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Reviews

RAGE: The Scorchers

A not unpleasant burning sensation

The Scorchers is the most audacious punchline ever. It's like id asked you "hey, what's the secret of comedy?" at a Halloween party. Then, fourteen months later, at 2am on Christmas Day, your mobile rings. You panic. Who calls anyone at this time of night, on Christmas? Worried that you're about to suffer a harrowing Eastenders festive bereavement, you accept the call. It's John Carmack. He whispers the word "timing", and hangs up.

Timing: it's not only the secret to comedy, it's the secret to profitable DLC. As much as we love to complain about it, there's a reason publishers release Day 1 DLC. That's when people buy it. Generally speaking, after three months, no-one's interested. 14 months later? Who's going to care?

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Well, we do. If nothing else, The Scorchers is a reason to remember exactly how damn good RAGE was. I reviewed it for OXM, and there were points, during the missions of Wellspring, when I was excitedly bouncing my legs around, and thinking "I'm going to give this bad chap a bloody ten, you see if I don't".

Then I put in Disc Two. It was exactly like Kill Bill Part Two had been an animated gif of a dog in a swing. That is the perfect anaology. But for ten, fifteen hours, RAGE was a heaven of bullets, rockets, and buggies.

The hyperactive afterpocalypse comedy of Borderlands 2 is so fresh in the mind, that going back to RAGE now is a wonderfully po-faced affair. You forget how serious this is. Even the comedy characters, like the grotesque Mutant Bash game-show host JK Stiles, don't do jokes. The closest you get is the barks of the gang members.

The first psycho NPC bark you hear is "This place needs decorating... with blood!" Can you imagine writing that line, and sniggering behind your hand while the voice actors come in to read it out? Then demanding the actors said it again, but this time like they meant it? Luckily, the game never breaks into a smile itself, even with inexplicable cockney accents screaming "get the wanker!" RAGE generously lets you laugh at it, instead of with it. The fourth wall provides perfect cover.

There are better reasons to love RAGE, without being an ironic snidey-pants. Although some of the textures look blotchy up-close, something had to give with the sheer scale of the landscapes, and the rich, buttery smooth frame rates. RAGE looks magnificent, and makes me hungry for the next Xbox, when we can legitimately start ragging fiercely on all games that aren't this slick.

RAGE lets you make mistakes. Mid-mission checkpoints are maddeningly sparse, but you can save whenever you like. Towns don't have mini-maps, and the levels are designed to trick you into circles, forcing you to explore properly. If you want to wander into a mission with too little ammo, you can - but you'll probably have to abort your mission and head back to town. There's no fast travel, either - but that's OK, because the vehicles are fast enough, and you'll be distracted by fights and comet showers on the way.

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The enemy AI and movement are brilliant, too, each gang having a distinct personality. The tumbling, acrobatic Ghosts. The charging, retreating cockney Wasted. And the tech-savvy Russian Gearhead clan, the orthodox-military Authority, and the strength-in-numbers mutant fodder. All of these characters are now joined by The Scorchers, in this mission chain that weaves itself through the first half of the game.

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