‘Rage’ shooting game just plain mediocre

Will 2011 ever get better?

Look at this disappointing blockbuster, “Rage.” It should be a spectacular, first-person shooter. It’s made by id Software, creators of the classic “Doom” and “Quake” series. “Rage” is so big, it comes on three discs if you play it on Xbox 360.

And yet, “Rage” is often just a dull irritation.

Plot: In the year 2029, meteorites mess up Earth. Not many humans survive, but you do. Everywhere you journey, mutant humans roam murderously, in killer-zombie mode.

So you must shoot these mutants, as well as roving gangs of thugs, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that vaguely resembles the American Old West, decorated with saloons and desert towns.

Plenty of characters in “Rage” talk to you about missions to accomplish, or they merely tell you to buzz off.

But their dialogue lines and stories are negligible, so let’s skip them and discuss the gist of the whole game: to run around and shoot mutants, or bash them in the head with the butt of your rifle, shotgun or handgun.

The violent action could be swell if it were more fun and effective. But for too much of “Rage,” the action isn’t compelling or convincing. It’s not terrible. It’s just blah-average-whatever.

Since this is a shooting game, you’d hope the guns would be great. Nope. My weapons, and especially hand-to-hand melees, feel imprecise, weak and low on ammo against mutants and villainous bosses.

The bad: Many times, characters will talk to me, but their lips are not even close to matching the dialogue.

Worse: A lot of action sights and sounds don’t match up. Someone will shoot at me, but I won’t hear the blast until bullets are entering my face. That’s too late.

Worst: Did the game makers decide not to include an auto-save feature? I pause the game every few minutes, open the menu, open the “save” function, click “save,” tell my Xbox 360 to overwrite previous save data, then click out of all those options.

I do that manually every five to 10 minutes. If I don’t, I can lose an hour’s worth of progress due to one sloppy death. I know this, because I did so the first day I played “Rage.” I was very, very angry.

I’m giving “Rage” two out of four stars, because the game is just pretty enough, just big enough, and just good enough to merit being called “mediocre” rather than “bad.”

But that doesn’t mean I like the idiot villains who jump around as if they were in Cirque du Soleil, dodging my limp bullets.

I absolutely abhor the unsatisfying headshots. Typically in games, when you shoot someone in the face, they die. Why can’t you do this better, “Rage”?

Oh, and the dune buggy-racing portions of “Rage” are tiresome. But now I’m just being jerky about every pedestrian element of the game, sorry.

(“Rage” by Bethesda retails for $60 for Xbox 360, PS 3 and PC — Plays dull. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated “M” for blood, gore, intense violence and strong language. Two out of four stars.)

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@review journal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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