Backlog Burner Episode 1 :: RAGE

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Tidying up first season of Retro Saturdays was an effortless task. Finding something new to replace it with? Not so easy. The Noobs spent hours thinking “what should we do next?“. After coming up with some rather outlandish ideas, this underdeveloped idea from the past snapped back into our bonebox; “why don’t we write about games in our backlogs?”. An idea so simple, yet something that requires a lot of effort to pull off. This meant that we had to get off our lazy butts and start playing all those unplayed games we’ve been accumulating over the years. I get dizzy just by looking at the estranged games in my Steam library (thank you Gaben). We’re hoping to accomplish ‘two birds, one stone’ with this series. For starters, ‘Backlog Burner‘ lets us do what we always love doing; write quality content on video games. Additionally, it also serves to make our backlogs lighter….a lot lighter. So without further ado, let’s clear our library, one game at a time.

id Software has been credited with many-a things, such as developing the first perfect pseudo-3D graphics engine, giving birth to modern FPS, and for throwing outlandish office parties. Yet one product of id that didn’t receive the hereditary acclaim is RAGE, an open-world FPS with some racing elements from 2011. With the highly hyped-up RAGE 2 releasing next year, it’s as good time as any to purge RAGE from my backlog.

Have you ever played games that are not great, but not bad either, just OKAY? Well, RAGE and that category fits together perfectly like two peas in a pod, two GPUs in an SLI bridge, two negatively charged subatomic particles occupying the same orbital field (let me stop myself right there). From the very beginning, the game never raises your expectations, nor does it manage to dip it so low. But I feel it’s wrong to take a negative leak on something without mentioning the positives, so here’s what the game does well. For an FPS, the gunplay is absolutely fantastic. There is an assortment of standard and unique Weaponry, with all of them having great feedback, recoil and the necessary punch. Not to mention the multiple ammo types and extra stuff like exploding RC cars and portable turrets. I wouldn’t expect any less from the masters of the FPS genre. Absolutely no complaints in the gunplay department.

When it comes to the story…..well to put it nicely,  the story practically non-existent. RAGE takes place in a Mad Max-esque post apocalyptic setting filled with bandits, muties and a lot of browns and greys. Despite being the generic chosen one, you spend the entirety of the game being the number #1 errand boy of the wasteland. Seriously, every single story mission in the game has you visit a guy, swallow some orders, drive to some place, shoot some people for 10 minutes, and report back. Your actions has the effect of someone playing an Adele song during a thunderstorm. Not to mention the crappy final mission, where all you have to do to win the game is push some buttons and fend off some common muties. Then the game just ends with a short and pointless cinematic before the credits starts rolling. It almost ruins experience up til then.

I have to give RAGE credit for trying something different when the FPS genre was just getting out of the military shooter syndrome that ran from 2008-2011. Symptoms ranged from brown and grey and “realistic” color palettes, “cinematic” gameplay and of course, a tacked-on multiplayer component. Since games were still experimenting with the open world FPS formula, there are clearly a lot of problems in that department. The game world feels empty and there is no interesting locations to see and stuff to find. Pretty much 80% of the buildings inside settlements are locked and inaccessible. What side quests the game offers are nothing but 5 minute fetch quests with no good rewards. The races are fun, but only as a distraction. Vehicular combat is very much underused.The game doesn’t even use the open wastes to its full potential. Pretty much all story missions takes place in highly linear in-door environments. It’d have been great if the game let you use the open world to your advantage, like Far Cry 2 or Crysis before it. At least RAGE isn’t full of open world busywork that is widely prevalent today.

The game uses id Tech 5 engine and it clearly shows. RAGE holds up nicely, albeit with the occasional texture pop-in. In fact, the game uses some texture compression technology that caused it to run like crap at release. But hey, at least the distant textures look amazing. The apocalyptic atmosphere is spot-on and so are the AI and facial animations. There are some fun mini-games, as well as a few interesting campaign missions. RAGE is often compared (unfairly) to Borderlands, just because both games look a tad bit similar, but the similarities end there.

At the end of the day, the idea of RAGE is a lot better than the game itself.  It feels as if a lot of the mechanics of the game is intended as a tech demo, or a lot has been left on the cutting room floor. The whole game can be completed in like 12 hours, and that includes all the side contents. It’s the kind of game where you go in with zero expectations and maintain that status til the very end of the game. But hey, at least the shooting is solid.

Well, that’s one game purged from the ever-growing backlog and damn it felt good. I’ll just leave you guys now to stare ominously into your own backlogs. Just remember- baby steps.

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