Review: GTA Online

GTA-Online

I already reviews GTAV, but it’s worth treating GTA Online as its own, separate entity. I’ll keep this brief though, since much of the commentary would be the same. The online version uses the same graphics, same setting, has the same living feel and buildings and so on.

The Good Things

  • You can create and customise your own character and even (le gasp!) play a girl.
  • You can customise and tune your vehicles (though this has a downside, see later).
  • People who are persistent shitheads become ‘bad sports’ and are banished to ‘bad sport’ servers.
  • There’s a huge amount of missions and almost as much fun to be had in the free-roaming section.
  • All the good things, minus the story praise, from the GTAV review.

The Bad Things

  • It is overflowing with shitheads. Even with the ‘bad sport’ system the chat is full of racist bullshit (though so far not sexist bullshit) homophobia and swearing. I was wary about playing online again and it’s not as bad as I expected, but it’s still pretty bad.
  • Aside from the voice chat idiocy there’s plenty of morons that screw the game up in other ways. Tank-trolls, glitch exploiters (huge amounts of free money, invulnerability, even invisibility a couple of times).
  • So. Many. Kids. I don’t mean teens, I mean… well, they sound really, really young. Should they even be playing this game?!? Not exactly easy to shock and pretty easygoing but wow…
  • The aforementioned glitches. A guy virtually ruined the game for me by throwing me 100 million dollars, unrequested. Rockstar support weren’t much help (they wanted evidence/screenshots which are hard to provide on a console).
  • People with bounties on them can hide in their apartments indefinitely, which ruins the point and is no fun.

Observations

  • Anyone spawning a tank in freeroaming is an idiot. Avoid.
  • Anyone with a pink gun is an idiot. Avoid.
  • Anyone whose car has a clown horn is an idiot. Avoid.
  • There’s always one motherfucker who thinks it’s funny to drive the wrong way around a race track crashing into everyone.

Conclusion

It’s still fun, but the exploiters are completely out of control and ruining the game for a lot of people. This should be the priority to fix, not new content. It’s still fun, and it’s free, and the idea of free-roaming plus instanced missions/races done in this way could be a good model for MMORPGs on a smaller, more intimate basis. Something people should consider IMO.

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Dragon’s Crown Review

dragons-crown-title

1364224242-9 (1)Dragon’s Crown is a modernisation of the old side-scrolling beat ’em ups like Final Fight and, more specifically, the D&D side-scrolling beat ’em ups like Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara. These were arcade games, back in the day, where you’d control a 2D character moving constantly (usually) to the right, beating up a succession of enemies and bosses to get to the end.

Dragon’s Crown is a bit more developed than that, in that it has a fully featured equipment system (and your 1364224241-10appearance changes appropriately!). You can enhance and advance your character, undertake quests, play together, work alongside NPCs and so it has a lot more depth and length to it as a game.

Gameplay is, mostly, simple (more complex if you play a mage) but there are little touches that add to it – searching the screen for treasure, assessing equipment, revisiting old places as you uncover new secrets, levelling up.

1364224243-11 (1)What really sells the game is its art which, considering this was the target of the most criticism in the lead up to release (and the reason I bought it because I’m a contrarian) and the most controversy. On the one hand many people considered the art to be horribly sexist – largely based on the Sorceress’ boobs and the Amazon’s arse – and horribly distorted, based on the exaggerated style.

Here’s the thing though. It works. It really, really works.

1364224241-8 (1)The game plays like you’ve stepped into a painting. Every character animation is full of character and fun. The exaggerations help that a great deal if anything as well as making it easier to spot your character on the screen when things get busy. Every background is gorgeous, every piece of still art adds to the whole. It’s a glorious experience to play and breathtakingly smooth, playing a comic, playing a cartoon film – one of the better ones.

1364224245-7 (1)I don’t think it’s for everyone, but for those who remember the old side scrollers and have a love of anime and fantasy it’s an essential buy. Just make sure you have a bit of a sense of humour, especially when it comes to boobs.

