id Software—creator of Doom and Quake—doesn’t make many games, so on the rare occasion when it does, it’s a bona fide industry event. Requiring an 8 GB install on the PlayStation 3 and spanning three DVDs on the Xbox 360, Rage is ambitious in scope. But in spirit, the game, first announced back in 2007, is easily id’s most conservative creation yet.
As an apocalypse survivor, the game’s nameless hero emerges from a cryogenic lifeboat to discover that bandit clans and mutants are roaming the earth. Gameplay comes in two varieties: driving and shooting. The driving sections feel crude and uninspired, like a high-definition version of a PlayStation-era racing game. They do open up the game, though, effectively giving players the sensation of a larger surrounding world. But the routine races and pesky package-deliveries are little more than distractions, a grand-scale mini-game.
The first-person shooting segments also disappoint, especially when compared with recent shooters like Crysis 2 and Killzone 3. The controls feel slippery in Rage, and enemies are usually more annoying than tenacious. Even the smallest mutant, for some reason, requires multiple shotgun blasts to the chest before he’ll even consider expiring. More problematic is the vast disconnect between the two types of gameplay. Driving feels hermetically sealed off from shooting, and vice versa, thanks to the long-winded load screens that occur whenever you’re being hustled between the two.
Most heartbreaking of all, especially to longtime id fans, is that id has created something so overtly familiar. Doom, Quake, and their various sequels gave the impression that id designers never bothered playing anything but their own games. Yet huge swaths of Rage are lifted wholesale from Fallout 3, Borderlands, and BioShock, making Rage forever veer between loving homage and blatant plagiarism. In the end, Rage is an insecure, overly busy game that tries too hard to be too many things, and winds up with a greasy sheen of flop-sweat on its brow.