Friday, 13 April 2012
Rage (2011, fps) - 07 Oct 11
Atmospheric, with real game play.
First impressions. Epic intro. No HUDto start with, heps to immerse the player. Pretty neat first view of landscape. XBox 360 version has some aliasing on hand rail, a bit unexpected. First enemy encounter is fucking starling; I literally shouted “shit!” -- interestingly, these guys are killed for you, so you don’t get to kill stuff early on, but I didn’t mind somehow. Doom guy in the buggy is an awesome touch while you’re being driven through the landscape; a nice way of setting the scene. Almost no storyline, which is exactly what you want in an FPS. The aliasing is really getting under my skin; though you buy the XBox 360 version for the frame rate, not the quality. When the HUD appears, it seems a tad cluttered at first, and the map seems huge (but it is only visible when you’re outside). Tutorial is pretty passive, which is good; you only see the very bare minimum info needed (what buttons to press). The menu (mainly for saving and loading) is very responsive and well done; a big improvement on Doom 3. There’s also a tutorial message to remind you to save early and often; so they’ve made a clear choice to take the “safe often” model from Doom, but this time, user’s are reminded “it’s OK to save often; it not cheating”, which will enhance their gameplay experience. So far, the only things I’ve seen that I don’t like is the aliasing (but I can forgive the game for that since I’m using an XBox 360) and the mini-map when you’re outside (but I suppose that this is just a navigational mode, so it’s sort of acceptable). In the save menu, you are limited to a set number of saves, and forced to do a little memory management. The sky and clouds look very realistic, but if you look for too long you realise it’s just a canvas, the the illusion is broken.
RPG. Some players might be lead to believe the game is more RPG-like than it actually is, because of it’s similarities to Fallout 3. However, players may be disappointed about enemies and items fading away, invisible walls, and the linearity of the mission (the side-quests come later in the game and have little to do with the main plot).
Enemies. Enemy death sequences are nicely done. First few enemies are very easy to kill, and pose almost no threat, this is the tutorial stage that’s teaching you how to use your weapon. Interestingly, it’s the environment that ramps up the difficulty, the enemies back you into tight spaces, which makes it harder to fight. Critical hits are feel responsive and moderately easy to achieve. It’s also easy to shoot enemies neat caps out when they’re standing behind stuff; very satisfying. As a brit, I find the enemies’ cockney accents hilarious, especially when they trip over something and shout “Waah, bollocks!”; excellent voice acting. Another surprising feature of the engine is that enemies disappear almost immediately after killing them. Mutants crawling out of every hole (including the floor and ceiling) is a good way to make the player scared. The enemies seem to be inspired greatly by Left 4 Dead (spitting acid, etc). At one point you are required to use some intelligence to kill a boss (when you first get a rocket launcher), up to this point no intelligence is really needed to kill bosses, so it took me a couple of attempts to realise “Oh, this thing dispenses more rockets?!” you could argue that this could frustrate some players, but really it’s just a shock to the player that they actually need to think.
Environment. This game is so immersive, cut-scenes are from your perspective, so you stay immersed; none of this out-of-body crap. Some times, there may be a gap that you cannot go through, which is a little frustrating. Died for the first time jumping down a ladder; interesting. Retrying missions seems to reduce the number of enemies, maybe to make the level easier. I did notice one or two minor physics bugs, but nothing serious enough for me to get annoyed. In the subway underground level, you see a great number of mutants all fleeing at the sight of you, which is gives you the impression that you might be safe for a while, but after you realise just how many you’ve seen, they start emerging in greater numbers. Along with the evil music (trumpet, violins, playing minor notes) and decomposing dead bodies scattered around, this builds a very scary environment. When the game wants to shock the player, you’ll notice that the music dies down to deliver the audio and visual blow that makes the player shout “shit!”
Mini-game. You’re introduced to the first mini game (the defibrillator) early on, while this was a little unexpected, the tutorial explained how to use it quite well, and afterwards seemed natural, while I don’t quite understand the point of the mini game right now, I somehow don’t mind it too much. The engineering feature in the inventory screen is cool. There are also other gambling games.
Weapons. The wings are freaking awesome for decapitating enemies; puts a big smile on my face; love this weapon. When you are awarded the rifle, the player inspects it, shows you how weighty it is; this is designed to make the player happy with their new find. The half-binocular (humorously described as “the good half”) enhances the pistol significantly; a nice touch. Some objects (e.g. Authority power generators) require multiple shots from normal weapons to disable them, however the initial shot doesn’t give any indication that damage was done, so if a player was worried about wasting ammo they might not fire further shots. I actually thought for a while that the EMP was the only thing that could destroy them, but when I ran out of HE grenades, I found myself going back through the level looking for stuff -- as it happens I actually did find a fair number of hidden items. Weapons like mind control darts and the sentry robot are heavily inspired by Fallout 3. I’m totally blown away by the mind control and dynamite bolts for the crossbow; by far the most fun weapons I’ve used in a game so far. Interestingly, they play down the effectiveness of the crossbow by giving you crappy ammo to start with, which makes the special ammo all the more satisfying to use. Seriously, the mind control in Rage is way more fun than Fallout 3.
Quests. The game starts out mostly with fetch-quests, backed by some basic motivation; first and foremost, “I want a god damn doom buggy!”, followed by “I want guns on my doom buggy!” On day 3, after around 4 hours of playing, I’m now asking myself what is my motivation? In Fallout 3, you are constantly reminded that you’re looking for your dad, and you want to save everyone from the nasty irradiated water; but what exactly is the end goal in Rage? First the goal was to get a kick ass doom buggy, now I have this, I’m thinking there should really be some sort of impending doom that I need to fend off (e.g. the not-yet-seen-but-vastly-talked-about authority).
Conclusion. There has been an incredible amount of marketing gone into this game; the amount of hype generated has made it very highly anticipated; they have not disappointed. Overall, the game is incredibly solid and very playable. There are one or two irritating things (e.g. the save menu, it was so close to being perfect). The final product seems to be a mix of Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Half Life 2, and a number of other great games.