Style: 5 – Perfect.
Substance: 4 – There’s nothing ‘new’ here, but the ways in which depth and play time has been added to the genre is clever and effective.
Overall: 4.5

Review (well, blathering): GTA V

GTAV

CAUTION SPOILERS

Everyone and their pet monkey is playing GTAV and there’s a plethora of reviews out there, so this isn’t going to be a conventional review but rather a rambling discussion of what is probably going to be the end-cap game for this generation of consoles for many people.

Controversy
As ever, GTAV has attracted its fair share of controversy. There’s the usual pearl-clutching about the prostitutes and the violence but a few other things as well. The fact is, controversy draws attention and the more people complain and fuss about a controversial media artefact the more attention – and sales – it gets. You’d really think that people would understand this by now and would refrain from helping their ‘enemies’ but this behaviour persists and media of all sorts continues to reap the benefits of idiots who can be poked with sticks until they provide free publicity.

The trick is to have something of substance to back that up and while GTA IV was overshadowed by clone games like Sleeping Dogs and Saint’s Row, GTA V seems to come back out on top again.

The heart of all these controversies is the inability of a very few cranks and a huge number of critics to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Since the days of Wertham – and even before – there has been a movement to try and claim something that someone doesn’t like as the cause of some broader social ill. The claims differ, but the argument is always the same whether it’s ‘D&D makes people satanists’ or ‘video games cause violence’. It’s pretty much always bollocks, but here we are again and again and again.

91Torture
There’s been two particular areas of controversy for GTA V that are relatively new. The first of these is a prolonged torture scene where, at the behest of the FIB, Trevor (the resident psycho) takes to an Azerbaijani with various torture implements in order to get information to aid in the assassination of another Azerbaijani. This is pretty damn graphic and horrible with little of the immediate humour that’s to be found elsewhere throughout the game – though some black humour remains.

The scene is difficult and uncomfortable for people, but torture should be difficult and uncomfortable. The scene pushes the boundaries beyond gunning down waves of anonymous arseholes and puts you in the position of directly harming an innocent man in horrible ways.

Yet the scene serves several important purposes.

  1. It shows that Trevor’s psychosis is not, at least not entirely, made up. There’s some suggestion that he is ‘acting’ now and again throughout the game, playing the ‘role’ of the dangerous psycho with a bit of self-referential pretend acting. The scene shows that there is a genuine core of horror to the Trevor character beyond the clownish psycho ‘act’ and that he is genuinely damaged and detached in some way.
  2. It is an important satirical scene in the commentary that Trevor provides later on it and the uselessness of torture as a means of extracting information. He also lets the torture victim go, showing the alternate side to him. One that cares about the underdog and hates bullies (at least ones that aren’t him).
  3. The scene is uncomfortable and horrible and as such serves as a useful counterpoint to the exaggerated and impersonal ‘fun’ violence of the rest of the game. Horrible things should be uncomfortable, should be horrible. We should be repulsed by torture and it should make us uncomfortable.

gta-v-poster-11Women
GTA has always had a bit of a difficult relationship with women. Well, with fictional cipher-women (and men) that don’t really exist. It plays to the existing gangster/gang/crime tropes and always had. If it didn’t play to these existing fictional artifices it wouldn’t play to the genre and wouldn’t be what it is. The source material is ‘sexist’ in that it is about what stubbornly remains primarily a man’s world. It’s also an exaggeration of both the real world organised/gang crime and the movies and series which are – themselves – an exaggerated form. It doubles down on it.

There’s no female character in GTA V, something which has raised comment this time around. This is significant in itself because some of the commentators saying this would be the kind to normally disparage GTA as being an awful, horrible, sexist and everything wrong with the world. If they want to play, that’s progress.

Part of the problem, in making games that include women and that are explicit and violent, is that violence against women (or children for that matter) leads to higher ratings for games and a great deal of complaints. This is the same problem that dogged the most recent Lara Croft game with the presumption that the violence against her was necessary sexual or that it disempowered the character in some way, rather than demonstrating her resilience (as it would with John McClane in Die Hard by way of comparison).

