Beautiful, expansive worlds with a plethora of enemies, tools, and diverse characters with whom the player character can interact aren’t just for open world games. Different areas to run around in, a wide range of environments, several missions giving the player excuses to return to some of those nifty environments, these things occur in linear games as well. Rage is, yeah, linear, but linear is no STD-infested harlot ruining each game it can get its hands on, linear is capable of healthy relationships as well.
Initial details and footage of Id’s latest project, Rage, hinted at a massive post-apocalyptic world where the player could roam about freely, shooting mutated things in the face as they went. Id said they wanted to try something different, add some more modern mechanics to the formula they use for the genre they know best: first person shooters. As such, Rage was given a dose of open world and a dash of minigames along with a surprise racing ingredient. The expectation was a grand souffle, or maybe a cake, or perhaps some other sort of extravagant and large meal filled with deliciousness, but Rage didn’t turn out as expected when the oven timer went off. Rage is linear (oh, gosh, I said linear!), the minigames are lackluster, the races were decent diversions at best and the vast, open world was really more a rather well-cordoned off museum tour complete with aggressive museum goers in buggies firing missiles. All the levels were well crafted step-by-step affairs with plenty of scripted environmental hazards conveniently shutting off exit routes and firefights breaking out, each presenting a slightly different challenge than the last. Plenty of areas encouraged players to take advantage of the various tools and different ammo types that were provided and… why… wait what part of this linear experience was the bad part again?
Linear used to be everything, and now more open world games came out holiday of 2011 than ever before in entire years. The industry is moving on on the development side, perhaps, but if all the ridiculous support for all things nostalgic has taught me one thing it’s that people like old things still. And beyond that, linear isn’t even old, it’s just hidden in smoke in mirrors like the massive set pieces of games like those of the Assassin’s Creed (a largely open world game) series, or the scattered and directionless nature of games like the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (a very open world game) which give players the option to run around and do what they want, but the moment they’re off in a dungeon somewhere they’re really just… going down hallways into rooms. Just like in Rage. Oh no, hallways, corridors, rooms!
The debate on Rage shouldn’t be about whether or not it’s an open world game and it shouldn’t be judged for being a bad open world game (because it’s not an open world game). Rage is a linear first person shooter. Yes, it’s more expanded than in the days of old, giving players that guise of “openness” by having them drive around in canyons over and over, and suspiciously providing exactly one quest for each and every area suggesting players go back and get something only to find the area has changed ever so slightly. Anything but the quests wasn’t really worth doing for most and for good reason, the game was in the missions, it was in finding reasons to shoot more things. The variety in the AI (who admittedly was far too keen to stick their head out from behind cover) in tactics, the different ways a combat situation could be approached thanks to the engineering system, the impressive draw distance and environment design (though it couldn’t be explored), these are all things Rage did well and perfectly reasonable excuses to buy and enjoy a first person shooter.