Don’t flame yet. Battlefield and Modern Warfare are still on their way as this is being written, but Rage is out, and the multiplayer is fantastic. While the single player campaign struggles, versus modes do not, mostly because you’re not stuck in first-person.
Rage ditches the main mechanics of its solo story, choosing to revolve its multiplayer around racing. Driving is crucial to the single player outing, the sprawling, devastated world built around spaced locations where patches of civilization have begun to spawn. Racing is part of the life in Rage though, a means of entertainment, and that’s why the multiplayer works.
Instead of nonsensically pitting resistance fighters against the all-powerful Authority, racing becomes an extension of the world and in that regard, the design as a whole. You’re not battling in your customized vehicle just because; you’re doing so for entertainment of this rebuilding civilization. It makes sense, and that’s not something you can say for most modern shooters.
Of course, it still must hold up mechanically, and it does. The argument is certainly out there that Rage drives better than it shoots, and it’s a debate you could certainly win. id, and to a lesser extent publisher Bethesda, are allowed to play with the strengths of the engine, ignoring the faults of its blase shooting gallery. On top of that, it’s a surprise to an unsuspecting consumer, and it may even find an audience.
So much is vying for that profitable shooter market, even on the digital download services, that combat racing may be that lost niche. Kudos to the studio(s) for giving something a chance and doing it well.