-- id Software, the legendary game development studio responsible for Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake, is back with its most ambitious offering to date: Rage.
This latest game delivers a huge, exhilarating and gratifying adventure - but a few technical glitches and missing multiplayer modes prevent it from being a perfect pick.
The cinematic opening sequence introduces the premise: In the near future, an asteroid pummels the planet and forces humankind to start all over again. In a desperate attempt to preserve the human race, you are one of a few important people cryogenically frozen to help rebuild earth after the fallout. Problem is, the "Ark" facility malfunctioned and you're the only survivor; you must band together with survivors of the impact in this post-apocalyptic world and become a key player in keeping the bandits and mutants at bay.
Unlike id Software's past games - straightforward first-person shooters - Rage folds many other genres into the mix, such as racing (you'll acquire and upgrade dune buggies to navigate the desert Wasteland), and role-playing, including an inventory system, weapon upgrades, stores to buy and sell items and plenty of side jobs. Exploration is also encouraged, with many collectibles to find. This "kitchen sink" approach works by offering lots of gameplay variety, all tied together by the story, enormous world and variety of missions (many of which are given to you by a scruffy character voiced by John Goodman).
Combat plays the most significant role, however, with many powerful weapons to wield — from guns, grenades and crossbows to boomerang-like Wingsticks and RC Bomb Cars that can detonate nearby enemies. You can also use stationary Sentry Turrets and crawling Sentry Bots that automatically fire at nearby baddies. If you die, you might be able to resurrect yourself on the spot by performing some quick maneuvers on your controller, otherwise you'll need to load from the last checkpoint or saved game slot. On that note, be sure to save often as this game is tough - especially as the computer-controlled enemies react very intelligently.
Given id's heritage, it's no surprise Rage ships with many multiplayer options, including cooperative (co-op) and competitive game modes.
There are many vehicle-based modes to play with friends online, including the Capture the Flag-like Meteor Rally, where you'll collect fallen meteors and drive them to capture zones to score. But many shooter fans may be disappointed to learn there's no Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch options for "kill or be killed" on-foot action.
Visually, the game looks phenomenal, with high-definition characters and expansive towns and desert patches, but this huge and near photorealistic world comes at a price: frequent and long load times you'll need to sit through.
The Xbox 360 version ships on three discs — two for the single-player game and one for multiplayer - which might also be a drag for some. (The PlayStation 3 version fits the entire game on its higher-capacity Blu-ray disc). There are random graphical oddities, too, a helmet, for instance, sometimes appears to be floating on the ground after it's shot off an enemy's head. And why do fallen weapons disappear after two seconds when enemies stay on the ground? It doesn't make sense to spend so much effort to create a realistic world with incredible graphics when these little things break the immersion.
Overall, however, Rage is an extraordinary solo and multiplayer adventure that surely won't disappoint demanding gamers. There's a lot riding on this game - given id Software's reputation, not to mention how long it took to release this game - but they've managed to pull it off with style, speed and intensity.
Platform: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, PC
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Web site: rage.com
Score: 3.5 stars (out of 4)
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