After Drivers And Patches, Rage Cleans Up Nicely
If you’re a gamer, there's a good chance that you’ve heard of Fallout 3. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, this brilliantly-executed title set a very high bar for detailed open-world RPGs. On the other hand, far fewer of you likely remember Interstate ’76, released back in 1997. That landmark game combined vehicle combat, upgrade resource management, and a great story-driven narrative years ahead of the curve. Why am I talking about two older games in our exploration of Rage's performance? Because, if you take Fallout 3, twist it into a shooter instead of an RPG, and add Interstate ’76 auto combat to the mix, you end up with something like Rage. And that, my friends, is a good thing.
No, I didn't forget Borderlands. That's another good game in its own right, which appears to follow the same formula. But Borderlands has a very different feel than Fallout 3, and vehicles play a much more limited role. On the other hand, Rage invests heavily in both first-person shooter and vehicle racing/combat play styles. Despite the split focus, it strikes an excellent balance. It may be a shooter at its core, but outfitting and upgrading your ride is vital.
The premise? Swap Fallout’s nuclear war for a meteor, and Vaults for Arks. You play a volunteer preserved via cryo-sleep for just over a century, awakened to find yourself the lone survivor in your Ark. You emerge into a painted desert of mutants, bandits, and crumbling structures. The game hands you a friend, and from then on you fight to make your way in what’s left of civilization.
Rage does a fantastic job of mixing it up and keeping things fresh. Sometimes you need guns to survive; other times you need to win races. Towns are full of folks with spoken dialogue and colorful personalities, many of whom have missions or mini-games for you to spend time completing. This is a really well-crafted game, and, to be honest, it’s not what I expected from the development team at id. The Doom and Quake franchises are irrefutably successful, but ultimately one-dimensional. Rage is cut from a completely different mold.
It's not all good, though. The enemy AI algorithms do nothing to further the genre, though they do make a valiant attempt at dodging attacks. Once in a while, you come up against a foe who’d rather flee than die like his compatriots, which is nice to see. Vehicle combat is very simple, and the focus is on choosing upgrades and equipment more than your ability to actually maneuver. For those of you who enjoy an open world to explore, Rage’s outdoor environments are somewhat restrictive compared to the Fallout series. I’ve hit a ton of invisible walls. The game shows them to you on its mini-map, but it’s still irritating to get yanked out of immersion when you run into one.
Despite the game’s beautiful environments, Rage quickly earned itself a bad reputation on the PC for glitches and problems on many machines. To be honest, I didn’t run into any serious issues on my Intel or AMD test boxes, regardless of graphics card (Ed: I did; it was bad enough for me to stop playing, in fact). Admittedly, that's after installing hotfix drivers from both AMD and Nvidia, though.
In any case, I remain adamant that Rage is worth playing. If the genre appeals to you, give it a shot. If you didn't like Fallout 3, don't bother. Now, let's get down to why we're here: performance.