8.5

Rage looks and sounds incredible with a post-apocalyptic near-future setting that is both grim and gorgeous to behold...

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Contains: Strong Bloody Violence, Language and Moderate Horror
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Rage is a post-apocalyptic, semi-open world First-Person shooter with RPG and racing elements.

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STORY - 2/5
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After an asteroid impacts Earth, humanity attempts to rebuild. Sheltered in cryogenic lifeboats known as Arks, survivors emerge years after impact to a devastated planet where some of mankind survived in struggling settlements or murderous bandit clans, while horrific mutants roam the dead city, and the hostile bandits own the dirt roads across the area, outside of the rotting city limits. And a mysterious tyrannical government is on the hunt… for you.

Though Rage is a multi-award winner, the story is nothing more than filler to get you from beginning to end, mission to mission. You never feel captivated by the struggles in the near-future crisis at hand caused by the violent threat of local bandits that keep people in hiding, or the constant conflict raging between the rebel survivors and the pain-in-the-ass group known as the Authority, thus leaving you uninterested in the fate of the people you aid, and eventually able to comprehend the lack of nominations for this rather weak plot despite the promising premise of post-apocalyptic survival and revival for humanity.

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CHARACTERS - 3/5
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Since you play a silent protagonist, you rely entirely on the characters to fill you in on information on missions and updates in the plot, but playing a speechless character never feels like you aren't involved, and it's deemed a suitable decision that works throughout the game, and never provoking the attention that being unable to talk is a bad thing. Each character you encounter is welcomingly different from the last thanks to the very well varied character models and the strong performances from the actors that voice them. Some are forgettable, but some contacts are gratefully charismatic and are an enjoyable mixture ranging from wacky to serious, each with different personalities that separate them nicely from the last person you spoke to.

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GAMEPLAY - 5/5
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Rage is a semi-open world game, meaning while you are free to explore the wasteland and choose missions at your own leisure, there isn't a wide berth outside of settlements to truly explore, but rather travel about in your own time whilst taking in the sights of the broken planet. The missions take you to really great locations, but once in the mission area it's basically a linear path to your objective, whilst collecting bits and pieces on your way. Rage would have benefited by expanding on the open world concept, with Role-playing perhaps playing a more prominent, in-depth role to how you play. But as it is, Rage succeeds at tackling a wide range of genres such as FPS and horror, and successfully corrupts your social life by becoming addictive, dragging you into a very well made game that establishes a lot of solid elements inspired from popular movies and video games of the past aswell as some of the developer's previous titles.

Missions are accepted in chronological order corresponding with plot progression, with the exception of optional tasks available on job boards in towns and the miscellaneous objective of destroying enemy vehicles in the wasteland which is unlimited and pays handsomely. The cost of travelling with a set of wheels is being assaulted en route to your destination by the bandits that control what's left of the roads, but consideration beforehand will lead to victory instead of defeat. Rage doesn't just compete in the FPS, RPG and Horror genre, but also attempts and mildly exceeds at forming a decent racing component. Vehicular combat out in the wastes is inevitable and inescapable, therefore having a vehicle armoured and equipped with various weaponry and hi-tech gadgets makes travelling about the hostile grounds beyond fortified towns much more comfortable knowing you can confidently dispose of any threats posed at you and your ride. At some point in the campaign you'll get the chance to compete in race events, giving you certificates that are used to upgrade and customise your vehicle with a selection of cool stuff. From upgrading your buggy's engine power, or adding deadly spikes to the wheels of your brute-like Monarch, you'll come to learn there is no prize for second place, nor for non-aggressive competitors looking for a respectable clean win without butting heads with rival racers striving for poll position.

