Rage is a game I've been waiting for for a very long time.
Since the days of the Mad Max movies and the old boardgame Car Wars, I've longed for a computer game which will put me behind the wheel of an armed vehicle, fighting bandits, bike gangs and other road users.
And this is the exactly concept of Rage. It's a post-apocalypse shooter/action game from Bethesda, who gave us the stunning Fallout 3 a couple of years ago.
It's visually stunning, and it's huge. I've been running the PS3 version, which comes on a dual-layer Blu-Ray disc which installs vast chunks of itself on the hard-drive.
You play the Ark Survivor, who emerges from cryogenic stasis into a world destroyed by an asteroid impact about a century earlier. Small human settlements eke out a living in a wasteland populated by mutants, bandit gangs and the mysterious Authority.
Before long you're picked up by settlement leader Dan Hagar (voiced by John Goodman), who gives you a gun, a quad-bike and your first missions.
As time goes on, you add more vehicles to your garage, each of which can eventually be customised with weapons, heavier suspension, performance tyres, nitro-boosters and the like.
Some missions take place on foot, which is where the game behaves like a shooter. Some take place behind the wheel, when it basically becomes a racing game - with firepower.
The armed races and wilderness combat missions remind me most of Car Wars. There are many of the weapons and accessories the boardgame's fans know and love: mine-droppers, wheel spikes, rocket launchers and gatling guns.
There's some nice touches to foot combat as well. I like the half-a-binocular you can use as a sniper scope for a handgun, and the wingsticks (exploding boomerangs) are fun.
Mutants make challenging enemies: fast, agile and able to scramble along walls and ceilings. One isn't difficult, but facing four or five at close quarters isn't easy.
Campaign mode is single-player only, but two people can co-op for background missions, and there's an online multiplayer option as well.
But despite everything Rage has going for it, it isn't gripping. It's a solid, competent game, but it doesn't have the wow factor that would move it into the top-flight of games.
Although the vehicle combat is enjoyable enough, there's too many gamey elements to allow immersion in the grim and gritty setting: nitro-boost and ammo pick-ups, and even force-field shields. Get blown up, and you lose a couple of seconds while your car respawns. It feels more like Super Mario Cart than post-apocalypse auto-duelling.
And that, I think, is the flaw in Rage: it simply hasn't decided what game it wants to be. It tries to do everything - shooter, racer, action adventure - and ends up doing all of them adequately but not brilliantly.
It can't decide whether it wants to be a gritty simulation or a fun-filled romp.
I'll keep plugging away at Rage. It's a good enough game, despite its flaws.
But I'll also be dusting off my dice and car counters and getting friends and family into playing Car Wars on the tabletop - the original gaming platform. Rage doesn't quite scratch the auto-duelling itch.
- Game: Rage
- Genre: First-person shooter, action-adventure
- Platform: PS3, XBOX 360, PC
- Out now for Dh269 (Anarchy Edition)