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My favorite of the bunch is the Striker crossbow. This deadly device eventually can load exploding Mind Control Bolts that allow the player to shoot, and temporarily direct, an unlucky enemy and have him detonate next to his pals.

He also eventually finds or buys blueprints and enough items to construct cool tech gadgets, such as exploding RC cars (just like Call of Duty), lockgrinders and sentry bots (with sharp tentacles).

Now, roaming through long stretches of desert and enemy-filled terrain requires the use of some enhanced, but beat up, ATVs, dune buggies and muscle cars. This is the Mad Max/Mario Kart part of the show. It involves racing for sport to collect certificates that are turned into onboard weaponry (or enhanced paint jobs and mechanics) to use in fighting off more vehicles hanging in the wastelands as our hero fights to reach destinations.

I’m not a big fan of kart games, but they are woven into the story in an intelligent way and certainly make life easier than having to walk all over the place.

Violent encounters:Rage delivers its share of bloody, decapitating head shots and abuse of bodies that turn them into flopping rag dolls or gooey messes, but I certainly have seen worse.

Players will appreciate that the game does take firefights to the extreme. Take the example early on of simply trying to collect auto parts by infiltrating the Gearheads’ lair and killing liberally.

Caught up against a maniac using a gun turret atop a burned-out vehicle, I needed to take him out or stay in perpetual firefight mode against a methodical stream of brutes that would not stop attacking.

As the bodies piled up to ridiculous levels (it was insane) and my ammo supply slowly diminished, it became apparent that the developers were more than willing to play an endless game of chicken until I took down the boss.

Additionally, “rage” will be the buzzword for the focused player who doesn’t save his game often enough and as a result has to start way back in a mission because of the game’s terrible and sparse autosaves.

The player’s only saving grace is a bizarre health restoration device. Tied to a matching minigame, the device acts as a heart defibrillator that will not only restore the player’s health, but also will electrocute all enemies standing near him.

Pixel-popping scale: 9.5 out of 10. The visuals are a breathtaking blend of rocky planetary landscapes, crumbling buildings and rusted chambers mixed with piecemeal shanty-style settlements that completely embrace visions from such directors as Alfonso Cuaron (”Children of Men”) and George Miller (”Mad Max 2”).

Non-playable characters are a meaty, eye-popping bunch loaded with as many accents as face paint, tattoos and head dresses, ready to chat or assign a mission. All looked as if they had been ripped from a painting by sequential art master Glenn Fabry.

Multiplayer: Currently one of the weak links in the Rage chain, the game is in desperate need of some all-out, multiplayer shooter free-for-alls. Instead, gamers can choose from nine cooperative missions called Wasteland Legends, or up to four drivers can compete online in Mad Max/Mario Kart-style races and demolition derbies.

By the way, those co-ops are well worth working through as players learn a bit more of the game’s backstory. They can control Dan Hagar’s men to shut down a Gearhead drilling operation in an old prison or find out how Wasteland’s biggest mutants become trophies at the Second Chance Bar.

Memorable moments: Wielding a double-barreled shotgun (aka Mel Gibson); stealing a sample of ore from a gorgeous feltrite mine; controlling a flaming Curprino hurdling off of a highway ramp; admiring sunlight peeking out from behind rock formations that John Ford or Cecil B. DeMille would have used in a movie; watching a member of the Shrouded Clan shooting an assault rifle over his head and behind his back; and visiting the Dead City and feeling a large mutant pounding on the highway above me with detail down to concrete dust falling.

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