Once out on the track, you'll notice the racing formulae is a satisfying combination of Burnout, Motorstorm and Blur, and offers fiery thrills and explosive mayhem. Leading the pack in non-combat events may seem easy, but trailing in the rocket races is where the action kicks in with a lethal attitude. As you race for first place around the tracks (3 laps) numerous pick ups will be available such as boost refill and ammunition for your mounted weapons (rockets or minigun bullets), and to further enthral racing fans you have specific items given to you beforehand to use on slowing down your competitors or sending them crashing into a ball of flames, sprawling wreckage across the track. From shields that protect you from all incoming attacks for a limited period, drop mines that deal out damage to the unlucky vehicle that drives over it, or aftershocks that send out a powerful wave of energy and hurls nearby opponents off course, there is much to consider when leading and trailing respectively in order to flourish in the rewarding events. But Rage proves far more adept when it comes to shooting, and throughout your handed missions you'll definitely engage in a lot of shooting action from the first-person perspective.

The quests themselves are the best part about Rage, as you not only find yourself in absolutely amazing environments coated with dark detail, but the RPG elements come into play. The looting system is straightforward but neatly presented, and the inventory menus are made for simple navigation where you can assign weapons and items to a quick-use menu for easy selection during the midst of combat. Throughout the area you'll come across a wide variety of random items that are useless to you, but still have a price for the vendors back in town, and so gathering these miscellaneous things (empty gas canisters, tools, canned food etc.) is a worthwhile distraction from just running forward without investigating each corner. All the nooks and crannies look inviting, and intrepid explorers will more often than not be rewarded in some form of worthwhile item(s). Sometimes you may find a rare collectors card used in a mini-game, salvage cloth rags that can be combined with another item to make bandages, or perhaps eagerly pick up a grenade you were low on. Enemies (with the exception of mutants) can be looted aswell, giving you much needed money and ammo you'll need for the future. Either way, your inventory doesn't have a limit, so you can collect constantly without worrying about managing your collection and dropping certain things.

A big part of the experience is the ability to engineer a wide assortment of things. If you have the schematic or recipe, and then also have the parts required, you'll be able to make something. This is where salvaging lots of the random bits and pieces you found out in the wasteland or on a mission comes in mighty handy, or else you'll have to rely on purchasing the parts from a vendor for an expensive price, and lose your money that could have gone towards armour and weapon upgrades, aswell as unique ammo types that don't require engineering. From bandages that replenish your health should you come close to death, rare and explosive ammo types that are difficult to find or expensive to buy, lock grinders that open secret doors that contain many rewards, and to a clever variety of mechanical toys like a spider drone, sentry turret and remote control bomb car, there is lots to consider at all times, and definitely enough to keep you from feeling bored, and collecting things feeling an unnecessary chore as you concoct all sorts of meaningful items that aid you and hamper your enemies. In-between the quiet moments of admiring the art design and exploring your surroundings, you'll be engaging in exciting gunfights that is the core solid component of Rage. The exotic arsenal of cool weapons you'll acquire over time is very impressive, each gun coming with unique ammo types that keep even the pistol amongst your favourites for the powerful ammunition you can soon build and use. There's a powerful submachine gun, a stealthy crossbow with ammo that includes dynamite bolts and mind-control darts, and a beefy shotgun to blow chunks off of foes that are too close to the barrel. Each weapon is fun to shoot and has benefits depending on the type of situation you find yourself perilously caught in, making Rage a very awesomely crazy shooter with big explosions and gory kills. Foes within the radius of a grenade disintegrate completely while accurate placing of lethal firepower provides an equally gross, bloody mess. When enemies poke out of cover, blast their heads into showers of repulsive red goo, releasing a gratifying sense of violent accomplishment as you chain multiple headshots in quick succession, subsequently splattering the surroundings with brain matter, and scarring the environment with more grim detail than there was originally.

