With so many post-apocalyptic video games out these days, the wasteland is quickly approaching World War II for most overused setting. That Id Software's Rage can still feel so fresh and fun is a testament to the high productions values behind the company that brought us the likes of Doom and Quake.
In Rage, this particular apocalypse is kicked off with a massive asteroid strike. In order to guarantee the future of humanity, the best and brightest were put into stasis beneath the ground as part of the Ark program. The player takes control of one of these Ark survivors who wakes up many years after the impact. Rage is hardly charting new setting territory, but I appreciated that it justifies your in-game health regeneration and HUD as all of the Ark participants have been injected with nanites. What does become interesting is the player's interaction with the various settlements, towns and bandits groups, all of which have their own individual flavors. For example, the Gearheads are a group of bandits predisposed to engineering. They run a local power plant and have filled it with all manner of nasty mechanical traps. You're asked by the seedy mayor of Subway Town, which is made up of subway cars and stations, to permanently divert power to the town. If you do this, he'll turn a blind eye to you and your Resistance buddies in your fight against the Authority.
One problem with Rage's storytelling is that it doesn't particularly fill in the details. Based on other character's dialogue and that they named their origination "The Authority", you've got a pretty good idea it's a fascist police state before you ever bump into them, but the game never really tells you why they are doing any of the bad things that they are. There's something to be appreciated about a game letting you discover details outside of boring exposition dumps, but they still need to be in there somewhere. The other major issue is the rather anti-climactic ending. Without spoiling too much, there is all this buildup of sending you "where no one has returned from before," that "they are working on something big," but Rage doesn't deliver on this finale at all unfortunately. In fact it completely outdoes itself hours before by having you face off against a building-sized mutant who throws chunks of balcony at you.
Rage does manage to deliver really well in some other departments, and it's still a joy to play when all of the elements come together. While it may draw comparisons at a glance to more open world games like Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, Rage is actually more similar in gameplay to Borderlands and BioShock. There is a heavy emphasis on bringing the right equipment for the job, with every weapon having multiple ammunition types and crafting opening even more options. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed with an encounter then it might be time to piece together a few sentry robots to take some of the attention away from you, or swap out your buckshot for pop rockets, the half way points between a shotgun shell and a grenade. It can be a little confusing at first swapping between quick slotted weapons, each with two or three ammo types and your other quick slotted items with their own use button, but you'll inevitably get the hang of it.