RAGE

PROS:  Graphics are stunning.  Great art design all around.  Weapons feel powerful and are fun to use.  There are tons of different non-quest-related things to do without them being required (for the most part).  Weapon and especially ammo crafting is fun and actually useful.

CONS:  The texture pop-up, while not too bad, occasionally gets a little obnoxious.  The story is pretty weak.

THINGS I LIKED: This doesn’t usually jump out at me but the sound is fantastic. All the sweet bandit killin’. Wingsticks.

NITPICKS:  So many doors, yet so few open.  Bandits you kill drop their weapons, but you can’t pick them up.

Right up front let me say this: Rage is very, very similar to Borderlands.  In fact, if you strip their individual lame ass stories away you’ll see they share a lot of the same gameplay elements.  Let me follow that up though by saying that while that is true, it didn’t bother me even a little bit.  I don’t think one stole from the other, they’re just both wasteland shooters with driving elements, RPG elements, sidequests and job boards.  If I had to sum up the differences between them as play experiences go, I’d say Rage is going for a more serious tone, while Borderlands is unapologetically gonzo.

This both helps and hurts Rage – on the plus side, the world is very immersive, and a much bigger attempt is made to breathe some kind of life into the environments and their inhabitants.  The problem is that if you’re going to take the ‘real’ approach over Borderlands’ more goofy vibe, then you’re more on the hook to create a compelling dramatic story and Rage falls short in that department.  I won’t get into spoilers such as they are but I’ll just say the plot is generic in the extreme.  The gist of it is that after stumbling out of an underground ‘Ark’ used to save Earth’s inhabitants during an asteroid strike, you get sucked into a story where scrappy rebels are fighting a superior oppressive force…and they need your help.  While that might seem like not a terrible starting point, that’s seriously about as far as it ever gets.  This story is so generic that the resistance is actually called ‘The Resistance’, and the force they’re fighting is called ‘The Authority’.  Never at any point did I ever get any real sense of why I was supposed to hate or fear The Authority so much…I mean, everyone kept saying I should, and I was told many, many times about how bad they were but shit, from a gameplay perspective they weren’t any worse than the bandits.  Game Developers, don’t just tell us The Authority are bad dudes and expect that to carry it through…present me with a character I care about, then, once I’m invested, have The Authority show up and kill that character in front of me.  Bam – now I hate The Authority, and no one had to tell me to.  Now when the scrappy rebels ask me to help them out, I’ll do it gladly instead of just as an excuse to get access to more (albeit fun) missions.

I feel like if Rage had addressed that one thing, they’d have knocked it out of the park but don’t get me wrong – Rage is still a lot of fun, and it’s very well made.  Story aside, Rage is ambitious and I think it succeeds on a lot of levels.  Unlike Borderlands, Rage offers a lot of little side activities you can take part in that have nothing to do with the main questline or even the sidequests.  Some are simple minigames (gambling offerings like ‘five finger fillet’ and a ‘slots’ style dice throwing game, etc), but there’s also the race circuit which provides some racing fun and allows you to earn racing certificates, which are a kind of currency you use to buy vehicle specific upgrades like better engines, suspensions, etc.  Since you do a lot of non-race-related driving in-game, these upgrades actually help you in the main game too.  If you just hate the races, you can kill bandits for cash and you’ll get racing certificates along with it so you can still get your upgrades it will just take longer.  You can also earn cash participating in an arena bloodsport TV show called ‘Mutant Bash TV’.  You can find collectibles, deliver packages for cash, find cards to add to a deck you use to play an in-game Magic-ish card game, and do a fair bit of crafting (engineering) that lets you build everything from new ammo types to robotic spiders that follow you around and shoot people for you.  There’s a lot of little layers going on that make the world feel fleshed out and real.

In combat, the enemy A.I. is actually pretty good.  They duck and weave a lot, trying not to get shot, and they hide behind cover, sometimes even just aiming a gun over the wall to fire blindly.  They can be crippled, so that they might sink down behind cover but not actually be dead…only to recoup and drag themselves around the corner to take a few more potshots at you.  If things really go bad for them, survivors might just say screw it and run.  It makes them feel like real enemies, which I thought was a really nice touch (I especially liked one bandit’s last words ‘This sucks…’ as he bled out).  It’s really too bad though that Id has them drop weapons when they die that can’t be picked up…it’s such a spellbreaker, and I don’t get why they did it.  If you don’t want to give the player a new weapon or duplicate weapons, at least just have them act as ammo stores you can harvest.  It annoyed me every single time I saw a fallen enemy’s gun clatter to the ground, only to then fade away like it was a hologram or something.

I liked the vehicle combat well enough…it was fun and fast-paced, with plenty of minigun fire and rocket-launching.  You can even win new vehicles on the race circuit.  The cars all felt too ‘slidy’ to me initially (except the starting ATV), but upgrading to the performance suspension took care of that.

BOTTOM LINE:  I could nitpick, but I had a really good time with Rage.  While it has pros and cons, there is more than enough going here to justify a purchase.

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