First some clarification just in case you are unaware: Rage HD, unlike most handheld version of their retail brethren, does not feature an alternate story or a full-fledge campaign. It has a short purpose, and a simple one: to showcase the prowess of the id Tech 5 engine on the iPhone, and to work as a teaser for the upcoming console and PC version scheduled for Q3 2011.
As aforementioned, the game does not have a story but just three levels that won’t last you more than 15 mins each on normal. Realizing how difficult and aggravating it is to control a first person perspective on the iPhone, id thought wise to make it a on-the-rails-shooter. Your movement are entirely controlled by the computer, taking you from one segment to another as you lay waste to mutilates and mutants that has all but rage in their eyes.
Of course, you can control where you aim. There are two ways to do so, one is to use the screen as a joystick as you would normally on any other FPS game on the iPhone, and the other is to use the surprisingly effective gyroscope where you tilt the screen to aim on those ugly heads. However, using just the either of the two will get you killed pretty quickly. They must be used in conjecture as the joystick has an annoying habit of snapping back to left of the screen.
The core gameplay – shooting – remains as satisfactory as any id game should. You have three guns at your disposal, a pistol with infinite ammo, a rifle and a pump shotgun. The guns can be changed by clicking on the icon in the top left corner, and be fired from the icon on the bottom right corner. At regular intervals, you will face enemies that prefer to throw bricks at you rather than claw at you with their Gordon Freeman crowbars. You can either dodge them by clicking on the icon in the bottom left corner or shoot them off midair to accentuate your bad-assery. The annoying bit in all of this is getting the goodies laden throughout the level. There are ammo clips, health packs, money stacks and bulls eye boards all over each level that have to be collected by aiming at them and pressing fire. The problem with it is that it gets increasingly hard to do so since you have to bring our your whack-a-mole skills and be on your toes to click the fire button as soon as the moving camera, which is out of your control, points towards the goods. The inability to easily get them will leave you out of ammo or health in many cases, having to restart from a checkpoint repeatedly (but which are generously placed).
But let’s come to the reason, the single most reason, you will most likely be getting this game: the graphics. Needless to say, they are glorious. It’s remarkable to see such superbly detailed environments and characters come alive on the iPhone hardware. The id Tech 5 is a fantastic engine, and has shown incredible scaling possibilities with the game not even flinching for a second. The UE3 engine and the Tech 5 will push the iPhone right above the handheld market as the new and deep visual fidelity offers more immersive ways to tell a story and present the game.
Rage HD’s only drawback is its replay value. The game only features a single player mode and that with only three levels that finishes right when you really, really start to enjoy the game. It could have done with some basic multiplayer options, or even an online leaderboard which is surprisingly not included. But, despite this, Rage HD is a must have for any gamer looking to his/her iPhone as a gaming handheld. At $1.99, it isn’t much of a spend, either. Highly recommended.
P.S – There is a standard version of Rage available for $0.99 that extends compatibility to older iPhones and Touches.