Our 2012 Backlog slog continues with a trip into the blasted wastelands of id Software’s Rage.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Rage has been on the receiving end of widespread harsh criticism. Despite its use of id Software’s unique MegaTexture technology and the inclusion of id’s signature gunplay, it seems like people couldn’t get over the fact that the game should have had more depth (not to mention a longer running time.) After all, the game was in development for nearly five years. It’s hard to stay relevant, both from a visual standpoint and a gameplay standpoint, when it takes that long to get your game out the door.

That being said, I got lucky: I was already aware of the problems people had when I first booted the game up a week ago, so my expectations were tempered. I’m happy to say that, for everything Rage gets wrong, it still gets a lot right.

One of the things id Software does best is fast-paced gunplay, and Rage is no exception. Conjuring up memories of Quake, Rage’s combat moves at a blistering pace; you better memorize the layout and location of objects in every room you enter, because whenever you go through one of the many sections of the game where you’re attacked by mutants, you’ll be running backwards for an almost uncomfortably long time. While id’s patented “monster closets” are no where to be found, the developers have no qualms about throwing a steady stream of enemies at you. On the normal difficulty level, it’s nothing too challenging to take care of, but once you start getting into the harder settings, you’ll find yourself in danger of being constantly overrun. Enemies come slinking out of the tiniest of hidey-holes, and will crawl on the ceiling, vault over objects, or serpentine like crazy in an attempt to close the gap between you and them.

That’s just the mutants, though. The bandits and members of the Authority that you meet will provide you with some intense firefights, although the human enemies seem to be a bit inconsistent in their tactics. They’ll try to flank you, flush you out with grenades, change positions, and generally try to keep you on your toes…but then they’ll poke their head out from behind cover and let you take potshots at them. They’re also quite vocal, making it easy to figure out where they’re hiding. It’s strange (almost to the point of immersion-breaking) how they have amazing teamwork skills, but are absolute morons as individuals. Still, the human enemies can and will pin you down if you aren’t careful, so quickly assessing your movement and cover options is absolutely essential.

While the combat in Rage is the highlight, it’s not the only thing to do. Roughly 20% of your time will be spent running around various towns, talking to people, getting quests, fleshing out the story, and just watching folks go about their daily business. While the overall visual design is somewhere between Borderlands and The Road Warrior, the world and characters themselves feel fully developed and realized. What’s here isn’t original, but it’s still well done nonetheless.

Another thing Rage excels at is in little details. Characters are expressive, and each one feels like a unique person. Likewise, the various towns and settlements feel lived in and “real”, adding to the immersion factor. However, my personal favorite detail is the way you pick up loot. If a bunch of ammo or crafting materials are in close proximity to each other, you only need to pick up one of them; you’ll automatically pick up everything else that’s nearby. This lets you keep moving quickly, and cuts down on the time it takes to clean out supply rooms that are scattered about.

The driving sections unfortunately feel tacked on in an attempt to pad an already short game. There’s a ton of races you can partake in, which net you racing certificates. Those certificates are used to beef up the vehicle you use to travel from area to area. However, that’s ALL the vehicles are used for. There aren’t really any quests that make good use of the car, and vehicle-to-vehicle battles are far and few between. If we get a Rage sequel, I’d like to see vehicles not only get more customization options, but be given a greater importance beyond just getting you from point A to point B.

Overall, I genuinely like Rage. Yes, it has some issues (most notably with textures looking super wonky when viewed up close), and it’s not all that original, but it’s still an intense, entertaining, and all around fun game. If it happens to be up during a Steam sale, or if you can get a good deal on it used, I’d say go for it.