Id Software, the team behind Rage, sure likes Mad Max. The mucky fingerprints of the Mel Gibson-fronted series are everywhere in Rage. Its post-apocalyptic desert wastes, caused an asteroid strike, are full of rusted industrial detritus and savage punk tribes roaming around in souped-up dune buggies and quad bikes. We wouldn’t be shocked if Tina Turner emerged from the ruins and started warbling.
Our hero (the one Ms Turner presumably doesn’t need) is something of a disappointment. He’s a speechless and nameless man who wakes from cryogenic storage more than a century after the asteroid strike and, rather than having questions, he simply drives around meeting static characters who dole out missions with all the humanity of an ATM.
But while these characters are only too eager to ask you to do their bidding, few provide any context or compelling arguments about why you should help them (rather than, say, head out into the wasteland and become a gibbering bondage punk). This lack of narrative means Rage often lacks the drama needed to pull or push you onwards and that’s a great shame because when Rage gets down to business it’s as mightily good a first-person shooter as you’d expect from the creators of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein.
The trigger-happy action at the heart of Rage is id at its very best, offering precise, explosive and exciting bullet-powered action. The weapons have an oomph that’s lacking in most shooters and there’s plenty of scope for inventive attacks using killer toys such as crossbow darts that give you control of enemies and the deadly wingstick boomerangs (did we mention that Mad Max was a big influence?).
Not that your enemies are dumb enough to sit around waiting to get shot. They change tactics, try to flank you, use the environment to their advantage and regularly retreat and regroup. There’s a good amount of variety too: raids on bandit encampments, trawls through mutant-infested cities and Mutant Bash TV, a kill-or-be-killed game show that recreates the arcade classic Smash TV in first-person shooter form.
Beyond the shooting there’s driving that echoes the rough and tumble of Sony’s MotorStorm games with its weaponised vehicles and dusty tracks. Players can also win points in races and time trial events that can be spent on enhancements such as better suspension, new paint jobs and rocket launchers.
In single-player mode the driving helps break up the gunning down of monsters and thugs, but it really comes into its own in multiplayer where players battle each other in demolition derbies of speed and ultra-violence. Which is just as well because Rage doesn’t do online first-person shooter multiplayer. The nearest on offer is a bunch of two-player co-op missions.
Driving isn’t the only distraction in single-player mode, however. There are a bunch of mini-games to play too including an addictive Top Trumps card game that stars monsters and tribes from the game. In fact most of Rage is damned good and that’s even before we start talking about the glorious id Tech 5-powered visuals with all its megatexture wizardry. It is a lean, unfussy and focussed game that suffers slightly from a weak story that saps it of the sense of purpose that should propel players through the game.