So I recently read the Ars Technica review of RAGE by Ben Kuchera (I'm sure his friends call him "the Kuch" or something obnoxious like that).
I had really been looking forward to playing Rage for quite some time. My previous experience with Id Software games has been really good. Doom 3 was an amazing piece of video game art.
As I read this review in Ars Technica though - my heart sank. "Oh nooo" I thought to myself. "How the mighty have fallen".
I debated whether or not I would even buy Rage after seeing its somewhat mediocre reviews and after reading the Kuchmeister's article, but I went for it. Because I like pretty shiny things.
When I put it in my X-Box, I was excited despite the reviews. I knew they had been working on the engine for several years and I was simply looking forward to the graphics even if the gameplay was mediocre.
But as I began to play Rage, I really felt betrayed. Not by Id Software; but by Ben Kuchera and Ars Technica and the entire video game journalism community. The first time I shot one of the Ghost Clan bandits(a type of enemy) I was surprised by how actively he dodged my bullets. He stumbled with every accurate shot and screamed obcenities as he ran towards me. Finally I landed a killing blow on his leg and it was torn out from under him. - "That was awesome" I thought.
After I killed the rest of the Ghost Clan I continued playing. Eventually, I made it to the main town of Wellspring. It was simply stunning. So much to look at. You could examine these models and textures forever. "There is so much character" I thought.
Needless to say, I was impressed with the entire game. I liked the simplified inventory system. I had recently played through Fallout 3 and I realized how boring and artificial Fallout 3 feels compared to this. Collecting all the garbage and trash - darn it - it's taking away from my shootin' time. (When you shoot characters in Fallout 3 they just kind of bounce off or something too so even that is not as exciting.)
And I looked forward to hearing each cantankerous character give me a mission in RAGE. Most of the missions are pretty straightforward (go invade some bunker). But they all fit into this cantankerous world.
Basically, I like Rage because it gets rid of all the fluff:
-the fake dialogue choices,
-the unnecessarily complex inventory,
-the companion bots that get stuck on protruding rocks,
-the characters that walk around aimlessly alternating between sleeping and staring at you,
-the "spontaneous" exploration that is really just a bunch of different destinations on a map that have no effect on one another,
-the STUPID morality system that boils down to how many "good guy" or "bad guy" points you can accumulate;
It does away with all those things. Rage just gets down to what really makes most games and especially FPS's fun: Cinematic quality action, atmosphere, and a beautiful world.
Why do we need all those other things? They are just a constant reminder to me of how complex actual human to human interactions are and how we have failed so far to succesfully simulate them in games or in AI. Banana.
So I decided to go reread the Ars Technica review. I couldn't remember the specifics of it - just that it was extremely negative. As I was looking through it though I realized how crappy of a review it was. It didn't really SAY anything. Most sentences could be reduced to "I didn't like it because it was pointless or fake".
"Here's how you can tell the creative team has checked out completely: the Resistance is the group fighting the Authority. The Authority seems to be bad, and no one has really explained why, but that's fine; you seem perfectly content to just slaughter whoever your new friends tell you deserves death. I'm seriously beginning to wonder if my character was also lobotimized at the beginning of the game." - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
But by that standard so many other games would suck.
Why do you fight terrorists in COD? BECAUSE THEY ARE BAD. We don't get a complex storytelling of how these terrorists lives were destroyed by foreign intervention. They are the bad guys. They want to hurt good people. Do you need an explanation to fight the bad guys? Do you want an anlysis of their childhood?
The Authority wants to control the lives of the people in this town of decent wasteland folk who don't want to be controlled. Same goes for Star Wars, the Borg, The Matrix, I could name a million others. What more do you need?
"There is also no dialog tree, but you have to click on characters repeatedly just to get them to talk. "Listen, I need a favor," someone will say to you, and then just stare at you stupidly until you click on them again." - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
OH MY Goodness. They force you to click on characters to have them continue their dialogue? What an injustice.
Seriously though, what is this guy's issue? When the character has finished saying something, the light turns green and you click on him again to hear him describe some problem. Light turns green again. You click if you want the mission. Is that really so much to ask of your overused simian gamerfingers? 3 Clicks?
"[The] town's mayor simply stands behind a desk, holding his suspenders, waiting for people to ask him to speak, over and over again. There is no personality in anything or anyone, it's just cardboard cutouts giving you to-do lists." - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
As opposed to the mayors in other games who are out actively helping the poor and devloping plans for city construction. Give me a break. It's better than having him wander around following some random pathing like in every other game. Repeating the same dialogue every time you talk to him.
Here's another zinger:
"That's right, this game has the worst save system I've seen in years." - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
This is just simply not true. Saves are quick. Quicker than Fallout 3 it seems to me. Plus if you die you have an onboard defibilator so you get a second chance. So unless you are grossly negligent you are fine. And if you are playing on Hardcore mode you should be able to adapt the save system to suit your needs very nicely by just manually saving.
"In fact, you're always being taken out of the action. The game just doesn't seem to have a good way of getting information to the player" - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
I usually don't say this to people because I have IT experience and I have worked with some crappy menus before - but maybe you are just stupid. The menu is a menu. It works like a million other menus. YOu get missions. YOu complete them. It's not rocket science.
"Once I get my new clothes, the mayor says I have to rent garage space and talk to the sheriff. So I do those things, but the sheriff tells me I can't have the supplies that need to be delivered unless my buggy has guns. To get guns, I need to talk to the guy at the race track. After talking to the guy at the race track, I'm told I need to speak to another guy to set up races for the slips to get the guns—when I find that guy, he tells me to speak to his guy so he can schedule the race...
It's absurd and pointless. Why can't the first guy just set up the race? What designer sat down and said that the player should have to track down and speak to FOUR PEOPLE to get to the actual action?" - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
Oh really, You have to talk to four people. Basically this part of the game is just introducing you to all the characters for the first time. Showing you where the shop is, how to buy stuff and do races, upgrade your car etc. I've honestly thought of a better, more exciting way to introduce these topics and I cannot. It's just a nice little way to introduce you to how these things work and where they are. It's not punishment.
"The game is completely linear, so it's silly when the menu asks if you'd like to accept a quest or decline it. If you decline it, the game simply doesn't continue, so why would you say no?" - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
The game is not linear. The main storyline is linear. That is no different than almost any other game. You can skip many quests if you want. They never need to be done or even taken. So if that's what you want to do, that is why they ask you that Kuch.
"The open world is also a complete waste—it's only a space to drive across as you go from mission to mission, sometimes fighting a set number of enemy buggies for money." - Ben Kuchera - Ars Technica
The wasteland is beautiful. I'm not going to say anything more about this. It is linearly explored but if you want a structured story this is a lot better. Better than a bunch of unrelated random crap like in Fallout 3. (yes I know it's made by the same company).
Basically, to me, Kuchera seems like an 80 year old man who is trying out a video game for the first time. He is confused by all the "buttons" and can't seem to feel empathy for the characters.