While trying to describe the game Rage to a non-gamer friend last week, I was interrupted. "That's a stupid name. What does it have to do with the game?" I had no reply, other than id Software's convention of irrelevant game titles (even Commander Keen didn't look all that keen).
One week later, the title makes a little more sense–in the form of an already played-out pun. Rage has induced plenty of rage less than 24 hours after its launch, but as web forums explode with technical complaints and critics roll out 1,000-word versions of the word "meh," I sit back with an immature smirk on my face. It's the kind of "toldja so" that comes with a timestamp–roughly one week after this year's Penny Arcade Expo, to be exact.
On my personal blog, I posted a Rage PAX preview with the following: "I read other writers’ gushing thoughts on this game and shake my head. Am I on a different planet than these people? We’ve played this game before, and it was better as Borderlands."
I went on to trash the ho-hum weapon variety, the solitude of the campaign, the fetch-quest monotony, and even the fact that this PC game was crammed onto an Xbox controller, dulling the game's hook of aiming at hasty foes.
From the look of it, I was playing Rage's final Xbox 360 build at PAX, and my week of time with the final edition hasn't softened the conclusion I reached in September:
"This isn’t like Borderlands’ combat, which at least pumps its weapons full of giddy stupidity, nor Halo Reach, whose AI foes swarmed, surrounded and punished you for bad strategy, yet victory against them felt fun. Instead, Rage is yet another id game with cramped corridors and out-of-nowhere spawns, where victory over your foe is an inevitable, good-looking tedium.
"Game industry, please stop kissing id developer John Carmack’s incredibly, incredibly intelligent ass. He can make a dandy of a game engine, and things go splat and heart rates go up as baddies show up and yell “BOO!” But some of those years spent making an engine should instead change the games we play. The FPS genre is too crowded for anything less."
It's sad enough to see an industry titan like id put this sort of thing on the market. But we border on a travesty when a games press industry stands by idly, watching the train approach without telling readers who sit on the tracks with smiles and pre-orders on their faces. Chalk it up to the same ol' bullshit: dependence on the games companies for early review-build access; withholding judgment via puffed-up previews; an editor-contributor chain that balks at low review scores and pre-release scorn.
If you made me put a number score on Rage, I'd consider a 5.5/10–which is high for me, since I don't treat numbers the IGN way. The technical side shines pretty highly on Xbox 360; the general bombast and attempts at online experimentation deserve lauding. It's not a total failure. But the games press should be scored on this game, too. You knew what was coming. You knew that id was holding back on PC demos of a game that seems intended for mice and keyboards. And you did nothing. 2/10. Superman 64.