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Updated: October 19, 2011 17:45 IST

The Next Level — Enter the wasteland

Videep Vijay Kumar
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It may have a few glitches, but the solid gunplay in ‘Rage' overshadows all else

What do ‘Borderlands', ‘Fallout 3' and id Software's latest shooter ‘Rage' have in common? Well, absolutely nothing other than a vaguely familiar post-apocalyptic setting that will have Mel Gibson fans throw up their arms and say: “Hey, we've seen this before!” A Mad Max-inspired wasteland serves as the setting for a game that's really just about three things — shooting, driving and the gorgeous id Tech 5 graphics engine. And, while the theme is a familiar one, id have played to their strengths, crafting one of the year's best shooters that's just a little rough around the edges.

‘Rage' is set in the near future where humanity, in an effort to survive a terrible asteroid impact on Earth, puts ‘important' people (such as scientists and soldiers) into a cryogenic stasis, dumping them underground in massive ‘Arks', and as expected, you, the player are one of these fortunate few. It's not long before ‘Rage' gives you a taste of what the Wasteland has in store for you before putting a gun in your hand.

The first act gives you a sense of grandeur, a large conspiracy featuring the likes of the Authority, who hunt Ark survivors for reasons obviously evil; the Resistance, a faction that opposes the Authority; and Wastelanders who are caught in the middle. Adding a dash of hot sauce to the equation are various rival gangs and mutants. The huge set-up, however, is let down by a disappointing final act, and ends up being overshadowed by the game's solid gunplay, interesting crafting system, absurdly fun driving and gorgeous visuals.

There hasn't been a better shooter this year on any platform, with ‘Rage' sporting a nice collection of guns (with several ammo types) that are complemented by near-perfect shooting mechanics. Enemies are reasonably ‘clever' (it's clear that their movements are heavily-scripted, however), and the game's various enemy types require the player to alter strategy (or ammunition used) to take them down. Use the wrong ammo type on a heavily armoured enemy, for instance, and you'll end up wasting all your ammo clips. The driving in ‘Rage' is surprisingly good as well, with great arcade vehicle handling and destructive weaponry, but while the racing sections are fun (and sometimes critical to story progress), vehicles are primarily used to get to mission areas in linear fashion.

At times, ‘Rage' is a shooter trying to be more than a shooter. There are repetitive side missions that see you going back to places you've visited previously, often having to play through them in reverse for meagre rewards.

There's also a poorly implemented inventory system in which all the items look identical, thanks to the game's green visual filter, but the crafting system is a good addition — collect various parts and ingredients to create your own items, including powerful ammo, sentry bots and radio-controlled bomb cars. The novelty doesn't wear off, fortunately, and you'll find yourself fabricating Wingsticks even in the final third of the game. Overall, the RPG elements are lacking in depth, and you get the feeling that id wanted it that way.

Graphically, ‘Rage' is a powerhouse. The engine makes the game's environments and character models look incredible. But more importantly, it's one of the best looking as well as best performing games on any console. There's more fluidity to Rage's battles than ‘Killzone 3' on the PS3 or ‘Halo: Reach' on the Xbox 360, thanks to the engine putting out 60 frames per second even in the most intense fire-fight. You will run into the odd low-resolution texture and there are texture pop-in issues, but they're hardly noticeable in the heat of battle.

‘Rage' marks id Software's triumphant return to the world of first-person shooters. It's not without its share of graphical bugs, however, and the lack of proper multiplayer is unforgivable, but the core gameplay is as solid as ever. ‘Rage' is available at retail on PS3 and Xbox 360, while the PC version is only available digitally.

Keywords: video games

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