Gorgeous, richly detailed world; buttery-smooth enemy and NPC animation; fun, satisfying shooting; weapons feel "right."
Driving gets stale; controls not optimized for keyboard/mouse; not much to do in "open" world.
Before Rage was released there were a lot of unanswered questions floating around. Could Id make another genre-defining shooter? Would the six-plus years of development and the much-touted Id Tech 5 engine yield a sufficiently impressive result? While these are certainly appropriate questions for both reviewers and gamers to be curious about, we found ourselves haunted by another, seemingly trivial, question: What does the title Rage mean? Only after playing completely through could we truly understand.
Rage pulls off an impressive feat: It manages to have a lot of personality despite having minimal character. While you may not care about the paper-thin story or remember any character names, you’ll probably notice something unique in just about every NPC—the grizzled‑yet‑vaguely lonely face of the mute knife mini-game guy, the windstick girl’s exuberantly animated hand gestures and bubbly voice, the too-cool-for-school posturing of the town tough guy as he leans against a wall. The devil is in the details, and Rage gets the details right.
This subtle depth is mirrored in Rage’s gameplay. First off, the weapons “feel right.” The shotgun has just the right amount of spread, kickback, and stopping power. The assault rifle strikes the perfect balance between rate of fire and recoil. What’s more, the game manages to keep every weapon useful and relevant throughout by providing numerous alternate ammo types. You can transform your humble pistol into a mighty magnum or miniature sniper rifle with the right rounds, or even change your crossbow from a silent killer to a mind control device.
Rage’s visuals have an equal amount of depth, but nothing there is subtle. The Id Tech 5 engine is on full display, providing a smooth frame rate while maintaining a stunningly high level of detail and draw distance in its lovingly crafted environments.
These environments are further enhanced by how the enemies interact with them. Not content to simply duck behind cover, enemies will move around in truly organic fashion—hopping off walls, vaulting over debris, clambering along pipes, and hanging from guard rails. These fully articulated animations meld seamlessly with the game’s damage and physics engines to create a real sense of weight, inertia, and natural motion as enemies juke, stumble, and flip back in reaction to your shots.
That’s not to say the game isn’t without some stumbles of its own. Rage uses an extremely nonintuitive keyboard/mouse control setup. Toggling between weapons is simple enough, but trying to switch ammo types or assign quick-use items is a bit of a chore, and clearly designed with controllers in mind.
The game’s driving portions, while technically proficient, feel like little more than filler material between missions. Worse, the world you drive through is just open enough to make you want to explore it, but not big or fleshed-out enough to actually support that. By the time we’d finished the game (about 12 hours to do just about everything the game had to offer), we had little desire to jump into the driving battle rallies that serve as the game’s only competitive multiplayer options.
So, what then does the game’s name mean? Absolutely nothing. Then why “Rage”? Well, it’s short, it’s snappy, it’s angry, but most importantly, it just looks and sounds cool. And that’s exactly what Rage the game is about: It’s about looking and sounding cool; it’s about headshots, driving fast, and blowing stuff up. And while it might feel shallow at times, this rule-of-cool philosophy permeates every aspect of Rage’s design—from the fast, flashy gunplay, to the lavishly animated enemies, to the ludicrously detailed environments. The result is a game that’s fun as hell but probably won’t leave a lasting impression on either gamers or the shooter genre.