id's upcoming post-apocalyptic shooter RAGE is still almost a year away, but why should we wait that long before getting to blast some of the ugliest mutants this side of Total Recall? In order to keep the hype going for the full game, id has released RAGE on the iPhone as an on-rails shooter. Now that's good advertising!
RAGE (iPhone [reviewed], iPad)
RAGE on the iPhone paints a grim post-nuke future in which the premier form of entertainment is a deadly man-versus-mutant game show titled Mutant Bash TV. Hosted by the corpulent, grotesque and painfully unfunny J.K Stiles, this sordid show is represented on the iDevices as an on-rails shooter, one that looks pretty damn sweet.
The graphics are RAGE's big selling point, and they definitely look impressive, up there with the very best the iPhone has to offer. The mutants are detailed in all their grotesque glory, and the environments are packed with objects and intricate filth. In terms of showing off the power of your iThings, RAGE certainly gets the job done.
The gameplay is not quite as outstanding as the graphics, unfortunately. Controls are of the frustratingly unwieldy variety, with tilt-based aiming mechanics and a minimalist interface that doesn't give you much in the way of combat options. You can aim, shoot and dodge, and that's about it.
There's no melee attack, which means you will often take a lot of damage should more than one enemy get close to you. Dodging isn't all that helpful, as it gives you a mere second's reprieve from attack, and when you're dealing with a mixture of brick-lobbing ranged mutants and up-close punchy mutants, you'll find that you're sorely lacking in methods to defend yourself.
The game isn't especially difficult on Medium, but having to essentially sit and take a pounding from enemies during the action-heavy moments isn't very fun, especially when the dark graphics make anticipating projectiles even more difficult. Most of the game's challenge comes in wrestling with the interface, which isn't any kind of respectable challenge at all.
If tilt controls aren't your thing, you can switch to a touch-screen aim mode. While this is more accurate, the virtual button layout becomes far less convenient, and you'll find yourself unable to aim quickly enough to nab point-grabbing bonus targets and bags of Bash Bux. Despite being harder to aim, it's actually a lot easier to get the job done with the accelerometer on your side.
If all this sounds overly negative, be aware that the game actually does become quite fun once you wrestle the controls down and get used to how it operates. Beneath the dodgy interface is a solid, enjoyable on-rails shooter that keeps up a fast pace without completely overwhelming you. The three different weapons (pistol, assault rifle and shotgun) are all effective, and you can double your damage output while reloading by pressing the screen at the right time, a'la Gears of War.
The game is quite short at only three episodes, but it costs a mere dollar on the iPhone, and it's enjoyable enough that you may want to replay, so it's definitely worth the money. There is also a Nightmare difficulty to tackle which pumps up the enemies and makes them more aggressive, so there is lots of optional challenge to be found as well.
As a cute little taster of the RAGE experience, Mutant Bash TV is certainly a good idea. The price point is perfect, and even tough the controls are annoying, it's worth picking up just to experience a terrific looking shooter set in a promisingly gruesome world. Those looking forward to the real RAGE really ought to check it out, and those who just want a good shooter could spend their cash on far worse.
THE VERDICT - RAGE: Mutant Bash TV
Reviewed by Jim Sterling