In 1993, id Software launched a game entitled Doom. It was a revolutionary title, one which not only paved the way for all of the third-dimensional first-person shooters that have flooded the PC and console gaming market ever since, but which also opened up the world to the incredible realm of something known as networked multiplayer gaming via a recently-inaugurated thingy we all used to refer to as the Information Superhighway (thank you, Al Gore) — an online phenomenon that has prevented many a lad (and lass) from developing an actual life ever since.
As I roared through the game’s blood-soaked levels, I couldn’t help but praise Doom as one of the all-time greatest titles — ranking it right up there with games such as the fantasy RPG Betrayal at Krondor (1993), the 8-bit post-apocalyptic RPGWasteland (1988), Leisure Suit Larry (1987) (the everlasting adventure game classic wherein you help a middle-aged loser get laid), and Doom’s bastard cousin from LucasArts, Star Wars: Dark Forces.
Now, while I’ve played a lot of great games since then — with titles like Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption — I’ve never been able to come across a game with that classic addictiveness that Doom was known for. Until now, that is. The latest endeavor from id — the strangely-christened Rage, formed with Bethesda Softworks — was initially announced in 2007. Four years on, we at long last have the finished product to enjoy.
And enjoy we do.
Set 106 years after a giant asteroid decimates civilization as we know it, Rage finds you as the sole survivor of a doomed Ark — ships that were buried under the surface of the Earth stocked with noteworthy human beings who would build a better tomorrow once awoken. Emerging prematurely from his long slumber, our nameless character is promptly rescued from a troop of mutants by Hagar: a colonist in the dusty rocky terrain known as the Wasteland.
Without so much as a single bit of questioning or soliloquizing on behalf of your character’s part, the Ark survivor immediately goes into action working for Hagar. Traveling about the Wasteland, you set about riding the world of its many lesser elements, such as bandits and mutants. Eventually, you learn that there are far more ghastly terrors disparaging the planet, namely a totalitarian government system called The Authority — an organization that is extremely keen to capture any and all Ark survivors in order to do who knows what with them.
As the story progresses, players travel to several other settlements, doing various odd jobs for Wasteland residents in exchange for items and/or dollars — all of which can be used at the shops of local vendors, who offer all sorts of goodies you can use in your quest to save the world. Or what’s left of it, rather. Vehicles can be tailored to your needs (or the harshness of the land) — as can weaponry (two words: dynamite bolts — shoot an Authority goon with one of these and then delight over the way they mumble “Aw, crap” shortly before exploding), you get to build new objects from schematics (providing you have the parts to do so), and you can even take part in races as well as play a few side games like a collectible card game with some locals from cards hidden all over the place.
While the battle scenes bring back the dynamic mood à la Doom (hey, I made a palindrome!), complete with bloody good carnage and stool-loosening scares on the behalf of a multiplicity of malevolent and malicious monsters, many of the other aspects in Rage are decidedly comparable to many of the other games we’ve all come to know and love. You get to roam the desolate, dangerous land in customized cars right out of a good ol’ ‘80s post-apocalyptic flick, interact with characters much like you would in RPGs, and even find pick up every shiny object you see just like Larry Laffer himself.
Now, honestly: with all that cool stuff, how could you possibly go wrong? Rage is an enthralling, thoroughly addictive game that kept me staying at home on my recliner for two solid days straight. While the story itself leaves a lot to be desired (and I mean a lot), the lack of any smooth level of narrative actually makes it that much easier for one to just let loose and have at it. I encountered an issue or two with the gameplay here and there (mainly just with the controls), but that’s easily forgivable given this amount of awesomeness.
My biggest qualm with the game, however, would be the finale. The last stage of Rage itself is far too easy even for the “Normal” setting of difficulty (which is the second of four levels), and, once the game is over, we just get the credits — no option to return to the Wasteland and continue doing various tasks for all the ill-fated denizens of the world. There is also an exclusive Anarchy Edition of the game available that gives players a few more optional items to toy around with, as well as a code for Downloadable Content (DLC) that enables you to enter the sewer systems. So far, the only multiplayer options include a racing match and bonus co-op missions — which is a pity, because I’m really wanting to frag my friends on this vast terrain.
Minor criticisms aside, this is a still damn fun game. It’s a lot like Doom in that sense, too: short on story, long on satisfaction. Oh, and speaking of Doom, there’s also a number of Doom references tucked away here, including an Easter Egg that teleports you to a very familiar-looking 16-bit Phobos topography (there’s also a weapon dubbed the “BFG”). You can also hear some opponents shouting out orders to frag you in some parts.
Rage is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: iPhone, Macintosh, Xbox 360, PC.