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Tuesday, October 18, 2011
First the plot bit, which is always a good place to start. You are the survivor of an asteroid hit who has spent the last 106 years in cryogenic sleep. You emerge from your pod, you proceed to wander 10 feet and then get jumped by the local nasties that are now commonplace in the post apocalyptic wasteland... typical Saturday night in London then :).
I have to say that the understated (less is more) intro is awesome, it sets the bar high for the rest of the game. Included in this review is a youtube vid that shows the intro in all its glory.
In my humble opinion id software are the masters of first person shooters, they have a history of leading were others just follow. Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, all of them way ahead of their time and each one of them almost a generational leap over the precursor. I have no doubt about their worth as a company which is why I feel slightly puzzled and let down about Rage.
Dont get me wrong, it has a lot of good going for it but it also has its fair share of detractions.
The graphics are awesome with stunning scenery throughout to splatter your enemies guts and brains all over and the scenery never seems to repeat so id have done a fantastic job with the level design, but the PS3 version has a few niggles that annoy me.
A lot has been said about the tech5 engine used within Rage but at its heart it is nothing more than heavy usage of displacement and normal mapping through texture streaming, and although the texture streaming is a new trick for id it is largely there to cater for hardware limitations rather than an actual innovation. id are also old hands at normal and displacement mapping as they used it to great effect within the ageing Doom3 engine.
The good thing about their engine is that the hardware grunt side of things is pretty modest, which is why there is even a visually stunning (if cut down) iPhone version knocking around.
You get a solid frame rate throughout, even in the thick of the action on the PS3.
Rather than being reliant on grunt power (polygons per sec) the game engine is instead reliant on video ram texture...and lots of it.
This is where the PS3 runs into a few problems, it has half the video ram of the XBOX360 and add to this the slow loading of Blu-Ray over conventional DVD and we could have had a potential disaster on our hands(a combination of slow loading speed for streamed textures and limited video ram available to the system).
Fortunately this isnt as bad as I had feared
The id developers had made a hard choice and installation is compulsory for the PS3 version with an 8GB install (takes about 20 to 25 minutes).
This has helped offset the slow loading speed of streamed textures from disk throughout the game but it still doesnt help with the limited video ram that the PS3 has over other platforms.
I did some research on the web (google is your friend) and found out that one of the PS3s processing cores has been dedicated purely to the task of compressing and decompressing textures from memory on the fly to try and alleviate the lack of available video ram.
To cut a long story short the result is still brilliant but it lags behind its XBOX and PC equivalent, literally.
There is a noticeable pause whenever you turn your head round in the game for the texture streaming to kick in and as a result texture detail just pops in, this isnt as noticeable in the XBOX version and I believe (havent tested it yet) that if your PC is high spec enough that you wont even notice it at all.
It doesnt detract majorly from the game, I just find it an annoyance as a PS3 owner that the version for my system is the runt of the litter.
Anyway, rant over.
Now the good stuff
Even the bog standard Settler Pistol that you receive at the start is deadly with the right ammo (Fatboys etc) plus the scope addition turns it into a pretty decent long range killer, and no weapon ever becomes truly useless no matter how far you get in the game...
...except possibly right at the end, where the authority pulse cannon becomes the de-facto gun of choice and all other guns become redundant. (slight spoiler ).
Most of the ammo types for the guns are excellent additions that strategically alter the value of each gun except for one.
The mind control bolts are novel but ultimately you cannot move the target fast enough, or for long enough to alter the bolt sufficiently from the dynamite bolt as you are better off just doing just snap fire & detonate shots (rather than running the risk of leaving yourself in the open while controlling the other player).
The most versatile gun in the game would have to be the shotgun as once you get the pop rockets it effectively becomes a grenade launcher and the later pulse round ammo is perfect against anything in powered armour, shields and robots, add to that you can get access to goodies around the levels through emping electrical boxes they are a must have.
The remote control car bomb is fun but very flimsy. More often than not the car got blown up way before reaching the enemy... still fun though.
The value of grenades is lessened somewhat by the very good A.I of the enemy combatants, if you just lob a grenade the most that will happen is that the enemy will run away from it, effectively forcing them out of cover to be gunned down.
However if you cook the grenade you can lessen the fuse on it and cause great damage, these need to be timed right though to avoid premature detonation.
The Sentry turrets and spider bots within the game are awesome, every first person shooter should adopt them as standard armament as they add a lot of strategy (and almost comedy) to the game.
Seeing an Advanced Spider bot rip into the enemy and leave a pile of dead bodies in its wake or two Advanced Sentries completely decimate oncoming enemies is a sight and experience to savour.
The Authority Assault Rifle is way better than the settler variant and became my second most used gun in the game.
I have mixed opinions of the driving sections, they start of good but they get repetitive fast and the racing challenges arent really much of a challenge at all.
The side quests of the game are inventive and I can easily see myself going back for the Magick the gathering style card game, the Aliens Bishop-like knife game is a good test of reflexes and fun for a little while.
One oddity that sticks out is the boss structure of the game, the best and most inventive bosses of the game are at the beginning and middle of the game and seem to taper out towards the end, the non end boss battle is a bit of a cop out considering how rich and imaginative the game had been up to that point.
The game is still worth getting but if I knew what I do now I would have bought it for my PC instead (cheaper, better loading speed and *hopefully* none of that damn obvious texture streaming).
20 hours of single player fps action is more than good value for money these days, now awaiting the DLC which is sure to be released in a couple of months.
Overall: 7.5 out of 10