Shooting is all good fun, but one nifty invention to use is just as deadly when thrown correctly. It's called a Wingstick, and you can purchase or engineer as much as you like should you be willing to pay or piece together certain materials, and having lots of them makes it all too entertaining during an onslaught of unarmed hostiles wanting to bludgeon you to death. By aiming the crosshair over a target, and then releasing the trigger, you'll launch one of these and watch it home in your target even if they attempt to avoid it, and the result is usually bloody and satisfying. Decapitating foes, both mutant and human, using the trusty, deadly boomerangs exhibits gracious amounts of satisfaction, ensuring that a sharp pull on the trigger from any of the exotic weapons you've acquired isn't always necessary to end a life. Rage excels at it's futuristic elements that are thrown in for good measure, and universally provides glee all-round. Other ideas are also created well (becoming a tendency for Rage by now) and an innovative and entertaining take on a clichéd survival concept arena mode known as Mutant Bash TV has been constructed to earn big money prizes, at the same time yearning for higher amounts of cash based on accuracy and time completion, while plenty of mini games are available to bet in which winning is about luck or skill, and occasionally a bit of both. Whatever it is you do in the setting, whether it be racing for prizes on the circuits or shooting your way towards an objective, Rage's gameplay is monumentally outstanding.

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GRAPHICS - 4/5
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Rage is one of the best looking games of all time, containing remarkable graphics that stun both technically and mesmerise artistically, and while it could have done with texture blemishes absent, it's hard to fault the sights you see in Rage's desolate futuristic outlook on humanity, which is an experience worth remembering where your feelings constantly get elevated above expectation for this miraculous shooter and the realism it beholds in it's art. Darkness never befalls in Rage's derelict setting, and so the brightness from the sun really illuminates all the incredible amounts of detail within the environments to the extent that the canyon rock faces (as you explore on foot or notice while driving recklessly past) look almost photorealistic outside. And then a grim trip to Dead City reveals the true nature of the devastated planet, providing in-your-face glimpses to the mutant threat savaging what's left, and the gory imagery is something of a vile, yet convincing, spectacle that holds the potential to create a nauseating effect upon viewing or passing up close. As pools of blood ripple with each footstep trodden through it, and grotesque innards of late victims smother surfaces and slimily drip above you as you wearily pass underneath the red substance, you begin to comprehend the real side to the repulsive aftermath of pestilence, famine, war and death.

Outstanding presentation gives everything style to the way it's showcased to the player, and from the classy and easy to operate inventory menus, on-screen item management and rewards, cool display for each quest proposal, and various mini-games, Rage is uniformly perfect when it comes to how it presents its hard worked efforts. Thanks to detailed character models and one of the finest animation systems seen in recent technological advances, Rage performs extremely well during gameplay, where fluid animations string together convincingly to ensure that you are immersed within the hostile world.

At the expense to establish some of the finest visuals within an apocalyptic world featuring no evident framerate interferences, Rage sadly sacrifices the quality of the textures to be so profound visually. In this case, severe slow-loading texture issues (a relatively uncommon problem in the majority of games) that are highly noticeable for those of you who go inspecting the visual design for any manner of negativity. It's distracting to the point that it breaks the immersion and isn't easy to overlook, and while it can be ignored once you get absorbed into Rage's fantastic setting and begin to marvel at the graphics and environment backdrops, it is something that can't be forgotten, nor extinguished as a fact, and requires mentioning for how strongly it proves apparent right from the offset to potentially derail your first impressions in the wrong direction.

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SOUND - 5/5
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Solid voice acting is essential when trying to create a diverse cast of charismatic characters, and the performances throughout Rage are excellent. While no characters are strikingly memorable, very few can be tagged as forgettable either, and the good match of voice talents suit the charisma or serious traits of the personalities from loads of decent characters you encounter on your journey of discovery. The sound design is just as essential during heated combat segments, and the soundtrack that varies in each mission is brilliant, manipulating you with good intentions to further fuel your engrossment and keep the excitement at fever pitch when blood and bullets are flying in all directions. To summarise, the sound department is solid, with the influential voice acting, dramatic and menacing audio, and pulse-pounding sound effects hitting the right marks when needed.

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ATMOSPHERE - 4/5
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Rage's sandbox design doesn't offer as much freedom to traverse as the 'open world' sub-genre tag might imply, but what it lacks in sprawling environments it more than makes for its post-apocalyptic atmosphere that is brimming with intense details that give you good reason to give caution when traversing the now hostile surface of a once vastly populated planet. The missions provide the best opportunities to get sucked into the gritty atmosphere, enveloping you in a sense of dread and unease as mutants hunt you down, or bandits wait to spring their trap on you, and each area is detailed beyond believability if you forget about the texture loading mishap.

