Monday, 2 December 2013

Rage



Now for a more modern, more recent, First Person Shooter. ID software seems to fall into a trap of their own making in which each game they make looks nice, looks lovely in fact, is developed on a very impressive engine (aesthetically impressive at least) and falls down with the game in so far as plot/story and the delivery of which. Doom was a wonderful little game with atmospheric delivery, doom 2 was very similar and became and much more action orientated game with cut scenes/text plots. Quake was more of the same but in full 3D mapping and modelling. Quake 2 had the same with more detail and animations in models; Quake 3 was a fast and fluid multiplayer experience of dropping the single-player mode in favour of bots in multiplayer. Doom 3 was a wonderful experience in a technical engine but still falling flat with the delivery of storyline and plot development. Quake 4 was a more open Doom 3. I'm Not going to touch Daikatana, for now... I'll suffer that one another time.

So what's RAGE got to offer? More of the same. But at least there's an attempt at doing something with some plot beyond "Turn up and shoot stuff until everything's dead". Doesn't sound like fun but works well in Doom and Quake, in this case there's more than that available to everyone playing.

The game kicks off with you, Captain Anonymous, unrecognised regenerating hit-point wonder with an affinity for carrying lots of weapons and ammo types, making things from scrap (if you've the blueprints) and mad driver extraordinaire from buggies to quad bikes, cars and more, including able to operate guns, rockets/missiles and weapons from the future (by your perspective). The Buck Rogers of this game, waking up in the future and being attacked by assholes and then in turned saved by John Goodman. (Genuine Celebrity Voice).

With Mr Goodman's guidance, he'll help you as long as you go and slaughter locations filled with fuck-heads. John kills 2 mutants and in exchange for helping you, he wants you to (as a one man army) kill an entire tower block of ass-hats with a crusty old pistol and some of those bladed boomerangs from Mad Max 2. It's in this first area that a rather interesting element of the game comes to the fore in the form of your regeneration and health. Not only do you have the red-mist of damage descending over your screen, but in being taken down, you can force your heart to restart itself with a small mini-game of push the analogues in the right place, then hitting a button. The more you get right, the higher the health regeneration will be and the more powerful the output, meaning you can electrocute people with your own personal defibrillation kit.

After a while it'll regenerate sufficiently enough to let you do it again. Though oddly, getting blown up with a rocket sometimes bypasses this. But a shotgun round to the face won't bypass the heart restart. At the risk of becoming far more cardiologically focused, I'm going to move on to the game again.

The first act of the game is John Goodman asking you for help, getting you new weapons, medical supplies and opening up routes and access points where everything is very 'by the numbers' in the form of gaming, go to point a, do mission, go to point b, do mission, go to hub b and do missions c and d, get cards, shoot guys with bad accents in the face. It's not until the big breakthrough into the 2nd area that the game opens up a little more (not entirely free range but sufficient enough a step up from Doom games) where players can visit a lot of locations and do very little until they're supposed to be there on specific missions.

Eventually you'll become saviour of a town, move on to another town, save that one too and then go fight the big bad group that has a lot of futuristic tech and beat them at their own game. In the meantime you'll get to play an odd form of cards akin to battle cards, racing cars and upgrading cars (limited options in the form of engines, wheels, armour etc, and very limited in that there's an obvious BEST to have and you'll just use that), stab your own fingers in reflex games, play duelling banjos and do a few missions consisting of turn up to a place and kill dudes. One particular mission is to turn up to a place, grab the things someone stole and kill everyone, the mission provider doesn't even want those things back and you can sell them. So basically you turn up to slaughter a load of people on the whim of some guy who could easily have said that inside location X is a Thing that was stolen.

Great. Freedom to kill based on generic bullshit. But at least it's more of a reason than some other games provide.

The driving in the game is simply a means to get from one location to another because doing it by foot will get you killed quickly when the first cars turn up and either run you over or cheese grate you out of existence quickly and regenerating will get you stomped shortly after again. Though at one point I was successful in running myself over and having to regenerate back into my own car, score 1 for Twit Of The Year. There are races against other players in the online mode or races against the AI which thankfully doesn't do the whole rubber band difficulty thing and if you're a big distance ahead, you'll STAY a big distance ahead unless you just stop still like a prick. All of which gains you tickets to buy more things so you're forced to win races if you want upgrades and forced even more to win races to progress the plot at various points too.

This is never fun. "You must do this before you can kill more dudes!" makes me wonder why there isn't a response of "....fuck off" and then smacking him over the head and stealing all the fun toys before driving off into the sunset laughing like a nutcase.

There's an odd duality in the game too, there's this fun side of the game that's rather jumpy and fun, light hearted despite being about killing things mercilessly and then there's the darker more foreboding side of having to wander through derelict cities and being attacked by the dying remnants of the world's infected/mutated individuals. Some of the settings and scenery really conveys the sense of depression and hopelessness while you're scavenging through a dead city. Given that until a few moments ago you were running around a town pissing off the Mayor and playing games of "my card kills your card", it's rather a sudden twist and the shock can come a little too suddenly, breaking you out of the atmosphere and plunging you into another one.

In fact that's this game, two halves that are one side light and peppy despite the apocalypse and the other just full of doom, gloom and depression and the switch between the two is an express elevator to hell. Almost immediate switches with little build up between and as the game goes on, becoming further and further apart from each other with the darker side of the game taking almost the forefront until you're saving the day up to the cliff-hanger that few will expect to happen.

Yes it ends on NO closure at all. Pods open, you're stood atop a light-barrier tower and ... that's it. No final boss, just a final gauntlet. I'm tired of seeing shit like this in games, where designers couldn't find a suitable ending point so they just don't use one. It's annoying. When the first few games did it, it became edgy, but when it becomes the standard it becomes fucking stupid and unfulfilling. Try cooking a meal, the best meal you'll ever taste, you get to sample the ingredients, slap it in the oven and cook it to the point you open the oven, smell the finished dish and slice it perfectly to place onto a plate and then you leave the shop after paying and not eating it. That's how these kinds of endings feel. Anticlimactic and I really shouldn't write a review just before dinner.

The game looks impressive, not great because we've gone the route of the doomed world in brown and grey, which is a great reason to NOT throw in lush green fields, flowers bursting into colour and instead pretend everything is doom and gloom and slap a few brown filters atop the lenses to make it murky and dank. Movement in the game seems to suffer the Doom experience of feeling like you're running slightly too fast but that could just be down to not having faster movement in other recent FPS games, I'm not going to criticise there on being different, it just takes a little period of adjustment.

Co-operative mode is entirely disjointed from the game, which is disappointing, it'd be nice to run through the game with a colleague/partner but instead you get a series of 'legends' about events that happened before the proper game takes place. Rather than having to bring in experience or setups from the players, the level itself determines the weapon load out, and inventory load out (and places things in different places on the quickslots... Left on D-Pad will be bandages in one level and sentry bots on another, with similar for the weapons too!). Players will have to work together to kill lots of dudes and score points and multipliers to boost themselves up onto higher echelons of video game scoring.

I'd rather have had a colleague with me in the main game, because once the levels are over, there's only the harder difficulty to try and that's it. Co-Op done, dusted, finished and completed. Thanks for playing, sod off, now drive cars at each other for hours. It's a lacklustre addition and while there is the possibility of using DLC I shouldn't have to wait for someone to add it when they feel the need to later on, just so I can get the full experience once someone gets off their fat arse and types a few keys on a keyboard.

I'm done here, now to drive off into the sunset, laughing... for some reason...