The Wasteland is a dangerous place. Before you decide to spend your hard earned cash on a visit to this post-apocalyptic ruin, let’s take a closer look at id Software’s latest game.

Graphics 8.5/10 (Pre-patch) 9.5/10 (Post-patch)

Rage is stunning. Granted, its launch was marred by screen tearing and textures that would load a second or two after you moved your character around. However, even with those issues—which are now resolved on the PC thanks to a patch—Rage has an art style and graphics engine that is fluid, beautiful, and forgiving. Even on my very modest rig (Geforce 9600 GT, Intel Core 2 Duo 3.16ghz, and 4gb of ram), my framerate never dropped below 40fps with high to moderate settings. After the patch, however, the texture-work is much better, the framerate is a solid 60fps, and the screen doesn’t tear at all thanks to a smart V-sync feature.

The art style itself is a mixture between Borderland’s dusty landscapes, Fallout’s wreckage-laden highways, and any kind of steampunk art you’ve ever seen. The animation—both facial and body—is great and adds realism to the world; shooting a mutant in the arm while he charges you causes him to stumble, slow down just a bit, clutch his arm, and keep barreling towards you. It’s a joy to behold.

I also enjoyed watching Sally, the bartender, raise her eyebrows and curl her lips as she told me about the bandits who were terrorizing the Wasteland. That sounds a bit creepy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s a testament to the excellent art and programming teams at Id Software; here’s hoping that they licence out the Id Tech 5 engine to more developers.

Mesmerizing . . .

Sound 8/10

The voice work is pretty good overall; the characters each have their own personality, and you’ll recognize a few well know actors such as John Goodman, Phil Lamar, and Geoff Pierson. Unfortunately, a couple of these actors were used for multiple characters. I can understand if they were used repeatedly only for very minor characters, but a few quest givers had the same voices; the only difference was the actor made his voice gruffer or added a foreign accent.

The music is forgettable for the most part though the sleepy-town country music is a nice touch in Wellspring. The sound effects are great though. The splat that accompanies a head exploding never gets old. The guns also sound appropriately kickass, which lends them a solidity that I appreciated: when you shoot a rocket off, it sounds like it’s going to do massive damage. Finally, the roar of your engine or rat-tat-tat of your machine gun as drive across the wasteland in your car makes you feel pretty badass.

On the Highway to Hell!

Gameplay 8/10

Rage is fun. Whether you’re shooting a mutant in the head with a dynamite crossbow bolt or ramming into a Gearhead’s dune buggy with your own pimped out ride, Rage’s gameplay is visceral and enjoyable. The gunplay is especially satisfying since you have a large arsenal at your disposal with multiple ammo types. I also tend to use the shotgun more than any other weapon in FPS, but in Rage, I was using my entire arsenal to make heads explode.

BOOM! Headshot!

You can also take part in deathmatch style races in two of the game’s major cities. They’re basically a stripped down version or Mario Kart; each race is short and requires little skill to beat, but they’re main source of racing certificates, which you need to upgrade your cars with thicker armor or rocket launchers.

The crafting system is simple yet fairly enjoyable; like Fallout 3 and New Vegas, your character in Rage collects odds and ends from the Wasteland: electrical wires, nano-circuits, cloth, gears and other knick-knacks can be combined to make bandages to heal you, special ammo for your weapons, and “lockpicks” that grind sealed doors open.
I wish that I had gotten more use out of it though. You can go through the entire game without using a single bandage or crafting any ammo. Money is abundant enough that you can just buy whatever you need, the environment has a ton of items to pick up, and enemies drop enough ammo to keep yourself well stocked. I guess the same can be said of Fallout 3 and Borderlands, so it’s not an issue that’s unique to Rage.

Multiplayer is pretty fun but got boring fast, especially since I jumped in after I beat the main game. It’s basically a mix of special co-op missions and deathmatch racing variants. I’m not a huge racing fan, so my opinion is a bit more biased here; I got my fill of driving around in the single player races, so racing around, trying to collect feltrite ore, and blowing up other human drivers doesn’t appeal to me.

The co-op missions, however, fare better. It’s fun to mow down Russian Gearheads with a friend, earn points for killing enemies in style, and ranking up. The scoring system reminds me of a mix between Bulletstorm and Modern Warfare 2. I’m not sure how long the appeal will last since it’s basically just like the single player campaign except with a buddy. Only time will tell.

Story 4/10

Honestly, the story isn’t very compelling. You’re the only survivor of an Ark, a ship that was once submerged under the Wasteland but that has recently surfaced. The Authority, the oppressive, technologically advanced government that rules the Wasteland, wants to capture any and all Ark survivors.

You stay below the radar, helping townsfolk solve their problems and fighting mutants. Honestly, it’s just a vehicle to get you from point A to B. The story is thin and doesn’t develop into anything deep or worth remembering. The world is a pretty black and white place with no character growth by anyone. It doesn’t help that you’re a nameless survivor, but that wouldn’t be so bad if everyone around you was more interesting. True, the voicework and animation do a good job of making you believe that these characters are real, but real or not, I wouldn’t want to hang out with them. Real just doesn’t equal interesting. Again, the characters are just there to help move the story along.

Finally, the ending was WAY too abrupt. Halo 2 had a more satisfying ending than Rage. If there is a Rage 2 in the future, the ending didn’t leave me excited one bit to see what happens next.

Um, why am I helping you out again?

Overall Score: 8/10

I enjoyed my time in Rage’s Wasteland. It’s a fun, beautiful game that sounds great. However, the paper think story didn’t really keep my interest, and the ending left a lot to be desired. Also, it felt pretty damn short. My playtime clocked in at 12 hours, which included finishing all of the races and side quests, yet I still feel unfulfilled, like it was only a 4 hour journey. Maybe it’s a result of the abrupt ending.

Would I recommend Rage? Sure, particularly if you like blowing stuff up. Just don’t expect a deep or engrossing experience. The multiplayer is passable but really nothing special. There are better alternatives out there to fill your competitive or cooperative needs.

For those of you who have played Rage, share your thoughts below!