Rage for PC Review

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id Software is a company known not just for their games but also for their important technological developments in video games that helped pave the way for other advancements in the industry. Many of the technological developments came from the company’s co-founder and lead programmer John Carmack. Before resigning from the company in 2013, he supervised the development of Rage, an ambitious game featuring multiple gameplay elements and the first to run on the id Tech 5 engine. Developed by id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks, Rage was released for iOS in November, 2010 and PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in October, 2011. For this review, I played the PC version. If you decide to play Rage on PC, you should be aware the game is known for some technical issues, most of which should be apparent from the get-go based on my own experience, so I would suggest looking up some tweak guides if you run into any problems.

When an an asteroid collides with Earth, human civilization is wiped out leaving behind a wasteland. Survivors form settlements and contend with mutants and bandits that roam the wasteland and target normal humans. Underground are humans sealed in Arks and these are the result of the Eden Project which was an undertaking to preserve human life after the asteroid collision. The story opens with Nicholas Raine, a former Marine, emerging from his Ark after it was damaged. He meets up with settlers and learns of the Authority, a powerful organization looking for Ark survivors for an unknown purpose. After that the plot becomes predictable. A lone survivor becomes a hero to the poor settlers, joins the Resistance, and fights the man. That kind of thing. The voice cast is comprised of some notable talent like Nolan North, Phil LaMaar, Tara Strong, Steve Blum, even John Goodman but, unfortunately, they’re wasted on uninteresting characters. It’s a shame because the visual world building, atmosphere, and tone make for a creepy and mysterious world that would otherwise be interesting if the narrative was more compelling.

I’ve beaten Rage twice before and even after playing through it a third time, after all these years, my opinions on it have not changed. Rage tries to do a lot of things and it only does one thing really well and that’s gunplay. Everything else feels half-assed. It’s a first-person shooter, it’s a car combat game, it’s a racing game, and I guess I would say it’s an open world game or at least appears to try to be. You get to run around and shoot enemies with a cool arsenal of weapons and drive weaponized vehicles to combat wasteland threats and get around the world faster. Nick emerges from the Ark wearing an Ark Suit and you eventually get to swap it out with something more appropriate so the Authority can’t easily identify him as an Ark survivor. You will get to buy armor upgrades for better protection and you have a defibrillator that can be used to revive yourself after losing all your health. Rage does come with a multiplayer component featuring both vehicular combat and co-op missions but I didn’t get a chance to try them.

Rage excels when it comes to the gunplay. You start with a pistol and will acquire other weapons as you progress. You’ll get your hands on typical weaponry like shotguns, an assault rifle, sniper rifle, machine gun, and rocket launcher, along with some more interesting weapons like a nailgun, crossbow, and pulse cannon. They all have a nice kick to them when firing and some of them can be upgraded. In addition to being simply satisfying, what really makes the gunplay interesting and fun is the enemy behavior and ammo types. Foes will run around and take cover but they’ll also duck and weave and appear as if they’re trying to dodge your shots and enemies like mutants will run along walls and jump around all over the place and the animations are excellent. Enemies will stumble after being shot, downed enemies can still fire at you, a good blast will send bodies flying, and, of course, you can turn foes into gibs and even blow their heads off.

Some weapons are better for certain threats and the different ammo types can change how you approach situations. Pop Rockets basically turn your combat shotgun into a grenade launcher, the nailgun can fire rail slugs that can shoot through walls, and the crossbow can fire some of my favorite ammo types in the game. It can fire electro-bolts to not only electrocute enemies but also electrify water to kill multiple foes at once. It can also fire mind control bolts that let you control enemies and blow them up. But best of all, it can fire dynamite bolts that will stick to foes before exploding. Each weapon has its own set of ammo types and ammo can either be found in the environments, purchased, or crafted.

