Few games this year have irritated me more than id’s latest, RAGE.
It’s not because it’s a bad game, per se – it’s a perfectly adequate shooter with a great engine backing it up – but I will say it’s been a very badly released, possibly even developed game. And that has led to it being borderline unplayable for a large majority of PC users. Add to that id’s adherence to a style of gameplay that harks back to the last century, and RAGE is a curious and frustrating beast, with glimpses of the great game we all hoped for.
Id built its reputation on great PC games, so when it announced that RAGE was coming to PC and console, most thought it would be a clear PC lead and a clipped down port to lesser-specced console hardware. What we have finally ended up with is, however, a game made purely for consoles, and so much so that it’s nearly crippled on PC.
John Carmack is a smart guy, and he’s done great things in making RAGE look wonderful on five year old Xboxes. But the kind of coding that manages that trick ends up hurting the game on PC – especially if you’re in the AMD/ATI camp with your graphics hardware. We are, and on our test machine we were mightily unimpressed with textures that took nearly a second to pop in, and were then extremely low-res when in place. What happened to the megatextures? What happened to id’s Tim Willits’ promises that the game was going to be a treat on PC?
In reality, it’s simple – the game is so focused on pushing large textures down tiny memory pipes that it trips over more powerful PC systems. Which is bad, enough, really; a lot of games have problematic launches, this year in particular (hello Dead Rising and Red Orchestra!); but when you need to work with video card makers to get specific drivers in place post-launch, and for your customers to then have to track down custom .cfg files to fix the problems (and even then, not all of them)... someone’s really dropped the ball in terms of Quality Assurance.
It’s indicative of either the sloppiest QA time in Dallas (where id is based), or of a developer with a sudden complete disregard for a demographic that was once its key user base. Both Carmack and Willits have blamed the issues on its video card partners and incorrect drivers being released, but it’s hard to see how id could be completely ignorant of the situation.
So with a specific RAGE driver from AMD, and our new .cfg file, how does the game play? Well, in between random lock-ups and crashes (we’re playing on a Core i7 with 6GB of RAM and a 5970 video card), it plays... like an id game.
Once upon a time, this would be no bad thing. However, I’m kinda of over passive, faceless protagonists in our games; Given that every other NPC is fully voiced in RAGE, the idea to not give the player any voice is particularly odd. Instead, we end up with a true cipher as the player’s agent in the world, a guy who seems happy to be used by every person who meets him. If his ‘arc suit’ were a shiny leather gimp outfit, we wouldn’t be surprised – that’s how passive your ‘character’ is in the game.
Then there’s the classic array of weapons, all of which you can carry at once - old school style. These are at least spiced up by different ammo types, and there’s a pretty interesting set of crafting templates you utilise to build an array of tools and weapons, but, again, it’s like id was struggling against this kind of FPS innovation from the get-go.