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Critical Reception: id Software's Rage

Gamasutra examines online reaction to id Software's post-apocalyptic shooter Rage, which reviewers describe as "a nice change of pace in a market filled with 'follow me' and pop-and-fire shooters."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to id Software's post-apocalyptic shooter Rage, which reviewers describe as "a nice change of pace in a market filled with 'follow me' and pop-and-fire shooters." Rage currently earns a score of 82 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Game Informer's Andrew Reiner scores Rage at 9 out of 10. "The name id Software rings of nostalgia. Franchises like Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake laid the groundwork for the first-person shooter genre, and I can still see their designs influencing many of today’s new releases," he begins. "Can the father of the FPS reemerge as the powerhouse it once was, or will it be playing catch-up to the genre’s latest trends? The answer is a little of both." Reiner is impressed with Rage's presentation quality. "The lengthy gestation period has produced one of the most technically sound shooters to date," he notes. "Rage roars at a constant 60 frames per second, offers sophisticated gunplay, and lights up the screen with an incredible level of graphical detail. "The game continually wowed me with its technology and small touches, such as every NPC having unique animations scripted to each word they utter, and an enemy being smart enough to recognize that the quickest path to the player’s location isn’t a winding path, but rather cutting the distance by jumping over fences." The narrative disappoints, however. "(Rage's silent protagonist is) the perfect accomplice to an uneventful narrative that slogs along with all the excitement of a dehydrated person slowly shuffling his feet in the wasteland’s sands," Reiner explains. "Just when it seems this story might produce a meaty plot thread, the game ends unexpectedly with no major confrontation or sense of victory leading up to it. The best comparison I can think of is if Star Wars ended with Obi-Wan lowering the Death Star’s tractor beam. Roll credits." "Rage’s story and overworld design feel dated, but its heart-pounding gunplay is a nice change of pace in a market filled with 'follow me' and pop-and-fire shooters," Reiner writes. "While light RPG elements are present, this is mainly a game for players who love challenging combat experiences." McKinley Noble at GamePro awards Rage 4 out of 5 stars. "For the most part, first-person shooters have evolved beyond your standard 'invisible man with a gun' games," he says. "However, id Software's Rage sometimes feels very much like a 1999 game with 2011 technology." "And that's not a bad thing, either," Noble continues. "In all honesty, Rage doesn't look that different from other scavenger worlds like Fallout or Borderlands. With so many games sharing similar environments, Rage almost doesn't do enough to separate itself from the pack without its branding." Rage manages to make itself distinct in a crowded space. "By far, Rage has one of the more memorable post-apocalypses I can remember, and the characters are what make the best impression," Noble praises. "Much of the single-player campaign usually involves running errands and collecting bounties for the various people you meet, and for the most part, the missions are diverse enough that they stay interesting without getting too repetitive." "Most surprising are the vehicle-based sections of the game," Noble adds. "In a word, they're fantastic. Once you upgrade from a simple dirt bike to a full-out buggy, you'll gain access to races, rallies, and vehicle combat missions that provide a significant break from the monotony. Not only are the driving physics easy to learn, they're a lot of fun when you're gunning down bandit buggies and boosting off of jumps." "About the only major issue I'll warn you about is the game's pacing," Noble writes. "Rage tends to peak in the middle, and the ending is a total letdown. You'll be expecting a nice boss encounter, but everything just abruptly ends at a weird point -- almost like the game suddenly realized it ran out of levels. But even as a rental, Rage is a game you should check out, minor issues aside. It ultimately doesn't live up to the hype, but this wasteland is definitely a fun experience while it lasts." Ray Barnholt at 1UP.com gives Rage a B grade. "In terms of video games, Rage is most easily compared with Borderlands or Fallout 3, but judging it entirely against those isn't fair," he asserts. "Whereas Borderlands was a quest-based FPS that had a few other RPG elements tossed in, Rage is a quest-based FPS and... not much else." "Granted, just because Rage isn't 'that' game or doesn't have 'this' feature, it doesn't have to be awful. As an FPS, it's mighty fun," Barnholt assures. "However, all of the encounters could stand to be a little more substantial. Your quests will mostly consist of: being sent to a gang or mutant hovel, sometimes defeat the leader, then exit where you came from, head back to town, and claim your reward. Passable, but almost always light on spectacle." Barnholt notes that Rage adopts a two-pronged approach to multiplayer. "On one prong is the vehicle-based part, though these aren't races," he describes. "A curious omission, but on the other hand, probably not the kind of multiplayer action Id would rather promote. Instead, the modes here are the 'rally' events: free-for-alls where you try to collect items or stay alive while having the most. In other words, a series of wars of attrition. Not to diminish them: these are the deathmatch-iest modes in the game, and are great fun with friends or strangers." "The other half of the multiplayer set is Wasteland Legends, a series of missions presented as stories from the wasteland's past, and involving different pairs of characters in otherwise identical areas as the campaign," Barnholt continues. "Had the campaign not been quest-based, it would have been much more preferable for co-op missions, but I'll take what I can get. As long as both players aren't kamikaze jerkoffs, you'll have just as much fun as in single-player." "It's understandable that people would expect a lot from Rage, being that it's made by Id, a developer whose entire history has been about dropping technology bombs that also have a fun FPS (and neat multiplayer) strapped onto them," Barnholt concludes. "Rage fits that mold snugly, but it's nothing revolutionary. It comes from a different kind of Id, one that would rather play with existing conventions than reinvent them. Conversely, it's the same Id that puts look and feel on the same high pillar, and it's impossible to call Rage badly-composed. I just don't think it's going to be remembered as anything but a sleeper hit of the fall of 2011."

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