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Rage Review: Game perfectly marries the hardcore shooter with RPG

Rage is an amazing post-apocalyptic experience that's easy on the eyes

(CBS) - Game developer Id Software arguably invented the modern first-person shooter genre back in 1992 when it released Wolfenstein 3D for DOS (remember DOS?).

They then went on to define the genre with the hugely successful Doom and Quake franchises, which built upon the same formula of running down narrow corridors while shooting bad guys in the face. These games were always known for their intense combat, inventive weapons and violent sense of humor.

Rage takes this formula and throws in a mix of RPG elements for good measure. You'll drive between settlements in the future wasteland, accept quests from total strangers who trust you for no apparent reason, craft items and find upgrades for your weapons and armor. These elements help immerse the player in the game world, as well as create a sense of freedom in what is largely a linear shooter experience.

While combat dominantly takes place in close quarters, the game world is larger than your typical FPS. It isn't exactly a Fallout-style open-world, but you'll need a vehicle to get around. Similar to Borderlands, the over-world is more a way to connect the different combat stages that you'll visit (and revisit) rather than a land full of secret dungeons waiting to be looted by the next green-garbed kid with a magical sword.

Speaking of Fallout and Borderlands, Rage isn't exactly the first post-apocalyptic, open-world sci-fi/western FPS with RPG elements now, is it? In fact, it freely borrows aspects of both these games. What sets Rage apart is its challenging, creative and absurdly visceral combat. Oh, and the graphics are amazing - like stupendously, ridiculously, out-of-this-world amazing.

It gets tiresome though - fawning over every new game that comes around the block with its shiny new engine and fantastic graphics - but Rage really outdoes itself. Everything from the mountains in the distance to the gun in your hand or the dirt on the ground to the photo-realistic sky looks absolutely amazing, and all without so much as a hiccup in the frame rate. The crisp detail and artistic expression in every environment, every ray of light and every animation will often have you missing the forest for the trees.

Of course, Rage has more than just a pretty face. Combat is unbelievably satisfying. You really get a sense of the punch that your weapons pack as enemies react to every shot, blast and whack. The shooting never really gets stale either as you'll want to experiment with every weapon in your arsenal along with their alternative ammunition types. Between the rocket-firing shotgun, bladed boomerangs and explosive RC cars, variety is the name of the game.

Enemy encounters are absolutely relentless. Make no mistake, this game is not easy. Melee enemies will swarm you en mass and the ranged enemies certainly didn't go to Storm Trooper Academy. Though as hard as the game is, you never feel as though you're being punished. The challenge turns every confrontation into a mad scramble for your life that delivers an intense thrill. Id Software really shows why they're the kings of first person shooters (sorry, Duke).

The only area where Rage suffers is in its story. It's not a bad story, and it's certainly populated with many eccentric and memorable characters, it just feels underdeveloped. A single play through will take between 10 and 20 hours, and the plot is more than interesting enough to keep your attention, but then it just sort of stops.

Some characters will simply vanish from the game once you've completed all of their quests without any real closure, and you never even confront the big bad guy that everyone has been talking about. Even as amazing as the final level is - and it truly is classic corridor FPS action at its absolute finest - it ends with the wimpy push of a button. You'll find yourself with this massive arsenal at your disposal and no final enemy worthy of its display.

As upset as you may be at the game's disappointing conclusion, it's hardly enough to keep you from diving back in for round two, or enjoying Rage's interesting though not show-stopping multiplayer modes.

For all that it accomplishes so well, Rage is an absolute must-play game. It perfectly marries the hardcore FPS action that Id is known for with an engrossing world and quirky characters. It also doesn't hurt that it's so easy on the eyes. Rage's amazing graphics really go to show that there's some life left in the current generation of consoles.

Rage is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. It is available now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac and PC.

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