The less-obvious wonders
Rage also manages to avoid a standard weakness of open-world games: “mushiness.” Oftentimes in large, nonlinear games, there’s too much world for it to be all carefully designed –missions seem to occur within random buildings tossed together in the same manner as all the other unimportant set-dressing strewn about the world. Rage accomplishes the unexpected: it’s an open-world game, yet when we entered a “dungeon” it felt like a fully detailed, painstakingly crafted level from a strictly linear FPS. Rage is as if id took Doom or Quake and then broke the levels into chunks and then peppered a huge outdoor world with the pieces.
Above: The wasted world is consistently beautiful in its desolate starkness
Rage also introduced us to one of our new favorite weapons: the wingstick. We never expected something as innocuous as the wingstick to become such an addictive, crucial part of Rage’s gameplay, but we love the darn things so much we’re going to miss them when playing other shooters. Despite the underwhelming name, wingsticks are totally badass: a three-winged bladed boomerang with homing capabilities. Toss one out and the pleasing electric whirr it emits as it seeks to behead our enemies is always satisfying. But what makes wingsticks integral to Rage’s gameplay is twofold: they one-shot most enemies, and they sit in a quick-use slot, which means we didn’t have to equip them like a standard weapon. That meant we can throw one at any time, no matter what weapon we’re using or what we were doing. Caught with our pants down while reloading? No problem! A wingstick was soon protruding from our ambusher’s face.
Along with the wingsticks, Rage provided us with other nifty quick-use items like turrets, sentry bots, and exploding RC cars – all necessary, because the variety of enemies in the game had us constantly switching up how we play. Even the way that enemies clamber around the environments adds another layer to familiar FPS combat. Enemy gangs each have a theme, which also affects their weaponry, but we really enjoyed how they simply have different movement styles. The Ghost clan used acrobatics to run at us, somersault, and suddenly spring up and swing from the ceiling. The Jackals make use of ziplines and perform captivating handstand-slides along railing. This adds not only an element of novelty to each enemy type, but it also changes their silhouettes, meaning that the way we tracked targets constantly changed throughout the game.
Above: The crossbow is also a cool stealth weapon, with electro-bolts, dynamite bolts, and our favorite, the mind-control bolts, which turn your enemies into walking bombs under your control
Rage also mixes it up with it comes to shooter conventions. You can save the game anywhere, but there’s also regenerating health and even a defibrillator that gives you a free “extra life” every few minutes. With so many ways to avoid death, the game is able to increase the threat level of enemies. That said, with so many tools to save your ass in a pinch, the game isn’t particularly difficult on Normal. If you’re decently skilled at first-person shooters and want a challenge, we’d suggest starting the game on Hard mode.
The most graphics ever?
Rage sports something called the megatexture – it uses a single texture for the entire game and then continuously streams it. The result is a world without repeating tiles and also a bit of magic: for the console versions, you get a game that simply looks better than anything yet achieved this generation. Rage has the best-looking rocks we’ve ever seen, and man we never knew rocks could look so cool. As a side bonus, Rage has a framerate that just won’t quit – we’re talking 60 frames-per-second, no matter how amazing things look or how far the draw distance gets or how many enemies clog the screen. It’s just flat-out amazing what this tech has achieved. It’s not perfect, though: There is considerable pop-in where textures go from blurry to detailed.
Above: When the game looks good, which is most of the time, man does it look damn good
The problem with such graphical splendor? It raises the bar on what we expect from the game while we’re playing it. Everything here looks so ridiculously detailed that when the levels of detail pop in or don’t load properly and leave blurry textures, it stands out like crazy. Unfortunately, there seems to be a difference between PS3 and 360, and the odd part is, despite the PS3 having a mandatory install and the advantage of Blu-ray cramming everything on one disc, the pop-in is more noticeable than with 360’s optional install. Your worst bet is playing the 360 version without installing, however – and remember, it’s roughly 25gb to install.