Rage: First impressions

Remember Borderlands? The first person shooter with great cell-shaded art, with a paper thin story and a ruined desert-planet setting? It was inhabited by bandits and mutants and you got to drive around in a dune buggy?

Borderlands, clearly.

Just curious.

Rage is a first person shooter with great non-cell-shaded art, a paper thin story and a ruined desert-planet setting. It is inhabited by bandits and mutants and you get to drive around in a dune buggy.

Rage, obviously.

I’m getting the same kind of feeling that I got playing LA Noire – “Wow, imagine if all this cool stuff was in a good game.” It isn’t to say that Rage is Bad; I don’t think it is. I just can’t help imagining Fallout 3 with these graphics. Christ, is an RPG had these graphics, you’d wander around jizzing all over the starter town. But knowing that this is just a shooter, you know none of the piled junk is searchable or interactable or liable to contain clues so… fuck it.

Good:

-Graphics are gorgeous. I’ve had zero performance issues. It looks like that screenshot all the time, whether you are running around or standing staring. The art department makes this game.

-The character animation is fantastic. Not overt, but really good. And man, this game nailed reflective glass effect.

-The physics of people getting shot really is kind of great. It doesn’t seem like it should be so satisfying.  But clothes-lining a guy with a boomerang has exactly the right effect on his body.

-There are plenty of shout outs to games from which this game “draws inspiration”.

-Voice acting is good, which usually isn’t worth mentioning in a FPS except that Borderlands’s wasn’t.

Fine:

-Gameplay seems okay. I’m not much of a FPS guy, but  it has less strategy than Bioshock and more twitchy shooting.

Bad:

-Setting. Fucking hell, I like a post-apocalyptic setting as much as the next guy, but can we do something other than faux-TV-Western shanties? Say what you like about some of the dumbass tribes in Fallout 3: New Vegas, but the Boomers and Caesar’s Legion were at least a break with the whole “I reckon’ you dun broke mah water purifier… I’m fixin’ ta settle this the ol’ fashion way” vision of post-apocalyptic society. It was cool for a while, now I’m tired of it. If you want to see a society barely surviving, without access to basic supplies and re-using off the scraps of a civilization, go to a brazilian favela, then tell me how many fucking Bonanza-extras you meet. People do this shit every day; they aren’t catapulted back in time when they do it.

-Story. If I find some I’ll tell you. The detail put into the graphics of the setting speaks of a rich background… but whatever, pew pew, right? The buildings really look like functional, lived in shitholes, but you’re never really sure why anyone would live there and you never question why you don’t slaughter them, but are okay with killing everyone in a gang hideout. The long form of the story is: An asteroid majestically pummels the shit out of earth. You wake up in a vault, but instead of Liam Neeson teaching you all you need to know for the tough life ahead, a computer tests you for neck pain, then sends you unarmed out into the killing fields of… somewhere. Nobody has said where we are. There are people with English accents and people with American accents, so Canada? What’s frustrating about this is that after Bioshock, we know people can make compelling FPS with silent protagonists. It would be nice to think that Bioshock raised the bar for all FPS, but Borderlands and Rage stroll under than bar with a top hat on.

All this kvetching is going to make it seem like I don’t like this game. I do. If you like FPS, I dare say you’ll like this game a lot more than I do. As it is, this is going to fill the time between now and Skyrim quite nicely. If the game pulls a left turn on me and suddenly gets interesting on a more than visceral holy-balls-I-blew-his-throat-out level, I’ll let you know, but I think I’ve got the measure of it.

I will say though, that since this is made by id Software, and they’ve never shown me the protagonist’s face, I picture him as the eyebrow-arching guy from the Doom health panel. That somehow makes every interaction better.

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