There is violence against women in GTA of course, but it is primarily the result of the player going ‘off the rails’ rather than being baked into the plot. You can, if you choose, run over prostitutes, snipe anyone with huge sunglasses on the beach or mercilessly slaughter every woman you see but that’s on you and your choice. Within the plot itself you can deliver a few innocent ladies to a cannibal cult but their fate happens off screen. You also kill Molly Schultz, but indirectly in that she panics and flees from you and then suffers a horrible fate as a consequence of her own stupidity.

This feels a little cautious for GTA which hasn’t been quite so cautious in the past, with missions to spy on and kill cheating spouses, golddiggers etc. Perhaps even Rockstar felt they had to be a bit more cautious in the recent atmosphere and that seems like a shame. Equality is when everyone is treated just as badly as each other and exempting women from the action and the violence – even as NPCs in the fight scenes which are exclusively male.

five-brand-new-gta-v-artwork-01It’s a Man’s World
I think the reason a female character is absent, beyond the potential criticisms that would be involved in that (you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t) is that GTA V’s characters and story are, indeed, very much telling male stories.

Series writer and co-creator Dan Houser told The Guardian that GTA V was all male because “the concept of being masculine was so key to this story.”

It sounds like a bad excuse for leaving women out but as I played the game I found that statement rang more and more true. It is about masculine stories, more so it is about crisis-of-masculinity stories. There’s been some criticism that the characters are each ‘pathetic’ in their own way but that strikes me as unfair and dismissive.

None of these men fit into the world in which they find themselves and each reacts to it in a different way.

Mike betrays his principles and his friends for a shot at what is supposed to be the good life, but it’s also a betrayal of self, leaving him profoundly unsatisfied with two ungrateful kids and a spouse who – at least at the outset – hates him and cheats on him. His daughter is an out of control fame whore and his son is an infuriating do-nothing slob. Perhaps meant to be a sly poke at the people playing the game themselves. Mike tries to redeem himself with therapy and new-age bullshit but what saves him in the end is being himself and stopping trying to be anything else. Detente comes when his family accepts him and their situation and understands he does the best he can with a bad hand.

Franklin is trying to overcome his situation. He’s come up in the ‘hood’ and is ambitious. He is constantly being held back by his aunt, his childhood friend and the gangs obsessions with each other. Getting ‘out’ is seen as a betrayal of his roots and everything he does to better himself costs him friends, home, family and his girlfriend Tanisha who remains loyal to her past and origins and sees him as fake for trying to progress. Franklin remains unresolved by the end of the story, he has success but is still tied to his past by his friends and past.

Trevor is, on the face of it, an entirely superficial and clownish psychopath. There’s more to him though. He’s the friend left behind, the bachelor, the crazy guy who is your friend but your family or spouse don’t like. The guy you give up but miss forever. He’s loyal to a fault and expects the same of everyone. He’s an avatar of unrestrained masculinity, of violence and sexuality without the restraint and control that most men learn from the moment adolescence sets in. Some of what he says and does is fake, a front to maintain his reputation, other parts aren’t. He is, in many ways, the monster that men are portrayed as being in some feminist opinion and theory.

There may be no female characters but women are key to the story, for each man they’re a powerful motivator and shaper in their life. For Mike his wife is his world, even if she is a two (three, four?) timing bitch. For Franklin, his ex Tanisha hangs over his life like a cloud and may be part of the reason he wants to escape or better himself, to show he’s as good for her as her rich educated fiancée is. For Trevor, though you don’t find out until the very end, his mother is the defining woman in his life and the way she acts towards him and treats him makes sudden and abrupt sense of him as a person.

Midlife crisis, drive to ‘make it’, and the temptation to just stop giving a fuck.

Grand_Theft_Auto_London_1969-backThe Game
The game is great, much better than GTAIV which lost the plot a bit and included a bunch of annoying features. The heists are the stand out feature and it’s a shame there weren’t more of them. I was concerned that three characters would lose focus and make for a weaker story but it does work. Of the characters Mike has the most complete story and the best arc, Trevor is fun and interesting – as a freak – and the only real weak point in the game is Franklin who feels like a bit of an afterthought.

It’ll be interesting to see how the online version works out.

If I never hear the word ‘nigger’ again, I’ll be happy.

PS: Rockstar, please make a new version of GTA London. We’ve spent enough time on the yanks and it’s about time to bring it back home.

