Hands-on / Rage (Xbox 360)

Something is going on with the planet in Rage. Everyone is packing up and being shipped off world in cryogenic tubes. Well, everyone who is worth the trouble. The rest will have to fend for themselves after an asteroid slams into their front yards. Sometime after the apocalyptic events, the cryogen ship I am in crash lands for some reason or another and – lo and behold – I am the only survivor.

Stepping out of the cryostasis tube, the devastation to the ship is evident, with sparking wires and chaos in abundance. The failure of the ship’s mission is all brought to my attention by an audio log that must be activated in order to continue. I won’t give away any spoilers here, but let’s be perfectly clear here: things did not go as planned aboard this ship. Activating the speaker gives a quick introduction of the situation I found myself in, it also allows for the game to continue and is the beginning of a covert tutorial in order to ease me into the game’s controls. Something of which I am a huge advocate.

Exiting the now open door of the ship, the first thing that that hit me was the startling realization that Rage is a strikingly beautiful game. Sure, after seeing cinematics and taped gameplay from the developer, I knew it would be pretty, but I always have an apprehension that the footage is doctored in some way. Or the game is running on a rig that even the richest of gamers could never afford. Not the case.

The build of Rage I played is such an  eye-melter that I would marry it if it were legally possible. I wish I could project my mind’s image onto this screen because words just don’t do the game justice. Simply put: everything is just right. The textures are suitably bland where blandness is needed, yet pop with beauty where that is called for as well. Mountains in the distance didn’t appear jaggy and rendered without issue. Rage also had a thankful lack of the coat of shine on everything that developers have been so in love with lately.

Alone and unarmed, I wandered outside the ship for a total of about ten seconds when I was jumped by some crazed mutants. They beat me senseless for a bit longer than was really needed as I pushed buttons helplessly. Just when I thought I had completed the world’s shortest game preview, a shot rang out, killing one of the attackers – I had a friend after all. Maybe.

It didn’t matter, he was shooting them and not me, so when he told me to get in the buggy he was driving, I hopped in without question. As we drove along, headed back to his settlement, the calming voice of John Goodman explained the situation I now found myself in as well as the basic run down of what had happened around us. Of course, no ride is free and once we arrived back in the safety of his encampment, he asked me to help him out by eliminating some neighboring bandits. He explained the reasoning behind the task, painting the bandits to be some really bad dudes,  and gave me a gun with the promise of some armor as a reward once the task was done. It was a tempting offer but the thing is, from this point on, Rage is open to exploration and I didn’t have to help John Goodman’s voice one bit if I didn’t want to – except to forward the game’s main plot – which I didn’t.

With gun in hand, I went into the garage, borrowed an ATV, and headed out to explore the world. The hostile, uncaring world. Cruising around, taking in the scenery, I forgot the people in Rage don’t like me for some reason. After dying twice and respawning at  the last checkpoint, I decided maybe it was for the best to help John Goodman’s voice with his bandit problem. It’s a win-win anyway: he gets less hassle from them and I get some armor to help me die less.

Once the mission was accepted, a waypoint and suggested path appeared on the game’s mini-map, leading me directly to the bandit’s hideout. Once arrived, I headed inside, climbing over various obstacles – with the ninja tutorial ever present showing me the ropes – and encountered my first real enemies. Shooting at them had a nice feeling with not much recoil or loose play but the guys just wouldn’t die. Whether for my lack of aiming ability or their sheer will to live, the bandits refused to give up the fight. Even when I had crippled their legs, they fought from the ground Call of Duty last stand style. That came to a quick end as I was then taught how to handle grenades.

Like in most adventure games, the dead will typically return loot of some sort once they have ceased to exist. Rage is no different, save for the fact that if you blow your opponent to bits with explosives, there is no treasure to be found. With the scarcity of ammo, weapons, and general junk that can be sold for profit, there’s a line that must be considered when choosing methods of killing the bad guys. Huge explosions or looting the bodies; it’s a tough decision between two equally satisfying choices.

After clearing out the bandit’s hideout, I returned victorious. After being thanked by John Goodman’s voice and told how much I had helped, I received my reward of armor and was asked to help out again. Some medical supplies needed to be found and the group up the road might be able to help with locating them. My reward? A car of my very own.

Who could say no?