Wednesday, 19 October 2011

R.A.G.E. Review

Initial impressions of RAGE were good. RAGE can be summed up as a culmination of small changes to the genre that add together to make a good overall re-imagining of the formula.

The visuals are good. The game has great styling to it, with a real feeling of a connected and vibrant world. The sky is just incredible. Even though it is obviously a static, painted sky, it is one of the best skies I have seen in a game (and perhaps even in reality). The on-demand texture generation, however, leaves a lot to be desired if you’re using high mouse sensitivity, as I do, and it can sometimes break the immersion. However, the textures do look very good when they have loaded. The characters look very alive and each is interesting in its own way. The weapons look good and they all have a certain uniqueness to them that keeps them interesting.

The amazing sky:

The combat is crisp and engaging. The weapons, although sounding terrible, actually pack quite a punch. In a far too underused mechanic in the FPS genre, people actually react to being hit by a bullet. In most games where you might as well be firing at a lump of wood, but in RAGE people that you hit actually stumble or get knocked back and it all relates to whereabouts you hit them. This creates a nice difference between when you fire at a regular enemy and a heavily armoured enemy as well, as they react far less, but you can still feel their armour plating being hit by your bullets. Each of the weapons is quite unique and none of them feels inadequate, as is so often the case in other games where the newer guns are generally better. In RAGE, there is no point at which a weapon becomes useless. Even now, 2 hours in with some pretty awesome weapons, such as a sniper rifle and pump action shotgun, I still sometimes switch back to my pistol because the monocular I bought for it allows for great long distance vision that is less restricting than the scope on the sniper rifle; and even towards the endgame I found myself switching back to the pistol, because of it’s meatier rounds and high accuracy, which was good for dealing with armoured targets.

The voice acting is overall quite good and highly engaging, as the NPCs dotted around the various settlements comment often, making for a much more immersive world. For example, you may take a mission from someone (the method of doing so nicely incorporate into the dialogue as well) and then walk past someone on your way out who’ll say something like “Good luck” and then when you come back they might say “You made it!” Although of course with a more varied vocabulary than that. While this seems like a simple mechanic, it is something that has been sorely missed in many so called ‘sandbox games’ in recent times. The feeling of people actually noticing such small actions as your coming and going make a big difference in the feel of the game.

The final good point I will mention, is that the game never feels like a grind. The missions are each very different and in very well made and rich locations; and the rewards for each missions give a sense of constant progression, and I mean real meaningful progression. For example, the first few missions you get a vehicle, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, etc. While this is not unusual, the fact that this level of progression continues well after the first few missions, is something I have not experienced in a game before. It is difficult to maintain a constant a rewarding sense of progression through-out a game, and the developers here must be commended for that.

Now the bad points, the driving sections can get somewhat repetitive. They are, however, short and any objectives relating to driving are optional and can be skipped. The missions you can get from the ‘Job Board’ take place in the same areas that the story missions do and often involve simply going backwards through the same area killing all the newly spawned baddies from a different faction. They have made improvements to this however by making it so that you don’t have to traipse back through the level once everything is dead and they just give you a straight way out once you’re done, whilst at the same time not breaking any immersion, which is a feat in and of itself.

The most negative aspect of the game is unfortunately the story. You can see that the designers have borrowed heavily from other big-selling games, such as Half-Life 2 and Fallout 3. The story similarities at the beginning and end are shocking reminiscent of Half-Life 2, but without the emotional connection we all felt when playing the latter. There’s no Alyx or Dog, there’s no Doctor Kleiner, there’s no cause in the sense that there was in Half-Life 2. When I first played Half-Life 2 and came upon those first two Civil Protection Officers beating up that man in the back alley, I had the exact same feeling as everyone else that played the game. My heart screamed, ‘That is wrong!’. I then looked at the bottom right of my screen. I had a crowbar. I looked up at the two erstwhile repressive murderers running towards me with batons out and I did what everyone else did. RAGE doesn’t have those emotional dilemmas or that real feeling of a cause worth fighting for, as there is no face to ‘The Authority’ like there was with Doctor Breen in Half-Life 2.

It is, however, unfair of me to compare this game to another, because although it does borrow heavily from other games, it has its own unique aspects and some of those aspects are genuinely worth playing the game for. Hopefully other developers will take note of the good points of RAGE and when the next genre-defining title comes along, it will be all the better for it.

Score: 83%

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