Review: The Last of Us

the-last-of-us-wallpaperOverview:

The Last of Us is a survival horror game based some years into the aftermath of a global pandemic. It is a ‘zombie apocalypse’ but it is a more plausible one than many. It combines a lush, green ruin (previously found in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West) with modern understanding of mind-controlling parasitism and aspects from 28 Days Later. It also incorporates some background atmosphere from US paranoid conspiracy theories (particularly with regard to FEMA) and has a ‘feel’ like a slightly less bleak Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’.

Presentation

This feels like a game that is pushing the absolute limit of this generation of consoles. It is beautifully presented with an authenticity to the ruination that could have stepped right out of the pictures of the abandoned parts of Detroit. This authenticity underlines the entire game and is essential to getting you drawn in to everything else. The characters also feel ‘real’, with the uncanny-valley sensation masked by the grime of the hard lives the characters have had to live. The interface is minimal, so as not to overly distract you. Something that also helps greatly with the immersion. Shifting between standard view and climbing/moving/close combat actions is virtually seamless and mapping movement to the world in such a way as not to be jarring has been largely successful.

The music is excellent and would make a great soundtrack to survival-horror tabletop gaming.

last2Gameplay

The game plays out in third person view, closing in when you line up a gun or zoom in. You’ll be negotiating ruined and overgrown landscapes, searching for even the meanest of supplies. In many ways resource-hunting is a huge part of the game, a return to the philosophy of scarcity that shaped older survival horror games like Resident Evil. You will – for much of the game – be scrabbling for health kit ingredients and as many bullets as possible, even though you can’t carry that many.

Searching for supplies sounds a little boring, but moving through the ruins of other people’s lives is quite haunting and you’re never quite sure who (or what) is going to pop out at any given moment which creates a constant air of unease and tension that greatly helps the game. Sound, also an important part of the gameplay, also plays into this with some enemies drawn by sound and twigs or broken crockery giving away your position.

Combat is brutal, heart-of-your-mouth stuff, especially in the earlier parts of the game. Stealth is your friend – but not essential – and while there aren’t a huge variety of enemies to face they are sufficiently varied – and dangerous – to keep you engaged.

Periodically there are physical puzzles to solve. These are grounded in the world and make sense, but even so the repeated use of the same elements (planks/ladders/pallets) makes these puzzles a little too samey. Thankfully there aren’t that many of them.

50950Story

This game is a seminal moment in computer gaming. As important – in my opinion – as Half-Life was.

Yes, there are elements of it that are fairly obvious and hackneyed – though I’m going to try to avoid too many spoilers. There is, however, no story that hasn’t been told in some form before and we return to the same tropes over and over because they are effective.

We’re introduced to the main character, Joel, just as the pandemic hits in one of the greatest opening sequences to a game ever made. This is a pandemic not of any bacteriological or viral infection but, rather, a fungal infection spread by spores and bites from the infected. The cause of the outbreak is never really explained but it seems to be sudden and violent. Joel tries to escape the chaos with his brother and his daughter (from an estranged marriage), joining the fleeing crowds and witnessing much of the destruction and terror first hand.

He survives, but he can’t save his daughter.

Many years later we find him living in a ‘safe zone’ working as a smuggler and chancer with his partner Tess. He’s still a troubled man with no real reason to carry on, doing so anyway. He and Tess have made a deal involving The Fireflies, a sort of resistance group and when it all goes south and The Fireflies are on the run he and Tess end up having to smuggle a brand new cargo outside the safe zone, a girl called Ellie.

It’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the reason Ellie is so important is that she’s immune. The remnants of the government have given up trying to find a cure but The Fireflies still are. Ellie just needs to be gotten to a surviving group with the right facilities and it may be possible to create a vaccine against the fungal infection from Ellie.

Joel and Tess set out, with Ellie, at first for the rewards promised but as their trek continues Ellie and Joel get closer and develop a bond, almost like family.

Along the way you run into other communities and individuals surviving in various ways. There are bandits, infected zones, the worst and the best of humanity. The setbacks are unrelenting. Every step of the way something goes wrong and there are disappointments but that just makes the moments of peace and beauty all the more stand-out.

