Yet another jaunt through Post-Apocalyptia. In this case, not that it really matters, the culprit was an asteroid impact. You wake up from a Vault– sorry, an Ark– and are immediately enlisted to go kill people. And you do, without question, because you’re one of those video game freaks who never talk.

At first I couldn’t play the game, because it had horrible, constant flickering. New drivers solved the problem, fortunately.

This is the first game I’ve bought because it was featured on Dead End Thrills. Because it’s gorgeous.


Well, gorgeous in the peculiar way of Post-Apocalyptia: ruined or repurposed industrial detritus and raw rock.  It’s striking how many video games feature this environment; I suppose it speaks to a certain ambivalence we have about our grandiose, maddening civilization.

One review I read complained that Rage is less a game than a glorified tech demo.  There’s something to this, but it’s way less bothersome if you picked it up for $5 at a Steam sale.  It’s true that the story is pretty minimal; it doesn’t have the RPG elements or pathos of Fallout, nor the over-the-top humor of Borderlands.  It’s basically about two things:

  • Sidling through destroyed structures clearing them of bandits and/or soldiers with the armory you carry about your person.  This part goes pretty well, so long as you remember to use cover.  After a few missions, you can basically buy all the ammunition you need, so it’s mostly just a matter of remembering to keep out of the open.  (Memo to video game enemies: popping your head up in the same location each time leads to no good thing.)
  • Racing your buggy and cursing the stupid WASD controls.  Srsly, designers, please learn from Borderlands and let us control direction with the frigging mouse, which has the fine control of a frigging steering wheel.

My major complaint would be that it’s all way railroaded.  You’re given the chance to decline missions, but there’s no point in doing so; there’s only one path through the story.  There are side missions, but most of them are trivial.  The world is pretty large, but again there’s no real point to exploring it closely, as the vast vistas are just territory to drive through on the way to your next quest point.

Even the bandit nests are railroaded.  That’s a plus in that it’s hard to get lost, but a minus in that there’s rarely an alternate way to proceed (a la Dishonored).  This applies to your toys, too.  E.g. you get a remote-controlled, exploding car, but you can’t really use it all over, only in the few places the level designer put in.

Also, the inventory management is just confusing as hell.  The mousewheel cycles through your guns, as it should, but some get skipped for no reason I’ve been able to figure out.  You get quick-use items that are all triggered with one key, which basically means that the wrong one will be selected all too often.   So you have to select which item to use, then hit Q, and sometimes you have to go to the inventory screen instead.  I’d really rather have had quickkeys for healing / explosives / wingsticks / other toys.

Story is a bit overemphasized in game reviews, probably because it’s the bit that games share with novels and movies and thus feels like Art.  Still, it’s definitely a weak point here.  There is a story here– something about an Authority– but it mostly just relies on the tropes of Post-Apocalyptia.  There’s always bandits, some high-tech authoritarians, and a smattering of kindly though gun-happy settlers.

Oh well.  Did I mention how pretty it is?  Also, the character modelling is awfully good, much better than Fallout or Skyrim.  I’m not done with it, but it looks like about 20 hours of gameplay, which is just about right.  (Any less and I’d feel cheated; much more and the lack of a compelling story would make it feel tedious.)

Edit: thoughts after finishing the game.