Rage Against the (Benchmark) Machine

Rage came out a little over a week ago, and in the aftermath we’ve discovered some interesting pieces of information. I thought I’d chime in with some thoughts on the game itself, a look at various image quality settings, and a discussion of benchmarks with the title and why they’re virtually meaningless. First, let’s start with the game itself.

I know a lot of people have had issues getting Rage to run well, and that has certainly colored impressions of the game. Lucky for me, I’m not one of those unfortunate souls: with the NVIDIA 285.38 beta driver released at nearly the same time as the game, I updated drivers and never encountered any severe issues with stability or playability. I also tried Rage on an AMD HD 6950 system, which generally worked okay, but I did notice some texture flickering/corruption going on. I’m certainly running higher spec hardware than most people (i7-965 Extreme running at 3.65GHz with 12GB DDR3-1333 and a GTX 580/HD 6950 2GB), but with my gaming systems the experience has been remarkably stable and playable. What about the game play?

Here’s where things get a little shaky. First impressions are okay, but by the time you’re running around on an ATV in a wasteland environment 5 minutes into the game, it’s impossible to ignore comparisons with Borderlands. Both games are FPS titles with vehicular elements, set in a predominantly desert environment. Borderlands takes place on a different planet with some muddled background information and Rage is set in the not-too-distant future after an asteroid smashes into the Earth and scatters some new mineral that appears to cause mutations everywhere. Whatever the back story, however, both settings feel a lot like Mad Max’s post-apocalypse world of gangs, bandits, and vehicular mayhem. Then again, I loved the original Wasteland as an early teen (on my Commodore 64 no less!), all the Fallout games (including the oft-panned Fallout: Tactics), and the Road Warrior movies, so I’m okay with revisiting the wasteland.

Gallery: Rage

Delving deeper, Borderlands had a nice cell-shaded aesthetic with a rudimentary storyline, and most interactions with “NPCs” as such came in the way of talking robots, job boards, and vending machines. This may come as a bit of a shock, but I actually found the Rage storyline and NPCs to be superior to Borderlands. That’s right: the same people that brought us Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake actually put some effort into the story this time! That doesn’t mean the story isn’t a bit cliché, but at least there’s something here other than a pure shooter. I think the best comparison would be that the story is presented much like the original Diablo (or maybe Diablo 2) in that you have NPCs in towns who serve as little more than quest givers and background providers, but they don’t go anywhere and your actions typically don’t affect the world around you other than ridding areas of bad guys. The story is also strictly linear with no chance for role playing; you’re here to save the wasteland from the power-mongering Authority, helping others along the way. Some of the side quests (e.g. from the job boards) are optional, but you either do the job(s) or you don’t.

So the story is okay if not great, but what about the game? I wasted more than a few days (weeks) playing Quake and similar titles in my college days, but I’ll be honest: I’m pretty much done with multiplayer gaming now. I haven’t even tried it in Rage, but unless it’s quite different from the single-player experience it’s not going to be the hyper-speed twitch shooter that Quake was. If you’re looking for a multiplayer title to test your mettle, I’ll defer to other opinions; as a single-player experience, though, this is a pretty major departure from previous id titles.

Your character moves at moderate speed with the option to sprint for a limited time, at which point you start panting and resort to regular speed. You have an (unlimited as far as I can tell) inventory along with various items to use, and you can sell and buy ammo, items, and other stuff at several shops scattered around the game world. There are likewise various components and ingredients strewn throughout the game that can be combined (engineered) into useful items. Yes, there were similar pseudo-crafting elements to Borderlands as well, though here most of the items are either ammo modifications or one-use items instead of permanent character/weapon mods. It’s a strange mix, really, where id Software has created a title that feels more like Deus Ex or System Shock in how you manage your equipment than Quake or Doom—but don’t let that comparison make you think the story or freedom to play as you want is up to the level of the DX/SS games.

The driving sections work well enough, providing a nice change of pace from walking around, but the races and vehicles don’t really do much other than provide you with something to do other than walking. They give you cash to upgrade your weapons/vehicles as well. Elsewhere, Rage is pretty standard shooter fare: there are ten weapons comprising the usual assortment of fists, pistol, shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifle, crossbow, and rocket launcher, and a “futuristic” weapon at the very end (a plasma gun/BFG). Most weapons also have a variety of ammunition available; typically these just do more damage, but one causes electrocution (shoot at water to kill multiple enemies), another lets you mind-control the target for a bit before they detonate/die, and others add explosion/penetration to your ammo. You can also lay out turrets and mobile turrets, though it’s hardly necessary (at least on normal difficulty). Overall, the variety of options for weapons and ammo is good, though my go-to weapons for most of the game were the sniper rifle and shotgun, with the pistol working well for the first half or so. I also hoarded my special ammo for far too long, thinking I’d need it later; hint: you won’t (again on normal difficulty).

