racing is not emphasized or really needed, it becomes more of a side attraction than anything integral to the game.
But that isn't to say Rage is all negatives as one of the biggest things it's got going for it will be noticeable as soon as you start your game: it's damn gorgeous. Using Id Tech 5, the visuals it's presented are just simply stunning and screenshot worthy with some incredible detail and clarity, some of the best character models around and a baby-bottom smooth framerate at 60 FPS makes the game quite something to behold. While the lack of dynamic lighting and shadows is irksome, getting a fully-maxed Rage is quite something. Even on consoles, the game was and is quite impressive although I did run into the frequently-found problem of texture pop-in where you'd quickly turn left to right and see textures eventually loading in with egregious frequency however updating the drivers and changing the texture cache to large in the menus was enough to make it barely noticeable. Did run into one glitch though where I basically looked like I was an RTS commander hovering over the level so that was fun.
The shooting, thanks to the framerate, is also perfect and thanks to the AI (well at least the ones that can shoot anyway), combat becomes this reactive exercise of knowing what weapons to use at a certain time and changing strategies when something new happens rather than developing a rhythm. From a pistol to an assault rifle, a lethal crossbow and the always powerful Id-quality shotguns, Rage's combat never feels dull despite your motivations for why you're doing what you're doing being rather low. You can also collect components so you can build items which can help you in battle such as health-granting bandages, mobile and stationary turrets, EMP grenades to one of my favorites: the boomerang-like wingstick which is perfect for knocking heads off your foes. One thing that isn't part of the shooting but directly impacts it is the autosave system: it sucks to put it plainly. The game only saves when you enter and exit an area so if you happen to die, revive thanks to a cool little resuscitation device on a cooldown, and then die again, be prepared to replay that entire section.
Known for their multiplayer and "deathmatch", one could ask what could possibly be up id Software's sleeve to battle the juggernaut that is Call of Duty in terms of multiplayer? Surely the "Quake" company must have something right? Well they basically brought you Mario Kart meets Twisted Metal and looking at it, it seems like kind of a smart move. After all, the ever-present juggernaut is huge in player numbers and with Halo, Gears of War and other such shooters crowding the market, injecting something different seems smart and for the most part, the multiplayer is kind of fun. You compete in a 4-player free-for-all as you play a CTF-style game where you try to score points and kill other players and take their points, along with power-ups such as missiles, shields and mines scattered throughout the map. It's frantic, always busy and I'd even say fun but for me it lost its luster kind of fast and despite the progression system of a lot of shooters, the want to keep going wasn't there. (Plus as a sidenote: the multiplayer community on PC is somewhat dead so there's that).
The other multiplayer component is 2-player co-op where you and a teammate go FPS mode as you take on sections taken from the campaign, compete for scores and kill enemies as you make your way to an objective. Challenging and promoting competitive as well as teamwork, it's also something that's kind of fun when you play yet doesn't have the staying power you'd like to see.
There's 3 hub towns in the game and it was towards the tail-end of the second when a thought had started to occur to me: I'm really not enjoying myself and the desire to keep playing was fading. Despite being graphically beautiful and solid combat, the game morphed into "I want to beat this because I want to play more of it" to "I like it enough that I want to beat it yet it's more for completion's sake and being done with it". It has a story that isn't remotely interesting, a repetitive mission structure that becomes tiresome and one of the most abrupt and "wait that's it?"-invoking endings around. All told, Rage seems more like a game where you want to see how well your machine can handle it rather than legitimately wanting to play through it.