Nothing kills the buzz of a fast-paced run-and-gun multiplayer shooter quite like not having anybody to shoot at. With its huge postapocalyptic battlegrounds and Mad Max-style vehicular-centric combat, Ravaged had a sanguine start that dried up too quickly as its already anemic player base hemorrhaged out across the empty wasteland. The intense blend of on-foot firefights and high-speed chases makes for some thrilling 32-on-32 battles when you can find enough folks to populate a server. Unfortunately, the severe lack of a dedicated player community to keep Ravaged afloat is a real problem--and it isn't the only one.
Large-scale matches pit the two warring groups--The Resistance and The Scavengers--against each other in brutal encounters that hinge on resource nabbing, full-scale base assaults, and territory capture. Controlling key points on the battlefield and stealing fuel in Resource Capture mode are great fun when you assemble a posse aided by crazy cobbled-together vehicles like whirligig helicopters, gun-toting dune buggies, and armored tanks. Hopping in and out of these sweet rides amid the chaos of dynamically shifting combat and sudden ambushes gives Ravaged a distinct hook that is blunted on the few maps where vehicles are nowhere to be found. Getting stranded out in the middle of a desolate stretch of the battlefield without a ride is a real drag, since it can take a long time to hoof it towards the action.
Despite their clear "good guy vs. bad guy" aesthetic, the two factions in Ravaged play exactly the same, save for some subtle differences in weaponry. Both sides have five classes to pick from, which only affects your character's appearance, movement speed, and general loadout. Classes touch on all the familiar bases, with a mix of light and medium soldiers, a sniper, a rocket-launcher-armed demolitionist, and a heavy machine gunner.
Aside from a few inventive secondary weapon designs like a green softball rigged with explosives and a wicked spiked baseball bat, there's little to get excited about in the armaments department. The weapons have some nice postapocalyptic nuances like graffiti scrawl and a general MacGyvered look to them that fits the setting, but they're otherwise painfully generic in function and variety. Classes follow suit too. There is no experience or progression system at play, and the game lacks the kind of depth and draw that keep you glued to other online shooters.
Instead, vehicles are the big draw in Ravaged, and they almost save the day. Fantastic designs make you feel like a real badass when jumping into the driver's seat or hanging on as a gunner. Smaller rides like dune buggies and the quad- and tri-wheeled ATVs are lightning fast and contrast nicely with the more heavily armed jeeps, the tank-like assault vehicle, and the iconic machine-gun-toting hot rod. Responsive, realistic handling gives vehicles an authentic feel, though it also makes for some spectacular wipeouts too.
Ravaged is at its best when you're locked in high-speed vehicle chases, exchanging explosive gunfire between deadly motorcades, or racing behind enemy lines for a surprise assault before your opponents have time to react. The ultra-fast pace these rides add to battles keeps you moving and can shift the conflict far across the map within seconds.
Helicopters are the most interesting addition to the motorized fray. These death birds can rain down hell on the battlefield with rockets and guns. Unfortunately, their contribution to the vehicular manslaughter is rocky at best, because it's too much of a pain to keep them airborne. Piloting a chopper or the more rickety light heli is a dizzying, disorienting affair that suffers from finicky controls. It takes a ton of patience and practice to be able to fly one properly, and even then, you wind up crashing to the earth in a ball of flame and debris more often than not. It's one of the rare cases in gaming where "realistic" doesn't always equate to "better."
Ravaged ranks among the best-looking online shooters, which makes its flaws and weak player base all the more disappointing. Visually distinct settings offer faint traces of familiar landmarks--such as the Statue of Liberty's severed head resting in a dried-up New York City harbor or the Eiffel Tower buried in an icy tundra--only everything has clearly gone to hell due to some unexplained apocalyptic meltdown. Beyond their impressive designs, the maps are massive, with lots of open space for exciting large-scale vehicle chases to unfold. Many smaller nooks and crannies found near bases also provide good stopping points to hide in ambush or battle away on foot. What stinks is that you won't have the opportunity to battle across the more stunning maps simply because they're not being played.
When it first launched, Ravaged hovered around an average of 150 players online at any given time--pitiful in comparison to similar games, but still playable. That has since whittled down to about two dozen steady players, and almost all of them are playing the demo version, which cycles through the same map over and over again. The limited number of maps and meager pair of game modes are heavily impacted by the lack of a strong community. With some fine-tuning to make the classes more interesting and a broader player community to face off against, Ravaged would be a lot more fun. As it is now, this postapocalyptic shooter is a deserted wasteland.