Fortunately, you have plenty of firepower available to help you avoid death and possible loss of progress. The shooting mechanics are solid, and though the guns in Rage's arsenal are fairly conventional, each one fires with a nice sense of weight. Things get interesting when you incorporate the many weapon-specific ammunition types, such as one that can turn your humble pistol into a powerful hand cannon. Some types merely deal more damage, while others add an extra explosive or electrical kick. The latter are helpful for taking down mechanical enemies, while the time delay on the former lets you take sinister delight in watching your enemies realize they are about to explode. Enemies in Rage die with style; some crawl on the ground, mortally wounded but still trying to kill you, while others lose limbs, heads, or complete corporeal integrity. Though it can be odd to fill an enemy with bullets and have him react only to the last one, Rage's visual prowess still adds an extra kick to these brutal kills.
When you're not engaged in firefights or friendly conversation, you spend a lot of time driving around the Wasteland. The various four-wheeled vehicles you come to own are fun to whip around in, and the stunning scenery is a constant source of enjoyment. As you drive from one area to the next, the quality of light changes based on the scenery, creating a nice sense of travel. Bandits frequently come after you, and with the application of firepower, expendable items, and some judicious ramming, you assert your vehicular dominance. There are items for field repairs if you take too much damage, and if you find yourself about to explode (or hung up on a rock or guardrail), you can call for a tow and instantly travel back to the nearest town for a reasonable price. You can upgrade your ride or earn a new set of keys by racing on the Wasteland circuit, but your opponents rarely put up enough of a fight to force a photo finish. The car improvements are worth your time, but if you want a tough race, the competitive online multiplayer is the place to go.
In Road Rage, up to four racers can compete in a few different modes that reward good driving and skilled shooting. Some are straight-up demolition derbies, while others require you to grab fallen meteors or race through checkpoints while avoiding your opponents' onslaughts. Road Rage is a fairly shallow experience, despite the variety of cars and weapons that you unlock as you level up, but it's a worthwhile diversion if you crave competition. You can also team up online in two-player cooperative missions that are very similar to some of the solo missions you embark on in the campaign. These so-called Legends of the Wasteland are nicely bookended by voice-overs that make you feel like your exploits will be talked about for years to come. In these stand-alone sorties, you must make do with a preset loadout and whatever you can find in the environment, killing enemies while trying to avoid damage in order to preserve your score multiplier. These are solid challenges to overcome, but with only nine missions, they're more of a nice bonus than a compelling reason to play.
That honor belongs to the lengthy campaign, which can last upward of 20 hours for avid racers and diligent questers. Though the story gets a bit too cliched, there is a robust amount of adventuring to be done in a world that rewards you for your attentions. Rage is a beautiful game that looks equally stunning with or without the hefty installation (which reduces the load times and is optional on the 360 but required on the PS3), so regardless of which platform you play on, you'll find a rich and rewarding adventure that sets a new visual standard for the postapocalyptic wasteland.