Price: £34.99-£49.99
Format: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3, PC
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

First the hype then the backlash, the consequences of a game we were led to believe might be something new failing to – quelle surprise – live up to such gargantuan expectations. Can any game live up to such hyperbole? Possibly not, after all, GC Tower’s favourite game of the year so far remains Portal 2; a game little hyped (comparatively) and all the more genius and refreshing for it.

The thing of it is however that Rage is actually a decent game, a fine FPS which is easily on a par, in our eyes surpassing, 2011’s offerings thus far, the likes of Killzone 3, Resistance 3, Homefront and Crysis 2. What Rage isn’t however is anything new, beyond the admittedly shiny graphics – though not massively beyond anything we’ve seen (at least on PS3 and 360) – it is at heart a derivative shooter, albeit one which makes speculative attempts to broaden its remit to include the fundamentals of the RPG and even arcade racer.

By dabbling in RPG territory however – and we say dabbling because its RPG-ness consists of talking to all NPCs for the odd job, customising ammo through a rudimentary engineering system and building the odd piece of tech (EMP grenade, sentry bot, etc.) – Rage becomes mixed with the big boys; the likes of Fallout 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and, even Mass Effect, all of which deliver all that Rage attempts and contemptuously offer so much more in terms of immersion, gameplay time and character customisation.

In that way then, Rage is the architect of its own backlash; surely someone at id looked at their game, cast an eye over to what their competitors were doing and though, “hmm, are we doing enough?” Perhaps instead they didn’t realise that by adding in RPG elements they were opening themselves to comparison to some of the greats of that genre? Ultimately, perhaps the reckoned that the visuals would sell Rage regardless, and in that we’re sure they’ll be proven correct.

Rage you see is primarily an advert for its “id tech 5” visual engine, no doubt the game forming around the engine rather than the other way around – perhaps we can expect bigger things from Doom 4 then? Its simplistic plot, which thrusts the player into a post-apocalyptic future (this time the world’s been obliterated by a meteorite) and tasks the player with felling the totalitarian Authority is one well-treaded and not particularly well fleshed out.

Indeed motivation for helping out the underdeveloped characters is barely provided; instead the chief reason to clear out yet another area of bandits/mutants/Authority troops is provided by id’s tech, which delivers thrilling FPS with pace, panache and gruesome beauty. The way hostiles weave out of the way of your spray of bullets keeps you on your toes, their constant communication not particularly useful to them but engrossing non-the-less and the beauty of the various action hubs which have all been realised with a seemingly unending attention to detail.

To get the most out of the game consider playing on the harder difficulty setting too, reasons for this being that a: the player character has so many aids – deadly weaponry, auto-health recovery and even a interior defribulator which triggers once health has fallen too low – to make the game very easy on lower difficulties and b: the game’s length clocks at 12 hours or so why not get the most bang for your buck?

Once completed you might feel like a little bit of multiplayer action too, but, as already widely reported, options are a tad lacking. We’ve touched on Rage’s driving aspect before, essentially a tool to more between areas and provide some cheap thrills through homing rocket exchanges with other Wasteland drivers. It’s in the driving seat that your only avenues for deathmatch are available too, a hodgepodge of options which barely explore Rage’s potential – very un-id-like. There’s also a co-op mode in which plot asides are explored but ultimately, once more, only makes us wonder why the lack of proper deathmatching. Again, maybe we’ll have to wait for the next Doom?

Rage makes for a pulsating FPS experience when it’s at it its best but is ultimately let down by id’s seeming unwillingness to fully explore the exploration and RPG elements of their game. We could have been looking at a contender for game of the year here, instead we’ve got a pretty FPS which teases us with what might have been. FPS fans will appreciate the experience regardless, just don’t go in expecting anything revolutionary. Quite how the game would have been perceived if it was simply a straight shooter, with a traditional deathmatch mode, makes food for thought.