Opinion: Breaking down the community rage over Rage

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Rage is out and, for the most part, it’s scoring in the green with critics around the globe. The problem is that there’s a lot of anger coming from the gaming community–specifically those highly opinionated PC gamers–in regards to some key concerns. I take a closer look at some of these concerns in terms of the game design and what, from my perspective, was always bound to happen out of the box with an ambitious title such as Rage. You can see all of my thoughts on the rage Rage after the jump. Bear in mind that this isn’t a review.

You really don’t have to look too far to see how divisive the release of Rage has been. While it’s critically rated quite high, there’s a big backlash in the gaming community (particularly among PC gamers) that’s worth breaking down. And, in fairness, it was always going to be this way. When you have the first simultaneous multiplatform title being released by one of the biggest names in PC gaming, it’s bound to be a big deal. And while many a reviewer has broken down the pros and cons of the look, the feel and the presence of some rather nasty PC bugs, I want to take a deeper look at the problems that Rage was clearly set to have out of the box.

(This is not a review.)

Burden of expectation

This is a big one and we gamers—particularly we PC gamers—need to take some responsibility for how this has factored in. id Software hasn’t really made a game since Doom 3 in 2004. Sure, they’ve been involved in other titles and relaunched Quake III as a browser-based port of the classic multiplayer shooter, but they haven’t given us the next iteration in gaming awesomeness.

All of their first-person titles have given the gaming industry something: the first-person shooter genre along with the core conventions (shotgun necessity, nuff said), dedicated servers, deathmatch, the importance of a killer soundtrack (thank you Nine Inch Nails and Sonic Mayhem), and so on. It’s no wonder that we were all expecting the same sort of revolutionary momentum in Rage that has been part and parcel with their impressive back catalogue.

But remember that Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, they simply set a higher standard than their competitors with the release of the iPhone; a standard that has now, arguably, been surpassed by Android-powered phones. So true is true of id when it comes to the first-person genre. id Software may have been the fathers of the beloved first-person shooter genre, but their pioneering gift to the gaming world was always destined to be improved upon by other developers. Sometimes it’s best to create something and then let other creative types run with it… just ask the George Lucas in an alternate universe who understands that very philosophy.

But, for Rage, the writing was on the wall before the game even hit shelves. Instead of showcasing carefully vetted gameplay trailers that misrepresent what Rage is all about, id shamelessly showed off lengthy gameplay trailers that showcased, well, straightforward old-school gaming mechanics. They didn’t really deceive us by managing what we saw—look at the Homefront marketing machine for proof of that sort of deception—they just knew what they were good at and ran with it.

Faux-pen world

Like many other games journalists, I got to preview Rage before its release. In fact, I got to play the notorious first hour and was extremely disappointed with it. Bear in mind that I went into this preview with what I felt was appropriate ‘id expectations’, given their previous titles. id games have never been big on story or characterisation, but I was expecting to see a damn impressive title that had the all-important gameplay fun factor down pat. In truth, I didn’t think it looked that pretty then, and I certainly don’t now after playing the first hour.

Regardless, the open world mantra that has been thrown around about Rage is misleading, to say the least. The post-apocalyptic setting with Mad Max-type buggies o’ destruction certainly lends itself to the appearance of an open world setting, but I’m struggling to find a quote of one of the id guys claiming it actually is an open world game. But then, nor can I find a pre-launch quote of them stemming the widespread misinformation about a game that many an outlet was labelling as open world.

When I previewed Rage at gamescom, I understood that I was only playing the first hour, so I was careful to mention that the game could possibly open up in terms of its open world-ness. But, in the same breath, I was also quick to smash that first hour for what it was: a drive from base to what was, for all intents and purposes, a corridor shooter. Now id is saying that Rage was never intended as an open world title, but they certainly could’ve addressed it before it hit shelves.

Driving (gamers crazy)

The driving in Rage sucks, plain and simple. I’m not even a fervent fan of the racing game genre, and I can shoot holes in its design. If it’s not the lack of drifting or the fact that vehicles can seemingly stop on a dime, it’s the shitty rubberbanding catch-up mechanic that happens in the races. Suffice it to say, any racing game or game that has a racing component with this rubberbanding component should look up the definition in the dictionary: the all-important competitive component of a race is reliant on skill, not cheap mechanics that favour human or AI racers. The driving between missions could have easily have been replaced with short cutscenes that would have negated this issue.

Yar Pee Gee

While Rage isn’t an RPG, it has included RPG elements that make it fair to judge those facets of the game on how well they’ve been implemented. The pick-and-choose approach of contemporary first-person shooters such as recent Call of Duty games (at least in terms of the multiplayer) works when RPG elements are carefully included. Adding in character customisation and a levelling system is one thing and certainly an acceptable way to semi-RPG-ify the FPS genre.