Rage does feature crafting and you’ll need resources to craft different items. You can acquire resources in the environments and by looting dead bodies. Resources include ammo, cash, junk, materials, and components. Many of the items you can craft act as Supplies that can aid you in combat. Supplies can also be found and purchased and some of them can be upgraded with schematics. You can heal yourself with bandages, deploy sentry guns, bots, and RC bomb cars, and blow through certain locked doors with lock grinders. Supplies also include throwable items like grenades and the awesome Wingstick, a boomerang-like device that can take down most enemies in a single hit. They’re great for when you get overwhelmed or mutants in particular which can sometimes be hard to shoot.

The story will take you to a few settlements or towns throughout the world where you can interact with NPCs, buy and sell items, play games for money, and access your Garage. You’ll acquire several vehicles throughout the story which are stored in your Garage. The bigger settlements include races and winning them rewards you with racing certificates which can be spent on vehicle upgrades and themes or paint jobs. You can participate in combat and non-combat races, time trials, and rally races that have you trying to reach rally points before your opponents. On the Normal difficulty, the racing is pretty lackluster thanks to predictable AI and virtually no depth. All you really need is the engine upgrades to go faster and then you can easily win the races. On higher difficulties, enemy vehicles in the wasteland are more aggressive and the racing is more challenging. You don’t have to participate in races if you don’t want to but it is one way to earn certificates for vehicle upgrades. Another way to earn them is to speak with specific NPCs who will reward you with certificates among other things for destroying enemy vehicles in the Wasteland.

The world design is the game’s biggest problem. It looks nice but there’s nothing to do. The story is set in the Wasteland which features some big open areas with entrances to different locations which is where the missions take place. At first, it appears like the Wasteland is a big open world but it’s not. And even though the world is technically open (you can basically go anywhere you want), it’s also condensed and somewhat linear and because there’s very little to do, getting around quickly becomes boring. There’s basically no reason to explore, nothing interesting happens, and you’ll rarely see enemies running around on-foot. You can drive off jumps into drones which reward you with resources but that’s really it. Then there’s the car combat. While driving, you can switch between different weapons and utilize quick-use items like hover turrets, shields, drop mines, and other stuff. You’ll often be attacked by enemy vehicles and towers but enemy vehicles will always appear in the same places and on the Normal and Hard difficulties, they don’t pose much of a threat and can easily be dispatched. In fact, you can just ignore them most of the time. Ultimately, the entire open world element feels underdeveloped and unnecessary.

Mission objectives will have you retrieving things, killing enemies, or assisting NPCs. Missions are offered by NPCs and you can also take on side missions from the Job Board in the settlements. The missions offered by NPCs are always more interesting than those offered on the Job Board. The Job Board missions will often take you back to locations you’ve already been to and there’s nothing really new to see. And there’s one that has you repeating the exact same objective as a mission offered to you by an NPC. Each location will feature enemies to kill. Bandits are split up into different clans, some foes are equipped with armor, others fly around with jetpacks, and the further you progress, the more the different ammo types become important. The rocket launcher or any type of explosive ammo is great against big enemies and some ammo types are better against armored foes. The weakest mission in the game is by far the final one. There’s no traditional final boss or anything. You complete the mission and the game just ends. It’s kind of anticlimactic, actually.

The mission locations are one of the Rage’s highlights. They’re mostly linear and the resources would be your incentive to explore the rooms and areas off the beaten paths. Each location is different but they’re all consistent in conveying a creepy and mysterious atmosphere. When you’re running and gunning around the dark and creepy tunnels, hideouts, and facilities, that’s when the gameplay really shines. The locations are well designed and I think the game would have benefitted by being a mission or level-based shooter like several of id Software’s previous offerings. They could have kept the settlements and made them hub areas with exits that take you directly to the different locations/missions and when you complete a mission, you’d be brought right back to the settlement. As you progress through the story, you’ll unlock the locations as scenarios that can be played separately from the campaign so you can play through them again without having to drive anywhere.

Rage is the first game to run on id Software’s id Tech 5 engine and one of it’s defining features is more advanced MegaTexture technology than the previous engine. It supports higher resolution textures and the engine streams textures into memory as needed. It also uses shadow maps which results in shadows with soft edges and includes numerous advanced graphical effects. Rage looked visually impressive for its time and it still doesn’t look too bad. I think everything looks amazing from a distance. The only thing I perceive as an eyesore is all the grain. That’s how I describe it, anyway. Everything look a little grainy when viewed up close.