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ENEMY AI - 4/5
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Among everything, the animations are what delivers the realistic behaviour and impressive intelligence during this first-person shooter, and you'll be in awe at the way the different kind of enemies react and utilise the environment in smooth animations that never show a broken link between motions. Bandits and Authority soldiers frequently take up wise cover positions, occasionally mention a word of warning to allies on the type of weapon you're wielding, and rarely make mistakes with their aim and environmental awareness. The mutated hostiles of the wastes crawl out of the woodwork, scamper along walls, and create a sense of absolute isolation and terror with the impressive animations that never look out of place and connect freely with each other as they close in on you carnivorous intent.
Sometimes human enemies don't stay loyal to the piece of cover they selected, leading to occasionally awkward instances that leave their armoured figure vulnerable and their intellect questionable. But nevertheless worthy adversaries who are smart and fluid in motion, with smooth transitions in-between animations and keeping disjointed moments at an important low level of occurrence to justify their behaviour and actions in combat. Noteworthy moments of enemy intelligence include the scenes in which they are merely patrolling the area. If you remain undetected and use stealth, you'll continue to go unnoticed. But if you happen to be in their line of sight or within their eyesight radius, they won't just react and start shooting like in many games, but instead will glance towards you realistically, and then their stance will change and they'll shout for assistance because of a trespasser. This goes to show that giving away your position is likely your own fault, and not an AI mishap. In conclusion, the enemy intelligence levels are very impressive and convey the correct behaviour for the associated situation with the aforementioned animation technology working its magic delightfully.

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LENGTH - 5/5
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Rage's rich single player story mode will likely take up to, or over, 20 hours depending on how much you appreciate or care about the role-playing looting system elements that encourage thorough exploration. The optional race events and side mission jobs will also increase your play time, but it's the main missions that you'll enjoy the most in your experience.

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REPLAY VALUE - 3/5
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Rage is definitely a game worth playing again, and despite the fact the role-playing elements are never expanded upon by implementing a speech system for moral quandaries, the loot system bypasses the time and gets you addicted like any good RPG-related game should. Unfortunately you'll have to get used to saving frequently however, as Rage almost entirely relies on manual saving with the only auto save function coming into play when travelling to different areas, which can prove a major problem if you get too engrossed in the action, forget to save game, and then fall victim to a death before your defibrillator had time to recharge and save your life, resulting in significant progress lost.

Within a crowded market of First-Person Shooters, Rage's efforts prove enormously positive to make it stand out from the crowd. It's pulse-pounding gunplay, phenomenal visual design, and uniformly impressive animations and presentation enforce the belief of what open world game's are capable of, with the only drawback (to note specifically) being the frequent and noticeable slow-texture loading issues which drag down the technical side of the graphics and break the immersion of the post-apocalyptic atmosphere it so well creates. It lingers and persists on hampering your immersion, and is annoying to say the least, but still, nothing can take away the accomplishment in the breathtaking backdrops that at times look real. The story also lacks qualities to get your attention and feel emotionally entangled in the characters problems, but where that fails, the semi-open world of Rage succeeds at sustaining your attention. Overall, Rage is an amazing game and deservedly earns it's place in this years Game of the Year nominees.

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OVERALL SUMMARY - 8.5/10
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Good Points: Phenomenal graphics offer some of the best sights you'll ever see on current-gen systems, Some charismatic characters with excellent voice acting, Vehicular combat and racing provides fiery thrills and explosive mayhem, Uniformly outstanding presentation and sound design, Very fluid animation system makes for some highly impressive enemy responses, Exciting gunplay with a likeable arsenal of exotic guns and gadgets.

Bad Points: Severe slow texture-loading issues are distracting and provide a poor first impression, Drab storyline that fails to get your attention.

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