Giant Bomb Review

142 Comments

Rage Review

4
  • PS3
  • PC
  • X360

Rage won't set new standards for game design, but if you want to drive and shoot in an incredible-looking wasteland, this is your game.

The shooting has a heavy, hard-hitting feel.

There's not a lot of depth in Rage's bone-dry wasteland, but there's plenty of variety. Coming from id Software, the company that's brought you two decades' worth of first-person shooter after straight-ahead first-person shooter, that's worth noting. The core shooting in Rage isn't especially original, but it is highly entertaining, and the shooting intermingles with arcade-style racing action and a thin layer of quasi-role-playing hooks to give you plenty to do in between the main story levels. This is meat-and-potatoes action game design with a few antiquated quirks, but it does what it does well enough--and looks legitimately stunning while doing it--to deliver a satisfying experience, all told.

It's impossible not to compare Rage to Fallout 3, not least because both games share the same publisher. But either way, the premise here is awfully familiar: Just prior to a global catastrophe, humanity buries a few lucky survivors in underground capsules, to emerge some time later and rebuild society. Sound familiar? Credit at least goes to id for coming up with an original apocalypse, in this case the real-life asteroid Apophis that may actually strike the Earth in 2036. A century after the asteroid strike, you're a cybernetically enhanced member of that program who emerges to find a world that's been rebuilt out of scrap and duct tape, with various bandit clans controlling different parts of the wasteland, a few good-hearted folks trying to eke out a hard-scrabble existence in between, and a cliched, mechanized regime keeping oppressive watch over the whole thing.

There's a staggering amount of detail packed into the game's environments.

There's room even in a familiar premise like this to explore new dramatic ideas, but Rage plays it as straight as possible with its story elements. Every character wears his or her intentions on their sleeves, and there's only one minor wrinkle in the plot that seems like it might go somewhere interesting, but then only seems to set up a potential sequel. The voice cast, featuring John Goodman leading a legion of familiar-sounding voiceover pros, at least does an admirable job bringing character to the people you interact with, and even if the things they're saying are usually bare justification to get you to the next action stage, it's at least a joy to watch them say it. Every line of dialogue in the game has a unique animation routine attached to it; the characters gesticulate and emote with the kind of detail that suggests a bunch of animators poring over every dialogue recording and mimicking the final output in a mirror to get those subtle human movements just right. Oddly enough, that detail actually goes a long way toward bringing the world to life and drawing you in. It's a minor point, but it also helps that the small number of characters in each friendly town have a habit of moving around a lot between missions. You don't really notice how odd it is that most video game characters stand in the exact same spot for the duration of an entire game until you see them break free and actually go stand in a different place once in a while.

Rage's driving combat is loose and fast-paced.

Anyway, aside from the initial setup, Rage is not Fallout. In fact, it's almost Fallout's direct opposite, strong in the areas where Fallout falters--fast action, lush visuals--and weak at doing what Fallout does well, which is character customization, exploration, and storytelling. You get the first hint of this the second you step out of your capsule and into the wasteland. Remember exiting Vault 101 and slowly panning across the vast landscape, and all the potential for adventure it held? Here, you're not outside 30 seconds before John Goodman is shooting a mutant off of you and yelling at you to get in his buggy so he can whisk you away to your first proper mission. The game takes a similarly fast-paced, streamlined approach to the weapon lineup (essentially the same one you've come to expect from all id games) and the crafting and looting, which respectively have you building useful combat items out of the component parts that are useful, and selling all the junk that isn't. It's not a bad thing these systems are so simplified, it's just the focus of the game to keep things moving expediently from one action sequence to the next without leaving you bogged down in menus.