I’m going to keep this short (too late?) and just give my overall impression of the game before we get to some talk about the technical aspects of the game. Rage is a fun distraction, and it looks quite nice overall. I grew up in the deserts of Utah and spent plenty of time out near the Grand Canyon, and Rage does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the place. That also means that it’s a very brown game, and the game itself even acknowledges this in their Quayola Quaons easter egg (a “very rare collection of Quayola’s Brown Spectrum Quayons”). The texturing may not always be as crisp as I’d like, but if there’s any straight repeating of textures in the environments it’s very hard to spot. Shadows on the other hand are practically absent; the environments are all pre-calculated lighting, with only characters and vehicles casting 1-light-source shadows. Basically, id traded dynamic lighting for performance, and it definitely shows on high-end PCs where numerous games look better.

My take is that Rage looks good if not exceptional, and at least in my testing it runs well. If you’re looking for a new shooter to while away ~15 hours, this will suffice, but be prepared for the equivalent of a summer action blockbuster. As a movie-type experience, I’d rate Rage at 2.5 stars; it’s fun and exciting, but you’re not going to have an emotional reaction or learn something new and insightful. If we’re going with letter grades, it’s somewhere in the B or B- range. Fans of Borderlands will also likely find something to enjoy here, though they might also be struck with a sense of déjà vu—did the two developers branch off from the same design document a couple years back? Rage makes me want to go back and replay Borderlands (a game I never did quite finish, despite playing for over 20 hours), just to see if it’s any better; right now, they’re basically a tie in my book. Also, the ending of Rage felt very anti-climactic; there were a couple big boss battles earlier and I expected one at the end, but it never came; weird. Anyway, that’s one man’s opinion; take it for what it’s worth.

Technical Discussion
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  • mayankleoboy1 - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    thanks for the benchmark. its surprising that no other tech site has yet released a RAGE benchmark, despite it being a major release.
  • Malih - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    Possibly some of them choose to wait a little longer until the issues are fixed with newer driver and game updates.
  • B3an - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    If both of you actually read the article you'll see theres NO benchmarks here, due to current buggy drivers and the 60FPS cap. This is why no one has benchmarked the game yet.

    The game runs at a constant 60FPS on almost any remotely decent hardware. Considering how good the game looks, and with early drivers too, thats very impressive. Whats even more impressive is that the console versions looks almost exactly as good as the PC version and always run at 60FPS too. For consoles it's the best looking game around, easily. But John Carmack worked on the engine so i'm not that surprised, literally no one can match him.

    I also love how the textures never repeat. Every single area is unique.
  • abzillah - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    I beat the game and boarderlands is definitely a better game by a long shot. The game is very linear, their is basically not story, the character has no option but to following along. There are no video settings; the resolution cannot be changed, the quality of the video cannot be changed. Things get very repetitive. Playing the game on veteran, was easy to beat the enemy; no challenge at all. If anyone has not bought the game yet, wait for the price to drop, because this game is not worth more than $10.
  • CLicKa - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - link

    I agree. The game just seems to visit and revisit the same "hey that was a good job their buddy, you sure are a badass...but I got some more Shhhhh** for you to do." The dialogue is pretty mundane.

    I will say the artwork and time put into the environment, soundtrack etc is quite impressive and pulls you in which helps out the weak story and repetitiveness of the gameplay. I guess at the end of the day all shooters like this have a linear and less than interesting storyboard.

    As far as running the game I am running a GTX 590 Classified and it is just beautiful. Runs like butter...I've had no driver issues thus. I'm using a Nvidia beta driver 285.38 that seems to be trouble free. I haven't noticed some of the aforementioned bugs or otherwise in-game.

    Like "abzillah" said I do think "Borderlands" blows this effort away and had a truly unique skin and gameplay that set it apart from the competition.

    Rage is worth getting but falls short of the hype. Then again, most games do.
  • Snowstorms - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    I don't see the point outside of the scope of this game.

    Rage uses very unconventional render passes, I think they're the only engine that uses megatextures.The reason they have all these issues is because they have not followed standard rendering procedures.
  • kn00tcn - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - link

    megatextures were used in ETQW & they turned out fine there

    apparently brink & wolfenstein dont, & maybe not prey 2 either

    one of the things i saw with people that had unplayable performance was that the game thought they had a 3mhz single core cpu, so the auto scaler of the game was calculating the wrong way... i say they should just have an option to ignore everything & run fixed settings (can be a console command, doesnt need to be in the menu)
  • Iketh - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    LOL what benchmark are you speaking of? Why on earth would you comment on an article you didn't read???? Drag yourself into the street and shoot yourself, thx.
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, October 15, 2011 - link

    Cool off, he probably didn't read the article before commenting.
  • JonnyDough - Monday, October 17, 2011 - link

    I'm pretty sure that's the issue he's having with the poster... He commented without even reading the article. Negativity without any cause is just moronic.

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