So, I got a two-week Summer holiday over Christmas. It was wonderful; sitting around, enjoying the company of friends and family, eating amazing food. Enjoying life.
Suffering, as all gamers do, the darkness that is the Steam Sale. So many games, so many choices. So much horror.
One of my purchases ended up being iD Software’s RAGE1, a post-apocalyptic style first person shooter. Run around, kill things, take their stuff. Here’s some thoughts about it.
Shooting is Fun
The only good part of this game is the shooting experience. Deaths are lovingly crafted; appearing as part animation and part ragdoll physics. There is a real sense of weight and momentum, with the ragdolls falling almost exactly as one would expect a body to fall.
Enemies take significant ammunition to kill, however, leaving the weapons feeling weak and insipid.
And now some Bad Stuff
First and foremost, this game is sexist. Young female characters exist as sexualisation for the player; all the “standing around” poses for non-critical characters have the upper chest thrust very far out.
In the second city, Subway Town, all the younger women are wearing next to no clothes, while posed with their chests stuck way out.
This is extremely lazy “design”, endemic and well-documented in the gaming industry, but still sickening to see so prominent in this game.
A Small Child could Write Better Than This
The age of Modern Gaming is here; our stories are taken truly seriously now. We have serious works delivering serious performances; good writing is taken almost for granted. Half-Life 2, reaching into the distant past. The recent Batman games. Anything Yahtzee2 has loved. Portal and Portal 2.
Even intentionally bad writing can be done well, as in Borderlands or Bulletstorm.
RAGE’s story, on the other hand, is just bad bad. It takes itself seriously, without the playful insanity of Bulletstorm or Borderlands. Motivations are nonsensical or severely counter-productive.
For example; early in the game you’re asked to visit the Outrigger Town. Overlooking the Outrigger town is a snipers’ nest, populated by bandits.
Why did they set up shop under such an amazingly obvious sniper spot? Why did they never take steps to defend it or block it off? Who knows.
The main enemy is called the Authority; you’re never told why they’re bad, just that they are. Predictably, the resistance is called The Resistance. Because they resist.
The utter lack of competent storytelling is almost certainly the result of Carmack’s attitude that story in games is like story in porn - expected but unnecessary3 .
As a result, in an age where gaming stories are a respected medium, where Mass Effect garnered an entire trilogy on the strength of its story, we’re left with the gaming equivalent of an Uwe Boll movie.
I hope you like Straight Lines
Every part of RAGE’s on-foot section is the most linear of linear levels. Bulletstorm had the grace to be fun with its linearity; RAGE doesn’t even manage that.
Events like doors opening once you’ve killed the swarm of mutants to let in the next swarm of mutants are common.
I’m often left wondering how anyone survived in this world before I came along; the first town needs me to clear out a bandit infestation from their water supply.
Because setting up turrets is, apparently, difficult. Or having guards.
Or closing the giant hole above the water supply, preventing access. You know, sensible things.
It’s just Dull
I think the worst part is that this entire game is just dull as dishwater. Every aspect of it has been done before and far better.
Post-apocalypse setting? Fallout, Borderlands, etc. Driving? Borderlands. Shooting? Bulletstorm. Storytelling? The list is nigh endless.
I’ve reached the Jackal Canyon, in my game, and it’s barely interesting enough to keep playing.
It’s just a Game
This is the No True Scotsman fallacy, asking us to believe that because games have historically been like this, this is acceptable.
I paid $8 for RAGE. I consider that overpriced. YMMV, of course, but I’d recommend skipping this one forever.