It's possible to take Rage's mish-mash of themes and approaches and react to it in many different ways. You could, for example, interpret it as meaning that Rage defies genres and spreads itself over many areas in order to let players experience the game as they choose. Has id Software made a post-apocalyptic Deus Ex?
No, it hasn't. If there's one thing that Rage doesn't do then it's offer players choices; it's a racing game because there are times when you have to race, and it's an RPG because there are times when you have to buy a new engine. It offers story when it's necessary, and vapid violence the rest of the time. There's no emergence of decisions to make; the path has lots of different terrain, but you can't go off-road.
And yet, at the same time, to rubbish Rage or to claim that its hectic hodgepodge doesn't work would be equally misleading. Rage is many things, but first of them all is that it's hugely enjoyable - its many components all work well individually, as well as a whole. The racing is fast, the combat fierce, the crafting involved. Shove all of that into one game and you end up with a pleasantly varied shooter, despite the linear nature.
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What should be taken away from Rage's choice of ingredients is that it both offers something for everyone and also suffers when its components start to overlap and conflict. The health system is an excellent example of where id Software's attempt to appeal to the RPG, arcade and core shooter crowds layer too much complexity into the game.
In Rage you can use first aid kits to instantly heal yourself when hurt. You don't need to worry if you forgot to buy some before your mission either, as you can make them yourself, so you'll never really run out. It doesn't matter even if you do run out, though, because your health also regenerates. And! If it doesn't regenerate fast enough then it doesn't matter because a minigame kicks in when you die, letting you hurt enemies and regain health. But there's no need to worry if you mess that up either, as you probably quicksaved, right? No? Good thing there are regular checkpoints then.
In short, it's almost impossible to die in Rage - and once you realise that it becomes hard to shake the blasé approach that the lack of fear generates. Rage's impressive variety and commitment to casual and hardcore alike is its greatest strength, but also its biggest weakness.
Watch the Rage Gearhead Vault trailer at Bit-Gamer
Issues with Rage's engine and much-vaunted megatexture system also rear up, creating extra disappointment given id Software's marketing hype and reputation. While character models are detailed, much of the scenery and background is noticeably blocky and bugs appear regularly, even after multiple patches and driver fixes. Even at its best and with no glaring errors, Rage still suffers from jarring texture pop-in that no excesses of computing power seem able to resolve.
However, despite these frustrations and the sometimes jarring clashes between Rage's component parts, the game is still capable of impressing based on the sheer variety and fun it offers. There's always some new distraction, whether it's a romp through the Mutant Bash hall of horrors or a series of minigun marathon races. Bored with these? Then venture into the sewers and just start shooting mutants, or grab a friend and venture into self-contained co-op adventures - a clever alternative to normal multiplayer or co-op options that compensates for the core multiplayer racing mode, but which also fails to offer enough depth to wow.
Rage, even after so much development from such an esteemed team, doesn't bring anything truly new to the market. It doesn't push the technical boundaries that fans might have expected it to on either PC or console, and it feels far too homogenous to lay claim to any particular innovation or excellence. Yet, if these expectations are left behind then Rage must still be judged as an overall success, not because it ever becomes more than the sum of its parts, but because the parts themselves are well made individually.