Rage has a weird type of existence, in that it's most definitely a finished game but it simultaneously feels very incomplete. It's as though id got together and produced part of a design document which had some cool ideas scribbled on it and then decided to go ahead and make a game without ever finalizing what it was supposed to be about.
Rage is set in a wasteland, filled with characters that want to exploit, utilize, or kill the unnamed main character while he uncovers a secret plot and crafts items out of looted enemies and scavenged materials, but the role-playing and depth of writing from something like Fallout 3 simply isn't there. There are a lot of weapons with customizable ammo and huge wide-open expanses, but the gunplay generally takes place in corridor-style areas and lacks the excitement of finding upgrades in something like Borderlands.
Rage fails to capture the imagination or do anything exceptional in almost any way.
These would not be detriments if the game was still really fun, but it fails to capture the imagination or do anything exceptional in almost any way. There are a series of vehicles like dune buggies that can be raced, upgraded with new parts and weapons, and then driven around outside to fight off bandits, but - much like the gunplay - it's done in too basic of a manner. If there had at least been a good challenge to it, there might've been something more salvageable, but it doesn't even put up much of a fight.
On the other hand, the vehicles do make for a nice way to break up the first-person segments and help show off the extensive environments without creating a lot of boring running around. The issue is just that they are ultimately yet another facet which is more tolerable than exciting added into a pile of aspects that can almost all be summed up like that. It's also an area that is inconsistent with the first-person segments that replace enemies dropping ammo with having to loot bodies. The driving areas are instead littered with flashing and spinning power-ups like a kart racing game. It's a weird gameplay touch that continues to lend the feeling of an unfinished design document.
There are still some bright spots to be had, especially when it comes to the animation. The facial work and voices are really well done, adding up to what makes a very convincing series of characters. The enemies also sport some of the best reactions since Uncharted, recoiling in different ways when getting hit and purposefully making random movements to avoid getting hit. The various bandits also usually hit the floor in a wounded state before dying, crawling along to try and get to safety, and they will continue to shoot while on the ground. It's a great touch and really breathes some life into the otherwise ordinary FPS segments.
The guns themselves are generally typical, but Rage switches it up a bit by allowing different types of ammo to be collected for each weapon. The pistol may be the starting peashooter, but with the right bullets it can still do good damage to almost anything. It makes for some drawn out inventory juggling once in a while, searching to see what guns still have some type of ammo that can be equipped if the favorite ones run low, but adding multiple unique functionality is pretty fun.
There is also an attempt at adding some role-playing depth by allowing the player to collect items that can then be used to construct items from any discovered engineering plans found throughout the game. It's a decent idea, but it doesn't go far enough to really add anything, and could've been just as easily handled by the usual method of littering the finished items throughout the levels. The same goes for looting bodies, which is the typical method of obtaining ammo mid-mission but also really highlights the absurdity of being unable to pick up weapons dropped by dead enemies. If the player chooses not to purchase a machine gun right away, he will be made to watch as the enemies drop theirs to the ground and they fade out of existence once the body has been looted of the associated ammo. It's an oddly jarring aspect in a game that takes on so many modern conventions.
Some of the areas try to change up the wasteland theme a bit by introducing new aspects, such as the game show that shoves the main character through a series of Smash TV-esque challenges. Unfortunately, while a good idea in theory, they don't add enough to be appealing on their own while also forcing the player into small rooms that just spawn enemies. It ends up feeling more lazy and drawn-out than conjuring any interest in the proceedings.
Rage's biggest flaw might have been coming out so recently after Hard Reset. Both have a sort of old-school corridor shooter sense to their gunplay, but Hard Reset worked on pumping out a comparable experience to games of yore while Rage is more of a robust modern experience. However, by not going far enough in either direction it's left floundering as neither a great shooter nor a great experience. There are a lot of little touches throughout that are done right, but in the end the core aspects simply don't add up into something great.