Can id make an impact on mobile gaming with Rage?
No, no they can’t. Not with Rage HD at least. That’s perhaps a major spoiler for the rest of this review, but if you need to know two things about Rage on iPhone then let’s put them out there right now: 1. It looks nice, 2. It controls badly. This is exactly what we’re come to expect from major developers porting a cut down version of their titles on the iPhone.
I played this on a 3GS so the resolution was not as crisp as the newer iPhone and iPod touch versions. An iPad version is also available and perhaps the increased screen size will allow for a more dynamic control system. At $1.99 (£1.19) it’s competitively priced, but it’s certainly not a version of the console game for mobile players.
The gameplay is more Time Crisis than Quake. In essence an on-rails shooter, the focus of the game is to improve your performance through each short level and achieve a better rank based on the damage you take, the items you collect and your accuracy. Multiple difficulty levels and your own performance are factored in to unlocking later levels and the game is focused enough to be played in short bursts and still provide a satisfying gaming experience.
The first experience a player will have is “wow, this looks like a real game”. The world that id has created is reminiscent of Borderlands in tone but of Gears in look. Brown vistas abound and everything looks dirty, run down and post apocalyptic. Anyone hoping for Borderlands cartoon filter or Black Ops bright, super-realism will not be encouraged when they play Rage HD, and it’s a poor promotional tool for the graphical prowess of its upcoming console counterpart.
Although there are only a few levels with incentives for multiple playthroughs, the environments are detailed and the enemies are well designed and animated. The variety of visual environments is low and the game as a whole is quite short. Compared with the value on display in flagship iTunes titles like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, it represents poor value when you consider the number of hours those titles are able to absorb.
The controls are the real sticking point. Given the choice between imprecise tilt controls or unplayable, screen blocking touch controls the first few minutes of play are a frustrating mess. Dropping the difficulty level helps reduces the frustration and allows some of the complexities of the gameplay to shine through, but the methods of interaction are simply not up to standard required for the quick, twitchy gameplay.
In a way this is a shame as some thought has been put in to the design of the game. A button to dodge is helpful and a range of weapons and optional targets mean that the player has lots to explore and experiment with through multiple play throughs of the brief levels. Feedback from the weapons is satisfying and the enemies react convincingly when shot, animating well and crumpling under your machine gun fire or gibbing to close range shotgun blasts. All of this is ruined by the player’s automatic movement through a level. Shooting an enemy on your right as your character moves to his left is unbelievably annoying, how did the developer think that a game with a slow and imprecise aiming method could work when they keep moving your targeting reticule without your input? In particular, shooting thrown projectiles out of the air as they fly at you from above is particularly unweildy. It’s like playing an FPS with your friend with each of you using a separate analogue stick.
Once again it seems like a major developer has missed the point of gaming on an Apple device. In some ways, it’s no surprise that the companies that are having the most success are specialists that have little or no console experience. Working within the constraints of the device will produce far better results than attempting to overcome inappropriate control methods and uninspiring gameplay with HD graphics. Rage HD is worth a look for the low low price, but it’s also a good example of how big developers continue to miss the point completely. On a device where gameplay is king, long after Rage HD is forgotten, ill tempered birds will continue to fly.
4 Carmacks out of 10
*Now that nonsense is out the way I can get back to a weekend of recreational drinking and playing Assassins Creed Brotherhood. Have a good weekend everyone!*