Sunday, 30 October 2011

Rage review

So, I have finished the long expected id`s game Rage. Here are some final screenshots and my review below.



(you can see all other screenshots if you filter only "id" labelled posts)

Id legacy

First let`s say what has been stated before, this is great looking first person shooter. Id software has a good looking game engine and game art as one of their top priorities. This, combined with fluent performance (apart from texture up-resing), great animation and perfected shooting response of weapons and enemies is amazing experience. This is what they are famous for and always delivered in Doom 3, Quake 3 Arena, Quake series etc. I think they took Doom3 critique about its linear nature and repetitive gameplay maybe too seriously and started working on very ambitious story-driven game, adding elements never done by id before. It was interesting to see one of the Rage demos in september, where they remind you that it is still mainly an FP shooter and that id has invented this. Which did sound like going back in history and retreat from their ambitions, giving a bit ambiguous message about what to expect.

Story

Now let`s look at the story and I`ll start at the end. It was a bit unexpected. I was like: that`s it?? This pretty much topped the whole unsatisfied feeling about the story, which I had later during the game. I was somehow recruited by Resistance, without being really motivated to join them and explained who is Authority which they fight against. This is the main line of the story, but it doesn`t work somehow. I`m told Authority is looking for me, because I am Ark survivor, but I`m not sure, what they want. Also "someone said" they also do modifications on mutants and control them, no proof. There is no clear reason to fight them. And there is no plan as well about what will happen if we defeat them. There is some desire to activate all other Arks and start a revolution, which I manage in the last mission. Arks emerge on surface and that is The End. Player doesn`t see anything positive happening after this. The game just ends. Also it raises doubts, as Authority knows I breached their system and Arks will emerge on surface, first thing they would do is get there and arrest/kill those guys who have no weapons just woken up from hybernation. And what happens to me, the player? I`m sure I would still have to fight my way back to Subway Town.

So as I progressed, I didn`t have much motivation to fight Authority. There were exceptions, like killing bandits or mutants to help defend the settlements, protect delivery of goods, make roads safer or find someone`s lost wife. Express package delivery was fun too. But these were only side missions. The main target of the game remained unclear.
As an example, here is a goal from previous id game Doom3: Close the gate to Hell on Mars as demons could get to Earth. It was simple, but it worked.

Non-player Characters

During game you meet different "guide" NPCs who send you on the missions. First one is Dan Hagart voiced by John Goodman (Big Lebowski) and from all other that follow, this one was the best. He is the one who saves you from the Ark and gives you the first gun and later his crossbow as a personal gift. It`s a shame he doesn`t appear later in the story as your guide or maybe a member of the Resistance, as his performance was best. Only one thing was strange, as he almost makes it your fault, that his settlement is under attention and getting trouble "since you are here". But it was him, who saved you from the Ark on the first place and asked to do "dirty work" for them.
Later you have to move to Wellspring and after that to Subway Town, but you`re missing this Dan Hagart-type person who is on your side. Others seem to clearly care about their business and you do jobs for them. The player to NPCs relationships is where the game story starts to crack as well. Making a game like this is the same as making a movie. Audience needs to find some lead character, which they like and find realistic as a human being with their joys and problems. The side characters in Wellspring and Subway were pretty good in their small roles, giving you tips and comments. With leading NPCs, with first half of the game there was Dan Hagart, and quite good Wellspring Mayor and Sheriff. With Resistance people it gets worse and hits peak with Subway Town mayor Redstone. His peformance was a parody of small-town mafia boss. I mean, even bad character can be interesting and fun. Not in this case. Also I guess his original design remains on the Subway Town loading image, but I`m not sure what happened during his convertion to a game asset... :)
Just to add, you cannot skip the character speaking and have to listen to all the stuff.

Environment Interaction

As much as canyons and messy indoors look realistic, they feel frozen. Compared to Doom3, you cannot even push a chair in empty office. There are many cases where invisible wall stops you going further on a concrete block to look around. You cannot even die falling from a cliff, because it`s simply blocked. You are simply forced to follow prepared path, like in a castle tour. A bit more freedom is outside when you are driving.
I guess this is the cost of pre-rendered megatexture world of idTech5. Rage team`s shedule couldn`t probably allow to build free-movement environment, while maintaining the same quality level. The missing rigid dynamics are probably to keep FPS high, although nvidia PhysX could provide enough power, but this is only PC option.

Summary

Rage is top quality game, a lot of fun and great atmosphere. Id software worked with RPG elements for the first time and made a big step into more complex world then a plain shooter. There are times when it really works and it`s nice experience. They should now assess their priorities for next game, learn from this project, but also cut down the development time for the release of the next title.
As an id fan I`m giving 9/10

Here is my Rage review "number 2", which I did after playing Rage for second time.


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