Friday, 18 May 2018

RAGE (2011) Review and RAGE 2 (2019) Preview - Burnin', Lootin', Rapin' & Shootin'


Note: This review is part of my reviews which I publish directly onto my Facebook Page, and are intended to be quick-fire projects.

The gameplay trailer for RAGE 2 has been revealed, and thus far it appears to have embraced the anarchic punk ethos which the 1st RAGE kept at arm’s length. RAGE 2 looks set to take the post Mad Max setting (the emergence of New civilisation jostles with skull and metal wearing bandits), and combine it with the DOOM reboot’s gameplay. The end result is set to be loud, fast, and colourful: the Fury Road of gaming. Everything the original should have been.

Most importantly, it looks FUN. Yes, a FUN game is being made: in a foreign brothel somewhere, an EA executive has choked to death on his own coke-vomit.

RAGE 2 in a nutshell

All this isn’t to say that I didn’t like the original game (released for consoles in 2011 and was the first new IP from id Software for quite some time). It’s just that, despite the wild apocalypse-punk aesthetic and furious gunplay, the game had the character of a Mumford & Sons gig. RAGE had this Marmite thing going on. Not a ‘you either love it or hate it' deal. But rather, that it was brown, bland, and probably had a funny taste to it should you eat the disc.

RAGE is a First Person Shooter which takes place in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Probably America, 100 years after an asteroid destroyed most of everything. It’s one of those weird post-apocalyptic settings where no one particularly struggles, and rocking babes can walk around covered in sauce pans and bits of metal and not get raped to death. However, whilst the majority of the human race got to discover what happens when the rocks fall (hint: everyone dies), a select few were placed into cryogenic sleep.

You (no, not you you) awaken from your slumber to discover the world as you knew it has gone; everyone you know is dead; bandits, cannibals, rapists, and mutants, rule the land; and an encroaching technocratic authority called...The Authority (Fuck it, let’s just call them the Galactic Empire) is attempting to bring everything heel. Instead of doing the sensible thing and braining your traumatised ass, you grab a gun and kick ass with John Goodman. By which I mean you do endless fetch quests for John Goodman’s character for the 1st third of the game.

Immediately it was apparent that RAGE wasn’t quite the game it was hyped up to be. It can best be described as a cross between two other video game series - Borderlands and Fallout. But being a early open world shooter, RAGE hadn’t quite got to grips with the idea that open world meant giving the player stuff to do. In RAGE the open world got you from A to B to sometimes C. The maps were quite small and locations were reused regularly. Most objectives boiled down to: 'go here and kill this fool covered in skulls and metal', or 'go here and collect X'. The main side quests weren’t much better. Mere distractions such as Death Race 2000 style racing (which was so shit, players avoided it like a man holding a puppy outside of a windowless van), and post-apocalyptic parlour games like five finger fillet and one of those weird Magic: The Gathering style card games (in which someone has apparently taken the time to make cards out of people they have encountered).

But the main issue with the maps was that if you’ve seen one square meter of post-apocalyptic landscape, you’ve seen them all. I already know what ruined industry and destroyed communities look like RAGE: I’m from the North of England.

Just your average blue collar UKIP and Brexit supporting Northerner (RAGE) 

And yet for all its bland and repetitive world and missions, there was something I quite enjoyed about RAGE. Maybe because the setting mixed Mad Max style tribal murderers with Metro 2033 mutants, and threw in a shades of Blade Runner. Like a version of Borderlands created for non-autistics. It wasn’t have good as it could have been, but then it wasn’t as bad as it could have been either. RAGE 2 looks to build on the first RAGE and give it that oomph it desperately needed. It’s chaotic looking, outlandish, and colourful. It’s punk as imagined by middle-aged marketing guys.

Still, failings aside, RAGE can be praised for its technical workings and gameplay. Not the shitty vehicular combat, though. It was certainly a beautiful game: something which I believe is now known as the Amanda Knox defence. The backdrop and sky were one big texture (a mega texture) which meant that, whilst static, they looked the business. And the NPC animations, particularly if an enemy was killed or injured, were amazingly varied and detailed. Unrivalled by most modern games, in fact. To this end, the arsenal choice (from explosive pistols, to Super Shotguns, to pulse rifles, to crossbows and weaponised fidget spinners) was absolutely on point. Unsurprising, given its pedigree (Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein).

If the game had been called something else, people may have been kinder to it. But calling your post-apocalypse game RAGE is setting up expectations you just can’t meet. It’d be like having an online dating profile with a bio which claims that you fuck like a shark.


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