With Rage, some of the RPG staples have been adopted but poorly implemented. If you’re going to have a loot system, do it properly. While Fallout 3 pushes a whole lot more to the RPG side of things than Rage, there was a clear purpose to the linked exploration and looting mechanics. First and foremost, Rage is, as previously mentioned, more of a corridor shooter than an open world experience. Straight away, this limits both the drive and potential for exploration, thus reducing the motivation for looting.

But Rage waters down the looting further by offering obvious items that look so out of place in the environment that you know they’re to be collected, along with a one-button-collects-all looting mechanic of downed bodies. Couple this with a bottomless inventory, and it begs the question as to why you couldn’t just collect ammo and items the good ol’ fashion FPS way by running over them.

The engineering component could have been a great counter to my argument, if it had more depth than a one-click build if you had collected all the items. And then there’s the quest job system that somewhat defies the standard fully linear mission approach of your average FPS by giving you a wee bit of side quest job choice. It feels tacked on and considering that some of those side jobs involve the aforementioned frustrating driving, a linear approach would have been better than something that feels slapped on.

The bottom line is that id Software have, admirably, tried to step outside of their comfort zone with Rage. Unfortunately, the execution—the faux-pen world, out-of-place driving and bizarre RPG inclusions—leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s to hoping that Doom 4 is a glorious return to form for the forefathers of the FPS genre.

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  • Donjoe

    Firstly, Fallout 3 had no soul, Rage does.
    Second, the races are rubber band to prevent you from losing over and over, thus not progressing.
    My solution would be, beyond four difficulty settings, maybe we could tweak FPS and driving difficulties independently – that way someone shit at FPS could still maintain their higher driving skill standards. Individual balance would benefit us all I think.

  • Maximus 3678

    I totaly agree with this article…i’m very disapointed with RAGE and the biggest letdown are the weak ‘open-world’ and RPG elements.I read alot of previews with numerous hints 2 Fallout 3 and Borderlands….RAGE is nothing like that and ID just let it happen without a clear statement.(sorry for my bad writing)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Juto-Kuto/100002613037447 Juto Kuto

    I am not dissapointed of that, i got tired of visiting identical dungeons and talk to borring identical npcs and walk miles to collect useless crap.

    The pc version is a fuck up though GS SCORE: 7.0 USER SCORE 6.6

  • Anonymous

    I like where your head is at. My point with this article was to say that they had good ideas but implemented them poorly. id is better than that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Fabela/100002106917966 Richard Fabela

    very disappointed  with the “open world” i was promised.
    the lack of world Map
    pop up issues (i own ps3 version)

    But its a solid shooter.
    beautiful graphics 
    Possibly the best sound in gaming. (atmosphere, music,guns, enemy dialog…all of it clicks)

  • Donjoe

    I’m really enjoying it, I suppose because it removes a lot of the annoyances of Fallout. I feel that Rage is more like Half Life than an open world environment, and for me that’s fine (though I agree it’s not what I had expected)

    The major concerns for me are the virtually non-existent auto-saves, the weapon switching (id could have done much, much better than this), and smaller annoyances like bullet-sponge enemies.

    All else is id through and through, especially the audio.

  • Caffeenfreak98

    being an ID software player since the first release of Wolfenstein 3D, i love id, but i think everyone is expecting way to much from this game. I find it fun, possibly the most fun fps i’ve ever come across. ITS NOT FALLOUT, i didnt want to go around searching every corner of the globe in case i missed that mini nuke or random book, but theres nothing nicer then clicking on a wall, and it sliding open. and for anyone who’s played even the Old Wolfenstein 3d game, you know they love to put in secrets. This game has that style. Its not meant to be open world. The graphics are amazing, but as far as bugs go. Did anyone ever play morrowind when it first came out, how about skyrim. MY GOD, those are buggy games (amazing games too), an occasional texture loss, an occasional corpse doing a spaz dance, nothing wrong with that. As far as the driving goes, i dont want the next gran turismo, i play quite a few racing games, and in my opinion, Road rage is one of the funnest parts of this game, going online and playing to the greater extent twisted metal crossed with dirt 3 is a lot of fun, but it is an FPS not a driving game. Everyone is expecting such an evolutionary change in gaming from this, but why? Anyone played Modern Warfare 3 recently….. seems like they spent 3 weeks flashing up modern warfare 2 ( and didnt it get rated 9/10 most places). Give a game some credit, in my opinion it had everything borderlands lacked, it just wasnt an open-world ( mind you neither was borderlands really) or co-op playable. Im just happy it has a one player game that i can Actually play, and doesnt focus completely on the Multiplayer. ID software created something different, an equivelent RPG Lite FPS and Ive loved every minute of it. (im on my third play through the single player, and i cant think of any other fps ive done that with and still actually enjoyed it.