Articles, Design Analysis

Design Analysis: RAGE

My first impression of RAGE wasn’t great. Considering my love for id and their games, I felt betrayed and it seemed as though they were trying to showcase technology rather than good gameplay. I soon became bored of the point A to B back and forth and my precious time, wasted on loading screens. Around an hour in, I shelved the game.

Months later after seeing the id guys at GDC and remembering why my love for id existed in the first place, I decided to give RAGE another go. If you forget the hype and the months of anticipation; treat the game like you would any other. Then this is where you will find RAGE come alive.

Yes, I feel the opening gameplay of RAGE was a little stale and didn’t excite players as it should have. But put some time into it and you’ll soon see the rewards. This is clever pacing on the designers side of things. What I mistook as slow and repetitive gameplay was in fact a ‘tutorial’ on learning the rules of the wasteland. They didn’t have a long winded tutorial and instead taught me the rules as I got to them. Anyone that put the extra effort in as I did soon realised that if you had been thrown in at the deep end, it would have turned into more hardcore shooter than skilful but engaging.

Reasons to love the RAGE.

This may seem like an obvious point, but one to point out regardless. Id are still the king of shooters. The way they handle the weapon system and the balancing of the weapons is truly incredible. Unlike other games where you can customise weapons (I’m looking at you, DEADSPACE), each weapon has a use in every situation. Even 8 hours into the game, I found myself still using the pistol with a few upgrades on it. Of course, from my DOOM days, my shotgun was my best friend, ripping holes and tearing chunks out of mutants. You also have a crossbow, which as a weapon is a little weak, but to work around the damage dealt out, they added some custom ammo types to immerse you into some of the missions at hand. Selecting the weapons couldn’t be easier, although a little fiddly on the analogue sticks, they can be quickly switched out at the press of a button. This works exceptionally well when you are being stealthy taking out enemies with a silenced weapon and then if you’re seen, quickly equipping an assault rifle will get you out of those sticky situations.

Exploring the Wasteland.

Items come in thick and fast. Spend some time exploring however and you will find some true gems. Some you can sell to get extra money and some you can use for schematics to build items which can help you in the gameplay. This is a cool element to add to the game as it allows players to spend their time thinking about the best tactics.  You have the typical types of grenades and medi-packs but things get interesting with the addition of ‘Wingsticks’. These boomerang type contraptions allow you to work your way stealthily through an environment with a little bit of skill. I didn’t use them much at first, but when you understand the value of them, they are a great addition to the arsenal. Things like sentry turrets help with overwhelming enemies but can be a little week. The RC cars are fiddly to handle and I rarely have an occasion to use them.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The different clans scattered around the wasteland are also an interesting addition to the gameplay which creates new tactics making sure you’re always on your toes. They help add gameplay into previously explored environments which is clever on id’s behalf to add content instead of feeling as though you are backtracking. Each clan has their own weaknesses and strengths which allow you to equipment yourself accordingly. Something which I think gets overlooked often with id, is the quality of their AI. It feels like they are truly responsive to all of your actions in the game. They realise when they are being flanked, then fall back. If you are backed into a corner, they know it and are more than happy to flush you out with grenades. It takes me back to early playtests I saw of the original DOOM and they were like “These guys will actually start fighting with each other if they get shot”. It seemed as though the most exciting thing to them and it helped bring the original DOOM to life. Some AI can feel predictable and pop their head up almost timely which helps you pick them off easily, but apart from those small flaws I think they react great.

Musically, RAGE is a Die-Hard blockbuster action movie mixed with dry gritty version of The Road. It detects what type of situation you are in perfectly and plays a relevant playlist. Saying that I didn’t notice the music until I was actually listening out for it is a true testament to how well it was designed as I feel the best music is always the most unnoticeable. They create moments of tension and cause you to get the most powerful gun out and creep around the environment only to realise there is nothing there. Hearing clan leaders call out, knowing that they are near you but you can’t actually see them adds a true level of tension.

Realism killed the cat

To add to the realism of RAGE, id added a stamina meter to the sprint function. This has always been a controversial element for me in gameplay and one that has to strike a balance in order for it to succeed. In RAGE, I feel, the sprint does not add anything to the gameplay. Not because of me as a player wanting to be able to indefinitely sprint, instead me as a designer. Take for example the central base in RAGE. You need to go and see the Sheriff, and then the Mayor across town, although there are mini-games and things to buy, there is little gameplay here. Instead of letting me sprint, and then run out of breath, and then sprint, and then run out of breath (you get the picture). Just let me run the whole way. Maybe design and explain it as though you’re not in the hot desert and you’re in a cool, populated area allowing you to sprint for longer. Whatever the reason, don’t make me have to run out of breath when I’m just trying to get somewhere to get a mission. I agree, in terms of tactics, you should only be allowed to sprint for a few seconds, this works in more tactical games such as CoD, otherwise it just distracts and frustrates the player instead of immersing them.

The obvious downside to RAGE and the thing that everyone talks about is the LODing of the textures (Textures popping in and out). To that I say, so what? Would you sacrifice the beauty of RAGE for lower resolution, less populated environments? Or can you accept that when you are making your way through the complex layers of what RAGE has to offer, it is hands down the best looking game out there. The use of Megatextures allowed artists to create totally unique environments and I never one noticed a duplicated asset. To push limitations, you may have to sacrifice a few things initially, but without these innovations, no one else could build on those future ideas. Now that id have shown what they can do with the technology, I’m sure DOOM 4 and any other projects to be using similar technology will benefit from the lessons learnt by RAGE.

Enough RAGE.

If you’re a huge fan of the id pedigree and loved every second of playing a Marine battling the demons of Hell on Mars and you dismissed this game because of the hype, go pick it up and play it again. If you saw RAGE in the bargain bin after a few weeks of sale, selling for £15, and thought it must be a terrible game, go pick it up! This game has all of the layers of complex gameplay anyone needs. It’s balanced and the pace of the game only intensifies as you become more integral to the story of the Wasteland’s survival. For anyone that has loved the games industry for as long as I have and still believes AAA doesn’t just mean sameoldrecipenewpackaging, make sure you pick up RAGE, and show it all the time is deserves.

Picture credits to DeadEndThrills


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