RAGE Review (PS3)
Everything Else is a Little Thin
It’s a good thing that combat is so satisfying, because there’s rarely an alternative to a straight, drag-out style gunfight with whatever enemies your facing as you march through the very straight, linear levels. You’re not going to be setting traps or sneaking around, even though RAGE occasionally recommends you try it; even with silent kills, it’s rare that there’s only one enemy in a given room and they usually spot you anyway. But id Software is known as the creator of the modern FPS, and the developer shows its mastery of at least that one thing in RAGE. Feeling like a badass as you take down each enemy with any number of items at your disposal can be highly satisfying.
But id has always been good at shooters — had the shooting been lacking in RAGE, it would have been hopeless. As it stands, the shooting in RAGE is pretty strong (though far from groundbreaking), but much of the rest of the game feels like the developer didn’t really care enough to make it more interesting. For all the time you spend standing around in towns, talking with people over and over and over again, they have little enough to say to you of any substance. Obviously, as id Chief Technical Officer John Carmack has noted, the developer couldn’t really care much less about the story — so why do we spend so much time interacting with bland, mostly useless characters? Why are we encouraged to talk with everyone in a given town even though three people are the only ones with any assignments for us? Why pretend to have a plot at all when it’s so thin as to be needless in addition to boring?
A similar feeling of too little attention paid surrounds a few other aspects of the game. Though some might tout the game’s “RPG elements,” they’re more like “RPG window dressing.” Sure, you can fabricate things and you’ll buy about three total weapon upgrades — okay, that’s the end of the RPG elements. There’s no character progression to speak of, no real customization, and no branching of the way the game plays, even though it contains a few “side quests.” This is a linear shooter with towns instead of cutscenes.
There’s no checkpoint save system; not a bad checkpoint save system, none whatsoever. This means that if you’re heading into a level to fight some guys, you should save. After a big fight, you should save. Before you round the next corner — go ahead and save. If you’re looking for a powerful way to drop stumbling blocks in the path of a player’s immersion in your game, id, making them stop what they’re doing and save the game every 30 or so steps is absolutely brilliant, especially given the fact that every such save takes about 30 seconds on the PS3 version. The consequences of not remembering are even worse, often resulting in playing a full level over again. You learn quickly to be cautious.
The other big component of RAGE is driving, but it’s mostly just a means of getting to your next objective. Every time you head out, though, you’ll best have stocked up on the necessary items to fight off at least three bandit cars, because you will be engaged. Those enemies will carry: 1. machine guns; 2. shields; 3. heat-seeking missiles. Not every car will have the no. 3 but you can bet on the first two. Usually the third car in a group of three or more will carry missiles. And thus, every vehicle fight will play out in the same way, until near the end of the game.