Nearly all of id's games have just been shooters--run forward, blast everything that gets in your way, repeat in next level--and that sequence of events still forms the backbone of Rage. But instead of merely presenting a linear chain of levels joined end to end with loading screens, those levels are now connected more dynamically with a wasteland hub environment that you traverse in your Mad Max-style dilapidated vehicles. In between the story levels--which still roll out in one specific order--you can do some quick circuit races to earn upgrades for your cars, pick up some mercenary jobs from a bulletin board, or play a diverse little assortment of cash-generating minigames that includes a surprisingly complex, Magic: The Gathering-style card battler that ties into cards you collect throughout the game. Out in the wasteland, there's not much to discover outside of the places the main and side missions send you, though there's satisfying combat to be done with the local bandits, and there are a few trick jumps to hit here and there. Many, though not nearly all, of the side missions yield benefits like new item recipes that help flesh out the gameplay a bit.

Would you believe the minigames are actually a lot of fun?

I'm glad these diversionary activities are there, because they're all just entertaining enough to cleanse your palate if you want a break from the shooting missions. But still, shooting stuff is your primary activity, so it's a good thing Rage's combat hits as hard as it does. Par for an id game, all the weapons have a heavy, powerful feel, made a lot more pronounced by the varied, over-the-top ways enemies react to getting hit by them. The game has some of the best ragdoll physics in recent memory; the spindly lesser mutants will flip head over heels from a squarely placed shotgun blast, while the human enemies will believably go flying over a rail or slam face first into a wall if you hit them right. It's all kind of silly, action-movie stuff that probably won't do much for you if you aren't in the mood for a traditional shooter, but if you are, it's immensely satisfying. I got a lot of entertainment value out of the combat since all the weapons have multiple ammo types that are especially effective in specific situations, and engineering items like stationary turrets, a spider robot straight out of Doom 3, and the boomerang-like bladed wingstick give you a lot of options to play with. A lot of thought clearly went into the best interface to manage all of these weapons, ammo types, and gadgets. If I told you that you use both shoulder buttons, both analog sticks, and the d-pad to do so, you'd be justified in thinking it might be unwieldy. But it's actually quick and elegant. Most of the missions ultimately boil down to you shooting your way to the end of a map to hit a switch or pick up an item, but at least getting there is a lot of fun.

It's good at what it does, but Rage isn't without flaws. It lacks a modern checkpoint system, and only creates an auto-save the last time you loaded into a level, meaning you'll replay an entire mission if you die without saving in the middle. You'll probably only get burned by that system once before you learn to start making hard saves frequently, but man is it frustrating when it happens. Some of the enemy groups are also kind of ridiculous. Each clan of bandits is composed of two or three of the exact same guy, and all of them use exactly one voice actor per group, so you get the same silly British or Russian accent coming from a big mass of enemies that all look the same. The game has the sensibilities of a comic book or, you know, a video game, so that's not really worth getting hung up on, but it stood out to me initially.

Alternate ammo types and engineering doohickeys give you a lot of combat options.

Even if Rage were the worst game to come out in a long while, it would still arguably be the best-looking one. The sheer complexity of texture and detail packed into every one of the game's environments is nothing short of staggering, especially in the two town hubs that you'll return to again and again between missions. The vast richness of the wasteland also can't be overstated. This is one of the best-looking games available on consoles, as good-looking as most any Unreal Engine game, yet it runs at double the frame rate of those games. Seeing a game on aging console hardware that looks this good and runs this smoothly is almost surreal. To be fair, in all three versions, there's a noticeable amount of detailed texture pop-in when you quickly look in different directions, but it's only something you really notice when you look for it and try to make it appear; it doesn't stand out much when you're playing the game like you normally would. Setting that one quirk aside, you really need to see this game in motion, in person, to appreciate just how good it actually looks.

All three versions of the game have some sort of technical quirk, unfortunately. The 360 version looks better than the PS3 one and runs at a rock-solid 60 frames per second, but it ships on three discs and dropped me to the dashboard with an error every time I tried to swap them, requiring me to start the new disc back up and load a save to continue. The one-disc PS3 version suffers from a slightly lower (though still fully acceptable) frame rate at times, and the texture pop-in is slower and thus more prominent there. And, mindbogglingly, the PC version launched in a miserable state that rendered it unplayable on ATI cards, though a matter of hours later an emergency set of drivers seems to have things working fine on both brands of GPU. The PC version is naturally the sharpest one (though I saw an inordinate amount of tearing on our office PC setup), and it plays fine with the good old keyboard and mouse, though it's a testament to how good the console versions look and how well they play on a gamepad that the PC version is only marginally better in general.

