Publisher:Bethesda Softworks Platform:PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 Release Date: 4 October, 2011
Rage is, we'll confess, not what we thought it would be. It is not the drab and dreary mess we've spoken of on the Bit-Gamer podcasts, nor is it what you'd expect of id Software given its dark, gothic back catalogue. It is an exciting, brilliant and ambitious break from the norm - a joy to play.
It doesn't look that way, of course. Wasteland, apocalypse, mutants - we've seen it all before. Likewise, when we've previously seen the action demonstrated or been talked through Rage's crafting system, we've dismissed it as just same-old, same-old. All that changes when you go hands-on, however.
For starters, the combat. On video Rage seems like little more than any other shooter, with players running around semi-destroyed caves and barren deserts, shooting sweary bandits and clubbing fast-moving mutants. What the videos don't communicate is the tactical forethought that goes into Rage's combat, which is heavily reliant on the use of scavenged and player-made tools. These include, among the usual stock of grenades and remote bombs, vicious gadgets like the Wingblade - a serrated boomerang which you can ricochet around indoor areas.
Click to enlarge
The enemies themselves are worth singling out too, as the various looter clans and mutant breeds have their own strengths, weaknesses and attack styles. Compare the British raiders, decked out in Union Jack tattoos and given to hurling bullets and swears from a distance, with the first bandits you fight, who charge parkour-style through cluttered ruins to slash at you with knives. Both groups are incredibly fun to fight, especially when the latter party will unexpectedly kick off nearby debris, dodging your shot and leaving you cursing.
Further improving the combat are more subtle and nuanced joys, such as the satisfyingly powerful guns and the complex levels you get a chance to fight in. Similar to Borderlands, Rage's overworld is basically a huge canyon-desert, with most of the interesting geography reserved for the towns and enemy bases that your missions focus on.
[i]Find out more about Rage in this Making Enemies featurette/i]
A mix of Wild West and Sci-Fi influences, these semi-destroyed locations are great fun to romp through with even basic weapons, which still offer up impressive retorts and punch with each shot. Few developers other than id Software can make weapons this fun to wield.
Unfortunately, while Rage demonstrates many of id Software's typical strengths, there are still a number of areas that left us cold. The graphics, for example, while impressive when you're looking at large environments or the overall character design, quickly deteriorate when it comes to finer details - many of the supposed background flavour in an early town was just a blurry mess, for example.
Rage's interface too, especially when it comes to sorting through and selling your junk, is problematic. Not only are the buttons for filtering your inventory view small and awkwardly located, but the viewing windows when you're selling items feel similarly constricted. The inventory and crafting system is awash with over-large text and doesn't offer the kind of customisation that we'd expect of a PC game - and something that hints at the compromises indicative of consolification.