id Software is one of those developers who do not release a game until they feel it is done. Unfortunately, this also makes them less than prolific. The theory though is that quality trumps quantity. With Rage this theory has proven itself to be true.
What Is It?
The last fully id developed game was Doom 3, which was released in 2004. Since then there have been new versions of Quake and Wolfenstein, but neither of those were fully developed by id. Rage has been in the works for a long time, and as is typical for an id game, a new graphics engine to power the game came along with it. Unlike previous games though, Rage will not be a one shot deal for id. This means they'll be powering other in-house projects with id Tech 5. I could go into more technical details of how neat the Megatexture technology is, but the technology in this case is actually less interesting than the game it powers. That is actually a change of direction for id, since Doom 3 was a great engine attached to a middle of the road game.
Rage takes place on a world that has survived an asteroid strike. In preparation for the strike, the powers that be buried several Arks full of cryogenically suspended nanotechnology enhanced people. You are one of these survivors and you quickly discover that the world is in the midst of a power struggle. There are settlements of people fighting against bandits and mutants. Beyond that, there seems to be an overarching power in the world known as The Authority. Ark survivors seem to be highly sought after by The Authority. The story is a little thin, and it does have some holes if you stop and think about it. That doesn't really make it any less enjoyable, though it does tend to make it predictable.
Why Should I Care?
At its heart Rage is an id Software first person shooter. That means that the core shooting mechanics are about as solid as you can get. There are a wide variety of weapons and sub-weapons at your disposal, all of which feel really good. There is just something incredibly satisfying about nailing a baddy with a caromed Wingstick. You will lose that bladed boomerang in the process, but seeing it bounce off a wall and decapitate a bad guy is worth the price. The various bandits, mutants, and soldiers that you'll have to face have a very competent AI system. They'll do their best to avoid getting shot and shooting you. They'll hide behind cover, run from grenades, and even use the environment to get a better angle on you. It all makes for some really intense fights.
The shooting action is solid, but Rage offers up a lot more than that. There is a quasi-RPG element to the game where you'll be taking on quests and completing them to gain cash and rewards. You can buy and sell equipment to make your job easier but it by no means goes into a lot of details there. To put it another way, it's not Fallout, the RPG element is an adjunct, not the main focus.
Rage's other main component is the vehicle combat and racing. Whether it is driving an ATV to catching huge air in a hot-rodded buggy, it feels right. The control works very well, though I do wish that there was the option to change the view during these scenes to a first person view. Navigating the world is made easy with a well done mini-map that not only shows you where you are and where you are going, but also draws out a path for you to follow so you don't get lost. It's a nice touch, and one that is very well appreciated.
Why Should I Spend My Time & Money?
Rage offers up a very specific type of game. It's not a hardcore RPG. It's not a super realistic military shooter. It's just a fun game. If you like shooting mutants in the face and racing around a wasteland in a souped up buggy, then Rage has that market cornered. It may not have the most compelling story, but it is interesting enough to keep you playing. Rage is a thoroughly enjoyable game that's worth the price of admission. Particularly if you're looking for a single player game.