I’ve just picked up a keycard, and I’m confused. I found it in a power station, out in Rage’s wasteland. It was about a foot wide, and bright blue, and now it’s in my inventory. What the hell do I do with it? Do I sell it? I swear I’ve done this before. Does it... does it go in this bright blue door, over here?
Swoosh. The door opens.
For all its open roads and bright blue skies, for all its sweeping canyons and hub towns, Rage is still resolutely an id Software shooter. For all their pre-release bluster of expansive worlds and template departure, no one knows this better than id Software. The keycard is as much of a nod to their previous works as the Doom mug collectibles players can sell to shopkeepers, but it also feels like an acknowledgement of a design lineage: despite the apparent differences, Rage is the continuation of the corridor.
You wake from cryo-sleep as one of the world’s last super-soldiers. You’ve been put in the freezer and sent into space due both to your perceived aptitude at rebuilding societies after mini-armageddons, and your badassitude. But – as the desiccated corpses of your chums in the tubes next to you demonstrate – something went a bit wrong. It’s 106 years after the mildly explained apocalyptic Bad Thing happened, and the destroyed world has split between rival gangs of mentalist bandits, flesh-eating mutant freaks, moustache-twirlingly evil fascists, and honest folks trying to make a living. It’s this latter lot with whom you throw in your hat-made-of-guns.
These folks might peddle an image of the innocent settler, but almost everyone you meet on a polite conversational basis – as opposed to those who want to make your skin into a coat – wants you to go and eradicate swathes of humanity. Rage’s missions don’t need much explanation: you’re sent down into a pit, and once you’re in there, there’s no talking to the man-monsters that dwell within.
I followed tight paths through power plants, down sewers, and clifftop shanty towns. Doors are kept conspicuously shut, partly to dissuade the dream of deviation, but also so the same area can be rearranged and returned to as part of another, later mission. Missions aren’t ever complicated, but they are consistently well paced and imaginative – never too short, rarely too long – and spotted with the right amount of spectacle and surprise.
Rage’s post-apocalyptic wasteland regularly opens out into bowls and basins: little thunderdomes for the game’s car combat. They give players space to use their vehicles’ boost and handbrake, time to deploy rockets, machineguns and strange pulse weapons to immolate the bandits on their tail. But these sections aren’t the norm, just thicker beads on the thread connecting the game’s three hub-towns. Driving between these townships is where you work through Rage’s more typical shootery bits: murder anyone who gets in your way and never stop moving forward. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
There’s not much to distract in the wasteland, in any case. Hub towns provide missions, each of which requires Rage’s Mr Rage (not his real name, but better than his actual title of Mr Buzzcut Generosoldier) (also not his real name) to go to an allotted place and introduce bullets to the skulls of everyone who lives there. Accept a quest and you’ll be given a little marker to head for. Chug around the game’s outsidey bits without a quest and you’ll find a true wasteland: there’s little to do beyond wreck the handful of car-driving bandits who respawn every time you poke your head out of a settlement. I quickly started to reserve my jaunts outside to mission-specific journeys, only hopping in my car when the job asked me to leave town.
The jobs did that often. In a ten-hour game, I spent about an hour at the wheel, and a few more in multiplayer (the only competitive modes are vehicle battles, and two player co-op missions the only way to shoot with a friend on foot). Fortunately, Rage’s vehicles are fundamentally pleasing to drive. They feel responsive, even with the binary input of a keyboard. But better than that, they feel fast.
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