With the imminent release of the new Mad Max movie this weekend and a new upcoming game on the way that looks great, it's crazy that up to now there's only ever been one official Mad Max game released before, and that was on the NES in 1990. It didn't even get a release outside the US so it's unlikely that too many people in Europe will have ever even heard of it, let alone played it. However, there have been a few games released over the years that were obviously very heavily inspired by Mad Max that have filled the gap nicely. Rage is one of those games.
Released in 2011 and developed by id Software of Wolfenstein/Doom/Quake fame, Rage puts you in the shoes of an Ark volunteer....basically, what's happening is that a large asteroid is about to hit the earth so a selection of people are being placed into cryogenic pods within 'Arks', the idea being that in the future everybody can just wake up, rebuild society and everything will be hunky dory. At least that was the plan.
What you'll soon realise is that something's gone badly wrong. You awaken in the future, but the Ark you're in has malfunctioned. All the other cryogenic pods around you contain corpses, and upon making your way outside, you're attacked by a group of bandits. You're soon saved by Dan Hagar, a human survivor and taken to his camp where you find out that while you were sleeping, the world's gone to shit and what's left of the world's populace is struggling to survive in small settlements surrounding by wasteland inhabited by mutants. Dan sorts you out with a vehicle and weapons, and soon you're off doing missions to help make everybody's lives easier, upgrade your kit and move another step closer to cleaning up the world.
The visuals in Rage are absolutely stunning, some of the best I've seen on the Xbox 360/PS3 and even pretty much match most of what the Xbox One/PS4 has put out so far. Environments look real and all the characters who inhabit them are well designed and believable. The main weapons, whilst there's not a huge selection of them, are extremely satisfying to use and all feel like they pack a punch. In between areas, you'll be driving around in vehicles that look like they straight out of a Mad Max movie, performing stunt jumps and fighting off enemy cars with machine guns and mounted rockets, as well as taking part in arena races...all of this is a lot of fun and could pretty much have been fleshed out into a full game itself. The main storyline missions for the most part are also quite well done too...often after completing an area, you'll have to return to it only the second time around you have to navigate it in a different way due to changes that happened during or after your first visit there. It makes the world feel more alive and keeps you on your toes not knowing quite what to expect. There's also a couple of interesting minigames to contend with...one is kind of like a first person homage to Smash TV, another has you playing a 'Magic: The Gathering' style card game using cards you find hidden around the areas whilst out on missions. I even spent a couple of hours trying to beat the game's version of Five Finger Fillet, the old classic pastime made famous by Bishop in Aliens, where you try to look hard by stabbing a tabletop through the gaps in your fingers and invariably end up in the nearest A & E Department wondering why you've now got a stump instead of a hand Everything you do leaves you wanting more, and to see more of what the world has to offer.
Unfortunately, that's it's biggest downfall...as when the end inevitably comes, it's pretty abrupt and almost without warning. There's no huge boss fight to finish things off with, no epic conclusion to the story other than a glimpse of hope for the future and setting up a possible sequel, not even a reasonably sized cutscene. It feels like it just closes it's doors on you, shuts up shop and says 'Right, that's your lot, time to play something else!' You can't even free roam the world after completion and revisit your favourite areas. It's a real shame it does this, as it badly drags down what is otherwise an extremely enjoyable game. It's premature ejaculation in digital form.*
However, if you want to feel like a post apocalyptic badass, you could do a lot worse than play through Rage. The visuals suck you in, the action keeps you pumped, and there's plenty of side activities to keep you entertained along the way. It's just a shame that just as it really starts hitting it's stride, the credits roll and it's over. Hopefully, this won't be the last we see of Rage though, and there's more to come from id. Especially if Mad Max: Fury Road is a success.
TromaDogg's Final Verdict: 8/10
*apparently 'The Scorchers' DLC does go some way to fixing this by adding six new area and letting you continue to play after the game ends, but I'm judging the game as it was when I played through it, without add ons.