Award: Best Post-Apocalyptic Shooter Released Since 2009 (Not this year, hehe)
You are the Survivor. Earth as you knew it was destroyed one-hundred and six years ago by the asteroid 99942 Apohpis. The stasis pod that has kept you alive, underground, for more than a century is failing. The pod, engaging last-ditch protection measures, breaks hold of it earthen tomb to allow its inhabitants access to the surface. You are the only survivor. Your first steps take you into a barren wilderness filled with violent mutants, rival gangs, and a police-force bent on controlling the population. Welcome to the future.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Rage is not an open-world game. Nor is it an on-rails shooter. It’s a pleasing hybrid between the two that Tim Willits described as “Open, but directed”. The game follows a set of story-based missions that are launched from two main hub areas, but it also offers a number of optional side missions, mini-games that are actually quite fun, and – of all the things to be found in an id game – vehicular combat. The sum of all of its parts is what makes Rage so special. Here are a few things that stand out to me:
– Art direction – Rage is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played. Not strictly in terms of graphical fidelity, but regarding overall art direction. There are no reused assets, no recycled layouts, no repeating geometry or backgrounds, no wasted space, no “empty levels”. This is a video game crafted by artists. Every location in Rage feels unique and memorable; in particular, Dead City and the cliffside ruins from The Scorchers DLC stand out.
– It’s almost a Role-Playing Game – RPG elements are present, but not overwhelming. Most of the time you have optional side quests available to you, but never to the point where you feel like your objectives are pointless busywork. An inventory and crafting system provides a needed boost to your character and abilities without becoming burdensome.
– Gunplay – id helped to pioneer the FPS genre, and Rage proves they’ve still got it. The arsenal contains your standard FPS fare: pistol, shotgun, machine gun, etc. What Rage does differently is place heavy emphasis on alternate ammo types. The crafting system allows you to create new types of ammo. Want to turn your shotgun into a mini-rocket launcher? Combine ordinary buckshot with an explosive pack to make pop rockets. Like the pistol but think it’s too weak? Mix and match to create fatboys or even fatmammas. Think nails are too… small… to use as ammunition for a nail gun? Engineer some rebar ammo!
– Wingsticks – Three-bladed boomerangs of death. ‘Nuff said.
– Racing – Feel like laying down your handguns and spending a few hours racing your buggy and blowing up your opponents in a rocket rally? Go for it! Racing not your thing? You don’t have to do it! While driving is mandatory for traversing the wasteland, id wisely made all but a handful of races optional. Still, to skip racing is to miss out on a load of fun. id could seriously release a dedicated racing game based off what they started in Rage.
To date I’ve spent 41 hours on two playthroughs of Rage, and that includes a completed run on the nightmare difficulty setting. As I sit here typing this I’m seriously considering starting the 23.8 gigabyte download yet again so I can play through it one more time…