I don’t want to spoiler the ending but it was, for me, the only blot on The Last of Us’ copybook. This is a game that tells a story, you take control of the character for the action, but the story is out of your hands. You get so drawn in that you don’t realise this too much, right up until the end where you’re denied a choice in the most important and fundamental question the game presents.

Let’s just say that I think Joel made the wrong choice and I almost threw my controller across the room in anger and frustration.

That just shows how engaged you can get with this game though.

Scores:
Style: 5
Substance: 4
Overall: 4.5

Putting Skyrim into a Tabletop RPG

I’ve been playing and enjoying Skyrim a great deal, as a great many people have. One thing that I particularly like is the near total irrelevance of the levels (they’re really unnecessary, you could work stamina and health upgrades into the perks system) and the ability to customise your character simply by DOING.

I found myself wondering how you could recreate this feel on the tabletop and a couple of obvious inspirations leapt to mind. Dragon Warriors uses fixed damage in a way that would work quite well but the most obvious system to recreate a Skyrim experience on the tabletop is BRP/RuneQuest/Legend/OpenQuest and all its ilk.

You would need to change a few bits and pieces and you would need to expand the basic rules to an heroic scope by introducing a perk equivalent (Legend/RuneQuest already did this to an extent) but what I would suggest is using a skill threshold of 50% with every five points above that skill level granting a Perk point and with perks spent to provide specific bonuses and heroic qualities.

It would take a lot of work to produce Perk trees for every relevant BRP skill, but as a vague sort of thought along those lines, here’s my Skyrim character rendered into BRPesque system, though with some alterations along my own lines towards a system change I’ve also been considering. Two birds, one stone and all that…

Corwin

Race: Breton
Gender: Male
Handedness: Right
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 155 lbs.
Age: 35

STR: 10, CON: 12, SIZ: 11, DEX: 12, APP: 14, INT: 13, POW: 10, EDU: 14

Hits: 3 (NB: This is the other change I was on about, all combat becomes single roll, Crit = Dead, Special = Out, Hit = Hit, Miss = Miss. Tougher characters can take multiple hits before upgrading to ‘Out’).
Toughness: 10% (35%) (NB: The single roll is a combination of hit/wound chance based on the resistance table. A character’s toughness helps protect them from harm).
Wound: 5% (NB: Weapons have a ‘wound’ value, that is their chance of scoring a ‘Hit’ as a wound. Stronger characters get a bonus).

INNATE SKILLS
Effort 50%
Stamina 60%
Idea 65%
Luck: 50%
Agility: 60%
Charisma: 70%
Know: 70%
(NB: Derived stats experimentally become skills, like any other) 

GENERAL SKILLS
Bargain: 20 (45)
Etiquette: 10
Fast Talk: 20
Persuade: 30
Status: 10
Craft (Armourer): 30
Craft (Weaponsmith): 30
Craft (Enchantment): 10
Craft (Alchemy): 30 (50)
Fine Manipulation: 30 (50)
Sleight of Hand: 10
Appraise: 10
First Aid: 10
Gaming: 5
Literacy: 20
Insight: 5
Listen: 20
Research: 5
Sense: 20
Spot: 20
Track: 20
Climb: 20
Dodge: 20
Hide: 30
Jump: 20
Stealth: 30
Swim: 10

WEAPON SKILLS
Brawl: 10
1H Weapons: 30
2H Weapons: 5
Thrown: 10
Bows: 40 (60)
Shields: 5
Light Armour: 25 (NB: Armour skills are used for putting them on under duress, and to govern armour perks).
Heavy Armour: 0

PERKS
OOOOO Fortune’s Favour – Luck Reroll x5
OOOOO Charmer’s Bargain – +25% Bargain bonus
O Bow Kill +1% crit chance.
OOOO Bonus Bow Damage +20%

FIST – Wound 20%
HEADBUTT – Wound 20%
KICK – Wound 20%
SHORTSWORD – Wound 40% Iceblade: +5 wound chance, target loses an action next turn if hit, Shockblade +5 wound chance, target loses 1 magic point if hit.
Dwarven Longbow – Wound 45% (65%, Crit +1), Soul Draining – On a kill drains magic points into Soul Gems.