Seriously, just look at this game.

You'll probably spend between 10 and 15 hours on the campaign here if you try to do everything there is to do; I ended up on the high end of that range due to obsessively looking for collectibles and, honestly, gawking repeatedly at how damn pretty everything is. There's also a decent two-player co-op mode that mostly repurposes levels from the story mode but changes the enemy distribution and tries to give the missions some context by couching them in light back story from the main game. (One mission tells how three giant stuffed mutant heads came to adorn the wall of the local watering hole, for instance.) There's also a four-player driving mode with a variety of objectives that lets you rank up and unlock new weapons and better cars. Though I had a good time with the driving combat in the campaign, I didn't have much desire to keep doing it against human players, so I didn't spend much time there. The co-op is a bigger draw, at least until you play through the handful of missions available.

Over the first couple of hours, you may find yourself coming to terms with the style of game Rage actually is, rather than the type of game you may have expected it to be based on some of its peripheral design elements. A deep and sprawling experience it's not, but as a focused, directed shooter with a few other things to do between the shooting, it hits the right notes. And damn does it look good doing it.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
142 Comments
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Posted by darkjester74

Excellent, well balanced review Brad. I think the score nails it also. Well done! Much more reasonable than Ars' and Joystiq's reviews, IMO.

Posted by Afroman269

Review comments are the worst.

Posted by Pop

I guess I'll skip this game, not really in a mood for a FPS maybe if it had some cooler hooks in it I would. Great review Brad

Edited by Shuborno

I understand why Brad likes this game, but I think his review and the Quick Look have turned me off of the game. Glad I didn't pre-order.

I don't want the RPG hooks if they don't want to execute on them because it just pokes the completionist in me without rewarding collection and exploration.

I also keep being told that RAGE is beautiful but I don't think it's coming across with Giant Bomb not having 60 fps video. It looks like bland design and lighting, but with lots of detail in the textures. I think it's something I'd need to see running with a controller in my hand.

Posted by sins_of_mosin

Not a bad review and it was nice to see that he actually described some of the issues in the game and not just pass them over.
Posted by Ohvee

@Afroman269 said:

Review comments are the worst.

Amen, brother.

Posted by EthanielRain

@Nardak said:

Otherwise it was an excellent review but I really dont understand Brad´s point about having to make "hard saves". Are those really the thing that prevents the game from being an enjoyable experience?

In PC based games "hard saves" are a natural part of the gameplay. In fact in my mind the so called automatic save points are the things that sometimes cause a lot of frustration for players. Especially if the save game points are far away from each other.

There's a pretty tense feeling/atmosphere to a lot of the shooting sections; when you save you can't just exit the menu and get back into it, the game freezes until it's done saving. Sometimes it can take a fair amount of time...kinda pulls you out of that/takes away from the immersion.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that it "prevents the game from being an enjoyable experience", but it's worth mentioning. Not a big deal, just one of those small things that's good to be included in a review (IMO).

Posted by Dragonblade

Good review, Brad.

Personally, I'm having an absolute blast with it. Playing the PC version (nvidia owner, didn't have the ATI issues), at first I was expecting a straight corridor id release, to be honest. Thankfully with the variety of gametypes that are actually fun, and with surprisingly time-consuming mini games, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

By no means is it 'perfect' (some textures are sort of blah, no graphic options readily available without workaround on PC version), but my overall experience is an enjoyable hybrid of many 'post-apocolyptic' themed games wrapped up in a tight id shooting package.

Thanks again for the review, Brad.

Posted by FriendlyDalek

I think the game textures definitely look amazing, but am I the only one who misses the HDR lighting? It seems that the new idtech5 engine is lacking in the real time hdr lighting that we have seen in Crysis and more recently Gears of ar 3. Don't get me wrong its still a graphical powerhouse, and the textures really do make a huge difference. But the lighting thing kind of boggles my mind. Perhaps that is the thing that got this game to run at 60fps. But I for one miss it. Does the PC version have real time lighting? I am guessing not because after reading the comments on here, it sounds like a console port with low res textures, and bug ridden drivers. Only 2 hours in, but so far its not a bad game at all.

