Rage HD, as an iPhone game, is pretty good. It’s got absolutely jaw-dropping graphics, and in a fun half hour you’ll clear through the game’s three levels and slay every mutant in sight. But as a promotional tool, Rage HD is incredible– we’re left wanting so much more that we can’t wait for the full PC game.
That’s because Rage HD on the iPhone (and iPad) suggests a deeper, more interesting game is available out there, somewhere, on another platform. Rage HD is based on Mutant Bash TV, a television show set in the dystopian world of Rage. You’re a contestant on a mutant-filled location shoot, but all the context as to your character, mission, and the world around you is almost completely absent.
From a first-person perspective, you have to survive an on-rails roller-coaster ride from the start of each 10-minute level to the finish. When we say roller-coaster, we don’t mean emotional highs and lows– we mean that the camera swings around so wildly that you may feel like upchucking afterward. Instead of letting the player set the pace, Rage blasts you from location to location at a breakneck speed.
You’ll hardly have time to admire the scenery, and that’s a shame. The world of Rage is one of the most incredibly rendered we’ve seen yet on the iPhone, and it could absolutely pass for a modern console game. So why rush the player through it, instead of letting us linger long enough to smell the corpses?
As you rocket through each level, you can perform a variety of actions that seem like simplified versions of normal FPS maneuvers. You can reload your weapon, playing a timing-based minigame for each manual reload (borrowed from Gears of War) to earn double damage. With another button, you can juke to the side to avoid flying bricks and rocks– your mutant victims don’t use firearms. And you can pick up items for health, cash, or ammo bonuses from across the room, with what we can only assume are unspoken telekinetic powers.
We’re not going to judge Rage HD harshly for being less than a fully featured console or PC first-person shooter. This is an arcade-style shooting gallery, so we’ll judge it harshly for failing to live up to its potential within that genre. After you clear out each 10-minute level, you’ll receive a grade based on your performance, but with no detailed breakdown of your accuracy, number of bonus targets hit, etc. And the lack of online high scores and achievements is striking. We’d love to receive some extra challenges in the form of achievements, and it would certainly help with the game’s replayability.
Rage HD is an interesting iPhone experiment, the kind that we know developer John Carmack loves to tinker with. The potential is there for a great pick-up-and-play shooting gallery game, but we’d want to see Rage HD loaded up with extras and even more gameplay hooks before we can give it our highest recommendation.