Mask of Krosis – Armour 10% Halve perception skills, +20% Fine Manipulation, Craft (Alchemy), Bows.
Fine Hard Leather Armour – Armour 15% -5% Physical Skill penalty.

Other Tips for Skyrimming Your BRP

  1. Average damage on hits, only circumstances (surprise/backstab) or criticals/special hits increase damage. Standard hit – average damage, Special hit damage +1, Critical hit double damage. EG: Longbow – 6/7/12 – Perks can increase this)
  2. Magic Points regenerate at one per turn, specific spells in specific fields draw hit and damage from skill, specific effects to specific skills.
  3. If you wanted you could introduce Stamina Points (from Con) that could be used to power more powerful physical/attack Perks. Also regenerating one per turn.
  4. Let people increase their HP/MP using Perks as well as by increasing stats.
  5. Don’t forget blessing bonuses, magic item bonuses etc, though these tend to be basic and workmanlike unless attached to epic and legendary items.

Review: Saint’s Row III

Introduction

Saint’s Row is a weird little franchise. It’s a GTA rip off, there’s no getting away from that, and that’s pretty much all the first game was. Somehow, since then, it’s taken on a life of its own. While GTA is pretty crazy it maintains a certain amount of verisimillitude in which the humour and craziness takes place.

Saint’s Row II got a little crazy but by the time we find ourselves in the third of the series. Saint’s Row III has finally completely gained its own identity and that identity is balls-out, batshit loco crazy.

This game is FUCKED in the head – in the best possible way.

Normally I play a game completely through before posting a review but here I really don’t feel I have to. In the few hours I’ve found to play already I’m sold. I think I’m even going to play it before Skyrim because frankly, this bloody thing is wonderful.

Story

Do we particularly care? The game opens with two of the craziest, most ludicrous gunfights I have ever seen in a game. With content that strong who cares about story really?

Alright then… basically the Saints – after the end of SRII – rule the city, they have a shitload of money and a financial and media empire, even their own energy drinks. Their ascendency, along with a badly targetted bank robbery, brings them to the attention of The Syndicate. The Syndicate is an international crime organisation with some serious chops and when the Saints reject them they are not happy. So unhappy, in fact, that they decide to fuck with the Saint’s shit and take their empire away from them.

Bad idea.

Rather than coming up from the street as in so many of these games, this is a story of reclamation and revenge and that’s delicious.

Gameplay

You have plenty to do, activities, missions, self-selected missions, storyline, purchasing and building your empire. That’s what I love about these kinds of games, the ability to feel that you are genuinely working to take over a city and build an empire. Something missing from other, similar games where it feels more arbitrary. There’s plenty to do, plenty to keep you busy in the game and it’s all fun and relevant. The only game that’s felt remotely as complete when it comes to empire building on the street, and that’s GTA: Vice City.

Controls

This is a pretty standard third-person sandbox game, so if you’ve played any of those you’ll find this easy enough to get into. No real surprises involved. Cars handle easily which, after GTAIV, was very welcome. The system is improved over the previous SR games and feels less clunky and sluggish on foot, which is also nice.

Atmosphere

This is a crazed, drug-fuelled dream of a city. It’s the extreme end of ludicrous action, Crank meets Shoot ’em Up meets the worst/best excesses of Hong Kong cinema with a healthy dose of hollywoodised gang culture. The city itself is a cariacature as much as the personalities that inhabit it. Nothing, nothing, NOTHING is taken seriously but, rather than being a loner you do feel part of a gang, a family. Despite the silliness, you do feel part of something bigger.

Graphics

Nothing massively wonderful about the graphics, but they don’t need to be. The character customisation is a great compromise between accessibility and complexity and – while it’s not graphics – the option to have a British accent on your character is very, very welcome. The main thing is, it runs smooth and fast and it’s just as complex as it needs to be and no more.

Conclusion

Crazy-fucking-wonderful.

On the plus side

  • Crazy as fuck.
  • FUN!
  • SR finally feels like its own game.