Posted by kennybaese

I'm going to be holding off on this game for a while. I just feel like I've already played with game when I played Fallout 3 for a couple hours before I got so frustrated with it that I gave up. I'm glad to hear that it's not very Fallout when you actually play it, but Fallout sucked when you tried to play it like a video game. Also, I don't have the 8 gigs free that it takes to install this thing on my PS3.

Good review Brad.

Posted by prestonhedges

@Korwin said:

@MaddProdigy said:

@StingingVelvet said:

The PC version only looks marginally better because it is a basement level PC port. Low-res textures, no graphics options, low FOV. It's not a testament to how good the console versions look, it's a testament to how much id let the PC fanbase down with a basic console port.

Also I can't believe this game gets such praise for its graphics. The textures are so extremely low res it looks like something from 2002. There is a hilarious thread on the Steam forums showcasing the worst textures and the amazingly compressed looking floors and walls. I guess when you play on a distant TV and run through the game all you see are pretty character models and canyons, but for those taking their time the game looks REALLY bad. Crysis 2, another console focused title in comparison, blows Rage away. Carmack got trounced in a big way.

lol taking PC fanboy-ing so seriously

Maybe, but he's also not wrong. The game cheats a lot to achieve it's frame rate on the console platforms and the signs of this become a lot more obvious when your playing at a much higher resolution. For instance quiet a good chunk of the objects in the environment are simply painted on, and the model detail on most things that aren't character is really quite low when compared to a number of other titles (normally a PC title would provided some level of model poly count scaling option, but it's not the case here). The game also forgo's a number of other modern rendering techniques such as dynamic lighting and HDR for some more old school methods such as pre-baked light maps to squeeze more out of the aging console hardware, it's a shame these sort of features couldn't be added for the PC release where those kind of trade off's aren't really necessary in a lot of cases.

From a technical standpoint this game is quite an achievement on the Xbox/PS3 and to be honest I would expect nothing less from iD's technology team, it's just rather disappointing that their traditional lead platform took a pretty large slug to get there.

LOL, and Patrick was saying this might inspire the next generation of consoles. I hope you guys like the 360 and the PS3.

Posted by Undeadpool

@Ohvee said:

@Afroman269 said:

Review comments are the worst.

Amen, brother.

Preach on!

Posted by Shaanyboi

Good review, but I feel this game isn't really for me. This game is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm not about to denounce that. But it just essentially being a shooter, and having side missions as an excuse to just do more shooting doesn't interest me. It may look generations better than Fallout 3, but Fallout 3 still managed to keep me interested because of the kind of game it was. I like my character customization, and my exploration, and my storytelling...

Online
Posted by B_Heart

Good review. I'll be picking this up soon on steam. Can't wait for some good old FPS'ing. Love the Id guys

Posted by doublezeroduck

This doesn't sound like it's for me. I was hoping it would be a Fallout style world with all the different side missions, along with Modern Warfare style shooting/controls, so there would be plenty of exploration and customization with shooting and movement that feels good. Sad. This seems more like a linear shoot em up.

Posted by ds8k

Does nobody know how to turn on Vsync in the driver panel?

Posted by Brad

@RecallBerserk said:

The quick look and this review contradict each other. The same thing happened with Deus Ex too. Just what the fuck is going on?

How do you expect someone to answer your question if you don't even describe the supposed contradiction?

Posted by dreamer77dd

@Jayross said:

After reading this, Ars' and IGN's review of RAGE, I think I will take a pass.

i agree this review on giantbomb is very light. i would of thought it be more real and not so let hearted on games. I like ars technica review. http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2011/10/rage-is-the-gamiest-game-that-ever-gamed.ars

Edited by AjayRaz

nice review! makes me kinda wish i pre-ordered it after all. matters not, though. i'll probably buy it on 360 soon since my PS3 has no sort of space for the.. 8 gig install, was it?

also, some of the review comments are ridiculous. it's like IGN all up in this mother

Posted by frytup

The PC version will be fixed in a few weeks, and it'll be a $15 Steam special six months after that. Which seems to be about what it's worth. I'll wait.