I’ve played this game on multiple computers since its release and one thing I always have to do when playing the PC version is tweak it otherwise I experience frequent frame rate dips, stuttering, and texture loading. The stuttering in particular can be rampant to the point of making the game unplayable. If you do some research you will see these issues are common, even on higher end systems. You can find numerous articles and guides with different configuration settings and instructions on how to tweak the game to improve the performance. I would recommend starting with the game’s PCGamingWiki page. This time I installed it on an SSD but still experienced technical issues. My main goal was to eliminate the stuttering and thanks to a Steam guide, I was able to reduce it significantly. I still experienced some frame rate dips and occasional stutters but it was usually when I was travelling around the Wasteland. The game performed very well in mission locations. Pop-in was still noticeable and the texture loading was pretty rampant but it was playable and smooth for the most part.

There’s a lot of visual effects and details that really bring the environments to life. Rock formations keep you contained in the Wasteland and despite the world being pretty boring to navigate, it does at least look like a bleak wasteland, filled with the remains of what was once a civilization. Smoke, dust, and particles fill the air, destroyed vehicles can be found all over the place, you’ll drive on destroyed roads, objects and structures can be seen sticking out of the ground, and the backgrounds showcase destroyed cityscapes. The mission locations look dirty, grimy, rusted, run-down, and uninhabitable. You’ll traverse through a lot of bombed-out areas and some locations like Dead City and the Wasteland Tunnels have an eerie aura about them. The mysterious and creepy atmosphere builds tension and helps make encounters feel more intense. What really heightens the tension is the soundtrack. It’s full of appropriately moody tunes that become more dramatic during firefights. The gameplay is accompanied by excellent audio work. Weapons feel great thanks to not only good visual feedback but also powerful sounding weapons fire. Mutants make all kinds of disgusting noises, bandits and Authority enemies will shout things as the bullets are flying, and they will scream and groan as they die. The audiovisual presentation is impressive and the developers did a great job at creating a grim post-apocalyptic world.

I’ve been a fan of id Software since my experiences with Wolfenstein 3D and the original Doom in my younger days and with the exception of Doom 3, I feel their first-person shooters are top tier when it comes to gunplay and Rage is no exception. The gunplay is what sticks out in my mind and is why I’ve played through it more than once. And that’s literally the only reason. To put it bluntly, everything else about Rage kind of sucks. The gunplay is of typical id Software quality but everything else feels like it was tacked on. The Wasteland has to be one of the most disappointing worlds I’ve ever navigated. As it relates to the single player, the car combat and racing can become boring quickly. Higher difficulties can increase the challenge but it’s not enough to elevate these elements above mediocrity. Rage gives the player the illusion of an interesting an expansive post-apocalyptic world with plenty to see and do but players will quickly realize that’s not the case. Maybe the developers were just riding the Borderlands wave but the Wasteland’s open-ended nature fails to offer anything interesting other than entrances to more interesting locations. What is fun is navigating your way through the more linear environments trying to shoot the foes that are ducking and weaving as they run and jump around while firing and throwing things at you. Firefights can get intense. The supplies and crafting supplement the on-foot sequences nicely, adding some tactical elements to the gunplay and the game gives you a lot of ways to engage foes. Luckily, it’s more of a first-person shooter than anything else and the gunplay is what carries it.

Despite its issues, I would recommend Rage and for two reasons. One; the gunplay is phenomenal and two; you can get it for pretty cheap nowadays as of this review. Ultimately, Rage excels at being a shooter and it could have been a lot better. I would go as far as to say the gunplay in Rage is some of the best of its generation. I think that alone makes it worth playing. Sadly, that’s all it really has going for it. I would recommend Rage to those looking for a good first-person shooter and if you can get passed all the other shit, you’re in for a great time.

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