Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC, Macintosh, iPhone
Rage starts out like so many other games from recent memory. Some catastrophic event has turned the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland and somehow you’ve been chosen as the hero who’s going to save humanity. Before this event, you and a small group of people have volunteered to be preserved in a contraption called an Ark (basically a vault) in order to help ensure that the human race will live on. Fast forward 106 years and you are finally released from your pod to find that you are the only survivor of your Ark. Once you get your bearings back, you escape the vault and are promptly attacked by some hideous mutant. Just when things are looking pretty grim, you are saved by none other than John Goodman, well his name is actually Dan Hagar. You hop in Hagar’s buggy and he gets you up to speed with what’s going on in the wasteland. What follows is a series of fetch quests, repetitive corridor shooter sequences and quite possibly one of the worst endings to a game ever.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Rage would be the graphics. They are absolutely gorgeous and quite possibly the best I’ve seen on a console this generation. Environments are beautifully detailed (even though they mostly fall into the brown and gray trap that so many post-apocalyptic games do) and each character you meet along the way has their own unique qualities. As beautiful as the graphics may be, they aren’t without their issues. During my time with the game, I noticed texture pop-in quite frequently (even with the game installed). This happens when you load a new area and even when you simply make a quick turn. While it’s nothing that hinders your experience, it is quite noticeable at times. In order to keep the graphics looking their best, the game needs to be installed to the hard drive (the game even suggests you do so). If you don’t have the space (8 gigs on the PS3 and 22 total gigs across 3 discs on the 360, but each disc can be installed separately) then you’re in for a rough experience. I started off without the game installed and there was a considerable amount of screen tearing and constant frame rate drops. So if there’s no way for you to install, that could very well be a deal breaker.
While the graphics are great, the sound of Rage is a bit of a mixed bag. I found the music was okay, but completely forgettable. The score was also a bit over dramatic for my taste. During most battles this over-the-top music would be blaring in the background while nothing was actually going on. It did add a slight sense of urgency, but most of the time it was just a little much. The sound design was also lacking. I noticed that every enemy that could speak had the same voice and said the same five or six phrases over and over. Weapons, explosions, and other ambient noises were all fine but didn’t stand out as particularly special. All of the voice acting in Rage was rather good. There are a few instances where the actor just seemed to phone it in, but all in all every character ended up having their own personality and charm. Did I mention that John Goodman voices a character in the game? I mean it really doesn’t get much better than that, does it?. Sadly, as good as some of the voice work was, most of the time I honestly couldn’t have cared less what the characters were saying. This is in large part due to Rage’s terribly lazy narrative .
The story of Rage is uninspired at best and completely awful at its lowest points. It is your cliché tale of some authoritative group trying to hold down the population and control all aspects of life. This time that group is known as “The Authority” (very clever indeed) and they are looking to find any Ark survivors and take control of the wasteland. I don’t want to bash someone’s vision or ability to write, because there’s no way I could ever be a game writer, but I honestly believe I could have written a more compelling story when I was in grade school (and I probably did). Everything about the story is bland and lifeless and only exists to push you to the next bland and lifeless area of the game. There have been plenty offenders of this type of writing, but Rage has set a new low.
What’s worse than the overall narrative is how abruptly the game ends. While the story isn’t strong at any point in the game it really takes a nose dive in the second half and then completely goes down the toilet during the final sequence of events. The final mission of Rage is quite possibly the laziest and most unsatisfying end to a game I’ve ever seen from both story and gameplay aspects. The game resorts to making you play some sick game of “Whack-a-Mole” which is neither fun nor creative. Then, out of nowhere, comes the final cutscene (which was all of about three minutes long) followed by the credits. No epic boss fight, no communication with the people that helped you along the way, no job well done, absolutely no closure. I assume the ending was meant to be a cliffhanger, but after that final mission I was just left scratching my head.