Posted by Rolento

@StingingVelvet said:

I mean look at the textures in this supposedly impressive looking game:

Thank you. I find it very confusing that so many reviewers mention how great this game looks but shit looks fucking atrocious up close and nobody mentions it. Mindboggling.

Posted by Rolento

I'm totally with StingingVelvet. When was the last time you saw a modern game DRAW pipes in a texture as opposed to actually having polygonal pipes. It's kinda sad. And that phone looks like complete shit.

Posted by cavemantom

@Rolento: Most people will probably stick with their viewpoint of, "That's not the point! You don't use the phone!"

I think that's entirely the point, though. The depth of this game, like the beauty, is a facade. It's post-apocalyptic Disneyland, not the "living breathing world" cliche that a lot of reviews are offering (I love you anyway, Ray Barnholdt!).

Posted by DustoMan

Maybe someone has mentioned this already, Brad, but you might want to try enabling Vsync manually by going into your video driver's properties. That's actually what the support FAQ says on Bethesda's site. That should help with the screen tearing. I did, and mine runs great.

Posted by Tech_Itch

Having a proper save system instead of checkpoints is a GOOD thing. I'd rather be able to save whenever I want, rather than wait for a checkpoint, TYVM.

Posted by JamesJiao

Not a bad game from what I've read, but I think I will hold on till Skyrim.

Posted by Sooty

Wow Ars Technica ripped this game a new one. Pass.

Posted by klinkcow

Stoked to play it

Posted by BeardedGent

I have the PC version of Rage, which I've played for probably a total of 40 minutes. The rest of the time I've had it, has been spent waiting for the proper drivers and searching for solutions to graphical issues that shouldn't need to be fixed in the first place. As far as I can tell, it seems like a fun game but now the whole experience of it has left me so frustrated with it that I think I'm going to pick it up for my PS3 when the price drops. An id game running like that on the PC is just, wrong.

Posted by thetrin

If Borderlands is the Diablo of shooters, is Rage the Zelda?

Edited by TheKbob

After the Bombcast, reading, board rants, etc. the PC version would have been the one to get, but day one busted means no sale. First, $60 PC game. I feel bad for buying Skyrim at that amount, but I know I'll get my $60 worth. No damn good reason to make PC games $60. More so if you get console style interfaces, poor driver support, little graphics options, and issues easily correctable on a PC (texture pop, screen tear, etc.).

Even Carmack said in an interview (google it, it exists) that they messed up by not focusing more on the PC version. I refuse to pay $60 for what even the lead designer is calling a let down on their part.

Morbid curiosity and a $15 Steam sale will eventually add this to my bloated catalog. I wanted to like it, but had a sneaking doubt that prevented me from pre-ordering. Glad I got the much better game of 10/4/2011: DARK SOULS. Not without it's Japanese Jenkies, but my word is it still stellar!

I am really, really hoping Skyrim is NOT a broken pile of PC crap with little graphics options and leftover console remains... who am I kidding, I'll suffer through that day one and the eventual mods will make it into a shiny gem.

EDIT: I want to do some detective work, but after watching the Quick Look in HD, I really think the game let down from its original showing. The "weird hat guy" I remember looking a lot better in screen shots. It looks neat, but the graphical issues have me, as a PC gamer, kind not getting the praise. Metro 2033 @ DX11 settings or The Witcher 2 on maximum settings are mind boggling above the screenshots I am seeing for Rage. *shrug* I'm probably a part of that small minority that runs those titles at those settings. For a console game, it's mind blowing. I have higher hopes for Uncharted 3, though.

