The easy, initial reaction to Rage for the iPhone is to say that id Software has done it again, delivering a game that sets a benchmark of graphical splendour for the platform and will doubtless grow to be one of the iPhone’s definitive shooters.
Closer inspection, however, reveals that early assessment to only be two thirds right. Yes, Rage is a technical marvel and it’s amazing that id Software has managed to cram such large, detailed levels into a mobile phone game. However, this isn’t a definitive shooter. If anything, Rage follows in the steps of Quake Wars and Doom 3; it's graphically magnificent, but a fundamentally boring game.
Rage is closer to a lightgun game than an actual first person shooter. Cast as contestants on Mutant Bash TV – a gladiatorial TV show for the post-apocalypse civilisation – players basically run a scripted gauntlet and kill all the baddies they see along the way. You can’t control your movement, and your role in the game is merely to aim and shoot using the three weapons provided.
Rage for the iPhone
Really, that’s all there is to Rage on the iPhone – scripted hallways and enemies that pop up and down like cardboard cutouts. There are bonus targets to shoot along the way too, plus an active reload system that marketing execs would probably claim adds ‘tactical depth’, but it’s all much of a muchness. Rage is essentially just Virtua Cop or House of the Dead with fancier graphics.
The fact that Rage is just a lightgun game, however, isn’t the problem. Instead, the issue is that it doesn’t feel like it was originally designed as one. Levels, for example, are so long and complex that, while they’d be great in a first person shooter, they become tiring when dropped into a lightgun game.
The levels take so long to complete, and are so lacking in variety, that they reduce players to yawns by the end of the first level. There are only a handful of different baddy-types, all with the same attacks. There are no bosses or sudden changes of pace to keep the game interesting, merely more rooms of mutants who stand perfectly still and throw easily-dodged bricks.
Despite the fact that the levels are so overly long, Rage still ends up feeling light on content too. There are only three levels to play at the moment, and all of them are very similar. The only replay value in any of them involves either finding all the hidden targets (which don’t unlock anything), or beating your high-score.
The result of all this is that Rage ultimately feels like little more than an expensive tech demo. The technology id has created is really the only grounds on which to recommend the game, unless you’re a big fan of monotonous, ceaseless, shallow and pointless shooting.
Boring and badly designed, Rage’s only real appeal is its pretty looks. If that’s all you’re after then you'd be better off downloading Epic Citadel for free.