After spending just a few hours in Rage’s world, we were overcome with a feeling not just rare in videogames but in any work of fiction: We actually wanted to live there. It’s a more comfortable version of Mad Max, with all of the cobbled-together and lawless excitement but without the horrific desperation. Sure, the people have it rough – it’s the apocalypse, after all – but the towns we visited are downright cozy with their rustic charm and endearingly crusty characters. If we didn’t have to worry about raving mutants or the oppressive Authority, we’d totally rent out a little shack in Wellspring, hang out at the bar, and play some cards or participate in the races.
Note: The PC version of Rage has encountered some serious issues with graphics cards. See the end of the review for specifics.
It’s not just the sheer amount of detail that makes Rage’s world feel real; it’s also the imagination used to make it a place we want to just hang out in, like the aesthetic touches that make the towns feel both futuristic and retro-western, with a sprinkling of steampunk for good measure.
Rage is id’s attempt to create a hybrid game, both in its genre and in its multiplatform approach, which is quite the departure for a traditionally FPS focused, PC-centric company. Rage is still an id FPS at its core, but it’s also an RPG complete with chatty townsfolk and plenty of items to purchase and craft. Oh, and it’s a racing and car-combat game as well.
It’s a rather different turn for an id game. We whiled away the hours with RPG-ish distractions aimed at increasing our money and options. There’s no experience to earn, but we increased our power all the same through savvy purchases. Side missions provide money and items as rewards (or engineering recipes, which really boosted our power with high-end items). There’s also a special currency earned by winning races, and this currency is the only way to upgrade a vehicle, so players who want a totally intimidating Mad Max set of wheels must compete in races.
Above: The buggy is the main vehicle during the game, but there are a couple other sets of wheels available
The racing – which includes time trials, conventional races, and Mario Kart-style combat races – is fun and well-designed to the point of not feeling tacked-on, but we wish it had been a required part of our progression. Since the only way to buy vehicle upgrades is through race winnings, races were obviously meant to be an integral part of the game, but they turn out to be totally unnecessary, at least on Normal difficulty, because all the vehicle upgrades aren’t needed to survive out in the wasteland – we could easily just race past enemy vehicles on our way to the next on-foot FPS section, ignoring the car combat completely.
This would be a mistake, though, because the car combat in Rage is great. Once we equipped our vehicle with machine guns, rockets, pulse cannons, mines, spiked wheels, shields, mini-drones, and other goodies, the combat is sublimely satisfying in its explodiness: enemy cars burst apart with gorgeous burning wreckage, making destroying them addictive.
This solid foundation transitions into the multiplayer, which tosses aside the expected deathmatch and anything else resembling a shooter. The multiplayer is purely car combat, with several modes designed to take advantage of the speed vehicles permit. Our favorites are Triad Rally, where we had to drive through three consecutive beams of light to score, and Meteor Rally, where fallen ore must be collected and then returned to a randomly spawning capture zone. Mastering usage of different weapons and items becomes increasingly fun due to unlockables, and the well-designed maps engender exciting close-calls with swooping turns and huge jumps (with one jump leading to id’s iconic quad damage bonus). There’s nothing quite so heroic as flying off a huge jump to soar over half the map and then rain a cannon shot into a group of enemies while still in mid-air. We doubt the multiplayer will have long-lasting appeal, but it’s a fantastic change of pace from typical multiplayer – at least for a few hours.
Above: Surviving an encounter with two players giving chase isn't easy, but man is it exciting
There’s also a mini co-op campaign, but there’s not much to say about it. It’s a separate series of two-player levels that take place in environments we had already seen in the single-player campaign, with minor adjustments. Those who need to squeeze everything they can out of a game will be glad these missions are here, but for us they were only fitfully entertaining.