Links on The Witcher 2:

http://cloud.steampowered.com/ugc/540655515227510974/AABA3284C08CC11025DFC1E001DEFF45F7544CA0/

http://cloud.steampowered.com/ugc/540655515227515839/71903CBF64EAFE65ECD483E70840EBA3846D0D14/

Edited by habibyjohnson

How many friggin games like this do we need? Another futuristic, muted-color, deadly serious iron sights game. Great. This literally looks like a mix of every single FPS that has been released in the last few years. There isn't an ounce of originality here. I've only looked at a video review of it on GameTrailers but I already feel like I've played this game at least 3 times...

How did this get a good score?

Posted by BitterAlmond

John Goodman is in this? I'm playing it.

Posted by Scotto

@habibyjohnson said:

How many friggin games like this do we need? Another futuristic, muted-color, deadly serious iron sights game. Great. This literally looks like a mix of every single FPS that has been released in the last few years. There isn't an ounce of originality here. I've only looked at a video review of it on GameTrailers but I already feel like I've played this game at least 3 times...

How did this get a good score?

Speaking as someone who actually did play the entire game, there's not much "serious" about it, you rarely use iron sights, and the colours in the game are actually pretty vibrant, depending on the environment.

It isn't original, no, but it's true to the style of gameplay id pioneered years ago, and still does it exceptionally well - and Brad says as much in his review.

Sometimes you want a game with Fallout-level depth and storytelling. Sometimes you want to grab your boomstick, and send mutants flying backwards. This game does the latter really well, and looks gorgeous doing it.

- Scott

Posted by Scotto

@Rolento said:

@StingingVelvet said:

I mean look at the textures in this supposedly impressive looking game:

Thank you. I find it very confusing that so many reviewers mention how great this game looks but shit looks fucking atrocious up close and nobody mentions it. Mindboggling.

It depends entirely on what you're looking at. Characters and objects in areas you are actually expected to interface with look fine up close. Superfluous objects are rendered using lower-res textures. It doesn't look the way it does, at the framerate it runs at, with magic - some concessions have to be made for the sake of the overall visual fidelity.

When you just play the game, instead of poking at the ambiance, it looks great.

- Scott

Posted by sharkeh

Worst story/ending I've had to endure in a while. How do devs think they can get away with that shit? What a let down. Also the farther in the game you get the worse it looks. They must of really been running out of time or something. 4 stars... *shakes head*

Posted by AdamantCrash

Rage is a beautiful game, and a game that I enjoyed every moment playing (except for the times I didn't save the game, and then died... GRRRRR.) But yeah, the only issue I really have with the game, is that it's short. I mean yeah, I clocked in a little over 11 hours, but if you've played the ending, you'll know what I am talking about. It just seems like they did all of this hard work, but in the end, got a little cheap and left us wondering where the rest of it is. ... At least that's what it feels like to me.

Posted by hrr4

Good graphics, terrible story, horrifically linear. Is this where we're destined as gamers?

Posted by valrog

"Seriously, just look at this game." That picture looks horrible, I'm not sure if Brad was being funny here or what.

Posted by Tr1cky1

Agreed that the actual shooting mechanics are great and the game looks fabulous. However....
The mission structures get very repetitive very quickly. Very similar finding a switch/door/object objective. Also the variety of the enemies can be broken down into three main clans or types with a boss character in each that is slightly tougher than its resident minions. This is repeated on each mission hence the predictability. The game very rarely surprised me. In the end I just wanted to rush through the final half as I needed to free up some time for other more worthy titles. If you haves limited budget, and can only afford one shooter... Wait for Battlefield or CoD. By that time this game will be in the used bargains bins and you could pick it up for less than 15; in which case it would pass 10 hours or so of your time after you've completed the better releases.

Posted by Ildamos

I'm surprised you didn't mention that the AI is too conservative with its ammo. I find RAGE to be a frustrating game -- frustrating that it nearly assumed all the trappings of a classic yet got held back by a flawed AI. Sure it moves convincingly but this game is hands-down one of the easiest I've played. Here's my RAGE PC review if anyeone's curious: http://imbacore.blogspot.com/2012/02/rage-pc-review.html