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Rage

Rage review: Drive angry

Four years ago Rage, the new franchise from the daddy of Doom and Quake, looked a breath of fresh air; cutting edge technology, RPG-enthused gameplay, exciting post-apocalyptic universe... and just about every other bullet point that's now commonplace on the boxes of most first-person shooters.

Id Software's taken its time constructing Rage, and as a result its setting and game engine aren't quite as thrilling as they perhaps would've been had it made it onto shelves before the Unreal Engine and Fallout/Borderlands/Enslaved/Resistance/Metro invasion.

But that's not to say the extra construction time hasn't paid off; Rage's bashed-up world is by far the most believable and beautifully decayed of the army of Mad Max-alikes in the shops today, while id Tech 5 offers genuinely Epic-topping gasps, like characters (friend or foe) that almost challenge Half-Life 2 in the personality stakes.

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Beyond that, there's another unexpected benefit of Rage's five-plus years sat in the garage; in 2011 it's taking to the track as one of the sole representatives of a brand of shooter that's been criminally under-represented in recent times - a single-player focussed behemoth with core mechanics polished to their satisfying best.

And in the multiplayer modern war-fest that is this Christmas, id's game could well prove to be one of the best solo FPS offerings of the year.

APOCA-LOVELY

Rage's story sees your player character wake in the distant future when the planet's been levelled by an Asteroid the size of New York City.

Your protagonist is one of the lucky few who were cryogenically stored in underground pods known as Arks, and now, stumbling from your sleeping pod like a half-cut student on a Tuesday afternoon, you discover the surface world managed to survive beyond the apocalypse - but it's a very different place.

The planet is now basically a page out of any number of post-apocalyptic movie scripts, with various tribal factions fighting each other with clubs and cyberpunk guns, in an effort to come out on top in the desert wasteland that Earth's become.

Bandits and mutants are your shooting fodder for most of the game, while later on the technologically savvy Authority change up the gameplay with their bullet-absorbing armour and holographic riot shields.

On paper the Wasteland is nothing we haven't seen a dozen times before in the likes of Borderlands and Bethesda's other top shooter, Fallout 3. But id's polish shows through in the gorgeous sun-kissed canyons and amazingly detailed settlements, with every environment telling a story and feeling more believable than the rival games.

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Much like the other granddaddies of FPS at Half-Life house Valve, id is masterful at constructing game spaces that feel lived in with back story and character, like the mutant-infested streets of the Dead City or a RC bomb-car factory, which houses every construction process from chemicals to sticking the wheels on.

Id's overarching plotline might fall a little flat in the end (more on that later), but the world of Rage oozes personality - as does its cast of characters, with their stunning, intricate animations and impressive face mapping.

WINGING IT

Rage's similarities with the other cyberpunk shooters extends to its quest mission structure, which as you'd expect has you running errands for new friends in the wasteland and with the XP systems and skill trees of its peers absent, concludes instead with guns, cash and pats on the back as reward.

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