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Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: id Software
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Rage is a pretty game. It's almost too pretty for the setting it depicts: a wasted, post-apocalyptic world that's been devastated by a giant asteroid impact. It's a little refreshing that it's not all darkness and brown haze, actually. There's tons of detail loaded into everything. Twisted rebar sticks out of concrete chunks, rust and grime covers everything; it's all wonderfully worn and decrepit looking. People are also animated quite nicely. Conversations are made more interesting by the gestures and expressions that are done so naturally. I particularly loved talking to a character called "Crazy Joe" just to watch him move. Another one of my favorites is Doctor Kvasir. He's got a little robot attached to his shoulder that mimics his movements and agrees or nods or makes little gestures with his head to support what the doctor is saying, like a classic parrot on a pirate shoulder. It's hard to describe just how brilliantly done this all is, but it just is. There's a level of realism to the gestures and faces (especially eyes) that is just amazing, and it all happens without going anywhere near the uncanny valley.

Speaking of characters, the costumes are quite creative. In this world, things are scavenged and reused frequently, and the attention to these kinds of details is entertaining. Shirts are stitched together, patched, duct taped, and otherwise bound together. Hardly anyone wears anything with any kind of symmetry, implying that you don't always find enough things to make a perfect, matching set. Heck, the town water source for one city comes out of a re-purposed urinal.There's even a nice nod to Id with one person wearing the remnants of a Doom t-shirt.

The background music is the only thing I would change, but since you can set it down to low, it's not much of an issue. The music just rages, even when you're just sneaking around a corner. It's more distracting than anything. But the game's voices and sound effects are done wonderfully. Every little rusted gear, every gunshot is crisp and clear. When you walk into a bar, for example, you'll hear the hum of neon lights, a little creaking here and there from a stool or a bench, just lots of little details that flesh the world out. A variety of weapons also keep things engaging. For example, who doesn't like a radio-controlled car that's rigged to explode? That's just a recipe for fun.

The enemies do seem repetitive at first. There are bandits with tattoos, bandits without tattoos, bandits with accents, etc. But this does change later on. The game just works you slowly into bigger, quicker, and badder enemies. There are some epic (and literally gigantic) boss fights as well, it just takes a little patience to get there.

It's amazing how well Id and Bethesda meld together in this game, and you can still feel the contribution from each one distinctly. Of course with Bethesda, you can expect lots of upgrading, lots of skills to learn, and lots of things to build. With Id, you can expect a top notch FPS with all the bells and whistles. You get plenty of both here, and it's amazing how well it's melded together.

In Rage, you start out as a solider being cryogenically frozen in a project dubbed "Ark." Basically the mother of all asteroids is coming (this is based on a real world possibility of impact by an asteroid named 99942 Apophis), and people are trying to preserve something of themselves to survive what might be a long recovery from the effects of the impact. At least that's what it looks like. You end up waking up a hundred years in the future, and you find that humanity has indeed survived. The future is pretty rough, with people fighting bandits and mutants to survive, but some semblance of civilization has survived. It seems that technology is actually thriving in the mysterious "authority" controlled areas, though. You'll eventually be going straight for the heart of these mysteries as you progress through the game, getting a better view of the future, bit by bit.

You'll spend your time doing favors for the people, and trying to figure out your place in the world. You've also got to worry about that authority that seems very interested in gathering survivors of the Ark project for some reason - another mystery to unravel bit by bit. Many quests are similar, but there's enough excitement in the firefights, driving sequences, and exploring to keep things interesting. The pace is also quick enough that it never seems like you're just walking or driving all day.

There's lots of weapons to build, lots of things to find, lots to try out. Some of the things you'll be building are the aforementioned radio-controlled cars with bombs strapped to them (who doesn't love those), explosive rounds for your shotgun, and lots more. You can even pick up scraps from RC cars that you've already detonated and other things you've built and deployed in order to conserve parts.

The pace never seems that slow, but you'll also get several vehicles to help you get around faster. They're also the only way to get to certain areas in one piece, especially when you run into bandits with guns and rockets strapped to their cars. The online multiplayer part of this game is mostly vehicle based as well. So don't expect to go around blasting your friends all up-close-and-personal style with a shotgun. The car missions pretty much mirror the races you can play in the Campaign Mode, and are a good bit of fun to play. There's an offline/online mode you can play that will allow you to play co-op missions with another person. You'll get points for headshots, points for assisting, and points for defending, to encourage cooperation. You have your standard defib unit, but you can wait for a friend to revive you if you need to. Don't expect too much expansion of the story, but you will learn a few fun tidbits about the characters in the Campaign by playing through these short missions.

Rage has several levels of varying difficulty. On the easiest level, it's still quite possible to get killed if you go into an area you're not ready for yet, or are unequipped for. If you feel the need to ratchet things up, you can go for it.

One thing that does not add to the difficulty is the controls. Shooter fans are quite opinionated on the subject, and I can't speak for anyone else on this, but this is the kind of game that makes me want to give up a mouse and keyboard for good. It's just an excellent use of a controller-based control scheme. I never feel disoriented, or that I'm fighting the controls to get something done. There's a lot packed into the controls, however, so forgetting a button or two and accidentally firing a weapon could be a common occurrence.

Game Mechanics:
Rage has controls that are just smooth as silk. I honestly didn't feel the need to tweak any settings from the default. It's easy to run, twist around corners, strafe, and do pretty much everything you need to do in an FPS just like second nature. With the fast-paced nature of the game, this is extremely important to get right.

The game has its share of invisible walls, and rocks that seem to come out of nowhere, but they're very small problems in an otherwise very problem-free game. You'll learn quickly where you can go, and either way, exploring is easy and rather fast-paced, so it's not much of a hassle to figure these things out.

Rage is a game that really balances its FPS features with its RPG-like character building and construction elements very nicely. It doesn't feel like you're locked into non-stop action, but you can speed through an area racking up the kills if you want to. Likewise, you don't feel like you're buried in menus and stats, but you can spend time building and gathering things to prepare for your next task if you want to. One of its shortcomings may be that it is pretty linear, but honestly there's enough to do that you don't really notice it. I wouldn't expect to make another play through when I'm done, since there's not much you can do differently based on your choices. Either way, Rage is pretty darn addictive, and pretty darn good.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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