It’s 2135, only 100 years after the asteroid 99942 Apophis had hit our planet Earth and destroyed almost all human life. You are an unnamed hero, an Ark survivor, awakened from stasis in an underground shelter (an Ark). Saved by a local who is quick to “befriend” you and let you know the world has gone to hell. Welcome to Rage, a post-apocalyptic arid wasteland populated by feuding tribes of humans and mutants.
Booting up the game I was immediately sucked into a world that reminded me of the Mad Max series of movies with their road bandits and gasoline fights (fights for gasoline not with it) and I was hooked. However as I played through the game the glamour of getting to release my inner Road Warrior was slowly worn away with potholes in the story, gameplay, and even some of the controls.
Let me start by saying the game looks great. The character models have a nice balance between realistic and slightly exaggerated features. The locales in the wasteland are well designed and although mostly arid there are some unique places to be found. Dilapidated buildings, highways, and remnants of the old world are contrasted by the craters and junk structures of the new. I was particularly impressed with how gritty the characters looked, their unique costume designs, and how fluid the animations were (at least for its time).
Sound quality in the game feels bang on with every gun shot and melee thwack against the enemy or your character having weight. There was nothing that felt better than blasting an enemy point blank with the shotgun and hearing their muffled screams as they died. Ambience is functional but it is nothing special. Enemy voices and sounds are fantastic and are the best part of the sound effects. I had a good chuckle listening to some of the bandits talking amongst themselves before I rush around a corner to blast them. Also getting locked in a room with mutants trying to crawl in through every crevice was borderline nightmarish with surround sound. Voice acting for the NPCs was above average however the characters lacked depth and so their repetitive lines fell flat on me while revisiting areas.
The story has you pitted as an outsider among the many groups of humans surviving in the wastes. One of the survivors in particular, Dan, is willing to take you in so long as you help him with jobs like securing his settlement. As you pick up more jobs and travel to larger settlements you find out you’ve aroused the attention of the Authority. This particular group of survivors spends their time gathering all the high tech military equipment and gadgets they can carry. Your only choice is to be thrown into allegiance with the resistance who reveal an evil plot by the Authority to control human kind using the technology extracted from Ark survivors. In the end, the story boils down to good versus evil to save the world. It has some weak points, like if the Authority is actually evil how did they allow any of the non-ark survivors to thrive in this new world? The ending sequence was especially a let down since there was some decent build up only to get the anti-climactic waves of enemies to finish off.
I found gameplay to be a bit of a mixed bag. The game itself was pretty linear which isn’t a bad thing and the level design was fairly unique with lots of verticality which definitely added to how big some areas felt. The gunplay was also pretty solid with each weapon having the right amount of kickback and accuracy. I did however find that the aiming was a little too sensitive but I didn’t mess around with the options very much so there might have been a slider for that. For getting around the desert you are
given a few different vehicles as you progress the story, these allow for faster travel as well as a way to combat the bandits in the wild who also are in cars and buggys. To upgrade the vehicles, you can choose to race in the hub cities which was a nice break from the regular gameplay and aside from a couple races was completely optional. Racing consisted of a few different modes which resemble track racing, combat track racing and deathmatch. The game has multiplayer in the form of online races with other people which works the same as it does in single player. Although the racing was fun and I did plenty of both single and multiplayer racing I found the controls to be a little bit slippery while driving. Even upgrading your tires the improvement of the cars traction was minimal.
Overall I enjoyed Rage and even played through it multiple times for my platinum trophy (which technically can be done with a single play through on nightmare mode). However, it is hardly an amazing game. The plot has so many holes that I wish I knew, the multiplayer could have been improved with some shooter maps instead of simply racing, and it is also not terribly long. I cannot recommend this game at its release price of $60-70, however I ended up getting the game at $20. If you like the idea of pretending your Mad Max for a few days and you see the game for $10-20 it’s worth it for a play through.