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RAGE [2010 -- Id Software]

Started by Starfox, Jun 05, 2023, 06:13 AM

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Originally published on May 06, 2019

Yep, I'm reviewing RAGE now. Why? Because I can, because I replayed it a short while ago and because RAGE 2 is around the corner so there's my occasion. That being said I expect this review won't take too long.

The best part of RAGE? The intro movie. Gosh, here's something gorgeous, something epic, something that makes you crave for more. The asteroid spiraling toward Earth, blowing a hole in Saturn rings, tearing a new one in the Moon while you witness the preparation of your character for deep cryo sleep inside an "Ark" that is buried underground (with dozen others like it around the world) in a last ditch effort to prevent the extinction of the human race. Up to the last "Mission control signing off. May we live to see another day". And the crash.

Unfortunately, that's where the game starts (106 years later). The thing is when one has an intro movie so good you need a game with the necessary punch to support it. It's kinda like Mass Effect trilogy. Mass Effect 2 and 3 in particular had very good intros but if they hadn't got anything to put beyond that few minutes... what would have been the point?

RAGE is a big missed souffle... a superbly rounded top at the beginning and then immediately flattens as soon as you get it out of the oven. That's exactly the feeling I had when I played it the first time and it's still the feeling I have all those years later. Perhaps worse, because technically the sloppiness of that title that could be excused in 2010 because you know... "it's the fault of your computer, not powerful enough" cannot certainly be excused anymore on my current rig unless you reverse the excuse "It's the fault of your computer, too fancy and powerful". Thing is, RAGE was the first game powered by the Id Tech 5 engine an engine that was renowned for its sloppiness especially in its infancy. An engine which also powered titles like Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood and it was the worse aspect of both those games. When I say "worse" it's because one could obtain twice better graphics for half the cost with other engines. Or even with the new Id Tech 6 run in Vulkan (overpowered next gen OpenGL) mode.

But that's it for the technicality of the thing. Regarding gameplay, RAGE was Id Software first attempt to get out somewhat out of the old "shoot'em up" scheme they were heavily engaged in (the DooM series) and do something a little more refined, including some character stats, the ability to collect resources and craft stuff on the fly... etc. At the date of its release, there were definitely some innovations in that area but even that was crushed by the fact that RAGE was still a shoot'em up in disguise, except with less things to shoot. And there were cars too... Don't forget the cars (specially because most of the maps are vast and empty). And where there are cars, there are races. On that particular point I would say: don't make people race if they don't want to. Thing is you are forced to race in RAGE when you need a new vehicle and those races are mandatory. Even if they are not especially taxing, they shouldn't be mandatory in this kind of game because it's not a "racing" game. Yes you use car to travel and to fight (once you get an armed vehicle) and I don't have any problem with that. Races however, fine, but make them optional so people are free to participate or not.

Another mandatory thing is the arena. You only got to do it once (if you do not have the DLC "The Scorchers") or twice with the DLC, and it's still stupid each time. I would have much preferred to have the person involved give me a true task to accomplish in order to obtain what I needed rather that "Hey, go in there and shoot everything". It just shows that no matter what they try, Id cannot just get away from the DooM culture. Nevertheless, as the car races the arena should have been optional. Other mini-games included are and that's very much Okay because if you don't feel like doing them they don't impact the main story.

One of the trademark of RAGE is its teenager varnish: the girls in skimpy suits.  You know when a developer is very proud of their product when they start to put in there young girls barely dressed for no reason other than "oh, look they'll be busy with the girls, they won't notice the flaws".

Joke aside, RAGE was a good attempt and might even have been an absolute success but the technical woes of the engine and some design decision brought it down for me. It's also a game with a story much shorter than it appears. when all is said and done one can get in and out in around 20 hours (skipping the non mandatory mini-games and the DLC). The story itself though could be told in 5 minutes top.

I hope however that this attempt at a kind of gameplay different from DooM will have enabled Id Software to identify the strong and weak points of the first RAGE and to apply this knowledge to RAGE 2 for the better... One can only hope and see.

Guess what it means!