On the minus side

  • Graphics aren’t up to true next-gen snuff.
  • A refresher course on the controls and a little hand-holding would have been nice.
  • How can they top this?

Style: 4
Substance: 4
Overall: 4

Review: RAGE

Introduction

RAGE kind of came out of nowhere for me. I wasn’t keeping up with it in the release schedules and didn’t know what to expect from it particularly. I don’t think we’d have picked it up if my wife hadn’t played a little at a trade show. Generally speaking FPS shooters aren’t our cup of tea on consoles since we came up playing them on the PC and console controls just don’t feel as accurate or useful.

RAGE is a weird sort of game, it’s sort of on the opposite end of the FPS/RPG scale from Fallout. Where Fallout is an RPG with some FPS elements tacked on, RAGE is more of an FPS with a few RPG elements tacked on. It’s not as RPG oriented as – say – borderlands but that’s probably the game to which it bears the closest comparison.

You don’t have skills or levels but, with progress, you can upgrade your weapons and vehicles, gain access to new areas and unlock new recipes for junk-built gear.

Story

The asteroid Apophis came spinning out of space towards the Earth and there was nothing that could be done to stop it. Rather than try and ward it off, civilisation hit upon a survival plan of burying a number of Arks in numerous locations around the globe, each equipped with cutting edge technology that would help jumpstart civilisation after the tumultuous effects of the asteroid strike had died down.

The Ark pioneers were the best of the best and fitted with experimental nanotechnology to help keep them alive and sustain them through their cryosleep. While Apophis came spinning in the Arks sank into the Earth with their cargo, to wait.

Something went wrong, not all the Arks emerged at once and time passed, much longer than was originally intended. Your Ark is one of these light risers and you find yourself facing a destroyed world that is not, quite as you might have expected.

The world is a wreck, a blasted wasteland dotted with scrap-built settlements and dominated by The Authority, a high technology empire, equipped with Ark technology and determined to stamp itself over the wasteland, across the globe, suppressing every other surviving town.

They also hunt Ark survivors…

Gameplay

While an FPS, RAGE is centred around mission-based play and exploration. You move around the wasteland on foot or by car from location to location completing missions to advance the plot, to unlock elements, to earn money (or certificates to improve your vehicles). Missions normally take place in their own sub-levels that you load into.

There are driving sections – races and in the wasteland – and FPS levels, interspersed with information gathering and listening in, playing gambling games and picking up the history and current state of affairs from the conversation around you.

Controls

Somehow Id have managed to make a smooth and controllable FPS control set that isn’t as horribly inaccurate as many and feels very playable, without the usual default of aim correction or dropping into a sub-game (as with Fallout). The driving controls in particular are easy to pick up and use, even for people that don’t normally like racing games. I can’t fault the controls.

Atmosphere

The chief source of the atmosphere in the game is the graphics, the wasteland and the townships are brought to life very well and the quality of the imagery is fantastic. Being a ‘silent protagonist’ you feel a bit left out and unable to role-play or make any meaningful character decisions. That removes you from the action somewhat and there are elements that are missing. The Authority remains a faceless enemy without anything to really grasp hold of or an enemy to confront. Many of the characters don’t really spring to life – though the voice acting is good. There’s just not quite enough development of characters for them to really make a proper impact on you.

Graphics

As mentioned before, the graphics are where the atmosphere really comes through and the graphics are utterly fantastic, blowing away a lot of other games completely and immersing you in the wasteland and its industrial wreckage. There can be a lag between the graphics that load at a distance and the more detailed graphics that load in after but that’s completely forgiveable.

Conclusion

A well thought out world and a different take on the apocalypse than a nuclear holocaust. It’s wonderfully executed graphically and in terms of controls and the only way it really lacks is in true depth to the various characters you meet around the wasteland and providing more information and more of a ‘face’ to the enemy. A game well worth getting and a star in the genre.

On the plus side

  • Fantastic graphics.
  • Smooth controls.
  • Interestingly different post-apocalypse.

On the minus side

  • Silent protagonist
  • Who are The Authority and why are they so bad? Who’s my enemy?
  • Lack of NPC depth.

Score

Style: 5
Substance: 3
Overall: 4