I finished Rage on Friday. Taken as a whole, it’s a pretty fun game. I finished it in around 12 hours or so, which seems a little longer than the average shooter, and I could’ve easily played more – I never really delved into the card game, which could’ve easily been a time sink just by itself, and I left a few missions on the job board untouched. The graphics tech is truly phenomenal – if you’re a graphics whore, there’s no excuse. The shooting is fun; the weapons are standard fare but satisfying, and having multiple ammo types certainly kept things interesting (though ultimately I didn’t use them all that much unless I had to). Enemies are relentless – sometimes they’re a little bit bullet-spongey, but it never felt unfair. They animate well, though, and they respond physically to where you shoot them. (That said, when they’re dying but not dead, they tend to finish their animation loop even after you deliver the killshot, which is distracting.) The driving was fun enough, although it didn’t really add anything special to the experience; Borderlands handled it a bit better. All in all, a solid, fun experience.
The ending, though; that needs to be talked about. Actually, the writing in general needs to be talked about.
Let’s be honest, though – has there ever been an id game with a solid narrative? I have incredibly fond memories of playing the Quake 2 campaign back in the day, but that’s mostly because it looked amazing and ran silky smooth on my middle-of-the-road work laptop, and I should confess that I mostly played it with god mode turned on so I could explore every nook and cranny of every map. I couldn’t tell you a goddamned thing about the story or why I was shooting all these monsters or even where I was, and it never mattered. Same goes for Doom and Castle Wolfenstein – the appeal of those games, for me, was the exploration. (It should be noted however that everyone else in the world would argue that the appeal of those games was the action and the multiplayer, and they’re probably right.)
Rage, being id’s first game 2004’s Doom 3 and first new IP since 1996’s Quake, is entering a much different market than those previous games. Which is to say – you can’t really get away with not having a story anymore. So, to its credit, Rage actually does have a story; an asteroid crashes into Earth in 2026, and you play as the sole survivor emerging 100 years later from an Ark. Substitute nuclear war for asteroid and you’ve got Fallout 3, but whatever.
Here’s where things get a little stupid. You emerge from the Ark and take about 15 steps before getting attacked by some mutants, and then you get rescued by a dude (voiced pleasantly but unnecessarily by John Goodman) who belongs to a group called… The Resistance. The Resistance are devoted to dismantling the power of… The Authority.
Rage was first revealed to the public in a 2007 tech demo. The game came out just a few weeks ago, in 2011. You’re telling me that in 4 years you couldn’t come up with better names for your good/bad sides than the Resistance and the Authority? Hell, the town on the 2nd disc is literally called Subway Town. SUBWAY TOWN? Are you fucking kidding me? There’s no subway! They live in an abandoned subway station that apparently hasn’t been cleaned since before the asteroid destroyed the earth! No wonder the Authority has it so easy; these people have already given up.
If you were to ask me what was so bad about the Authority and why it made sense to join the Resistance, I couldn’t tell you. Everyone in town speaks ill of the Authority, but you never actually see them doing anything bad, and they never did anything to me personally until I invaded their hideouts and killed them. Of course they’d want to shoot me after I did stuff like that!
As for the ending; well, you’re told before the mission starts that, well, it’s the last mission. Everything you’ve worked for during the last however many hours is about to come to fruition; the Resistance will finally strike back against the Authority (although they won’t actually be helping you, conveniently enough). So it’s not like it’s a surprise; you know you’re at the last mission. That being said, the actual, literal ending was absolutely shocking in its arrival. There’s no final boss, or indeed any real tough enemies; just a slight gauntlet of crazy mutants running around while you’re flipping 3 switches, and they can be easily dispatched with 2 sentry bots while you clean up with a shotgun. That’s it. You flip the last switch and then the camera tightens, and then there’s a quick CG cutscene, and then the credits start rolling.
Underwhelming, to say the least.
Still, though, it seems inevitable that Rage 2 would be forthcoming, and I’d like to think that Bethesda could give id some narrative pointers during that game’s development – at least they could come up with some better names.
Made some headway in Shadow of the Colossus – I think I’m up to the 9th Colossus. I happened to flip through the game’s manual and learned that there are trees bearing fruit (which enhance health) and shiny lizards (which enhance stamina), and those are bits of information that I kinda wish I’d known from the beginning. Still, it’s a pretty great game, and I genuinely feel bad every time I take one of those Colossi down. (The sad music and slow-motion collapses don’t help, either.)
Did some Forza 4, too. It kinda feels like Forza 3.5, if we’re being honest; it’s got a nice graphical upgrade but it’s still the same cars and tracks that we’ve been playing since the very first game. It’ll serve as a nice palate cleanser during the spring.
I went against my better nature and rented Dark Souls, which is stupid. It hasn’t arrived yet, and frankly I don’t know when I’m going to get to it, being that Batman arrives tomorrow and I’m already spazzing out about it. I know I’m going to hate Dark Souls; nothing drives me more crazy than frustration, and that game’s got frustration and sadness written all over it. Still, the people who love it love the shit out of it, and I kinda feel like I at least need to try it. So be on the lookout for some poorly-typed vulgarity in the coming weeks.