Replenishing both your health and ammunition requires you to pick up special items found along the way, but there are other goodies awaiting you as well. Passcards come in different colors and allow access to various parts of a level as do cryokeys, which deactivate certain unwholesome devices. There’s also helpful pickups that give you hints and messages, point bonuses, and a variety of other items to collect such as shields, medkits, extra time items, and extra lives. Personally, my favorite is the laser sight, which projects an infrared beam in the direction where your gun is pointed, allowing you to see just where your weapon is currently aimed. In addition, you’ll also find hostages along the way, who restore health and award you points if rescued before they are transported off to some remote alien colony for interrogation, examination, and genetic manipulation (something tells me they’re in for a lot worse than an anal probe).
Obviously enough, this type of game would be worthless without plenty of weapons to play with, and Rage has graciously outdone itself in this department. Weapons include the standard, if a bit weak, pulse cannon complete with unlimited shots, a version of the pulse cannon that fires a spread shot, and the highly powerful portable particle accelerator. You’ll also get shotguns, chainguns (aka vulcan cannons), heat-seeking missiles, rockets, and more, including the barbecue-friendly flamethrower…anyone for alien flambé? Grenades are self-explanatory, come in several varieties (napalm, shatter, airstrike and dynamite) and when used to good effect can clear out whole sections of the screen, drenching the landscape in gore and/or debris.
Play operates in a full 360 degree range, as you rove about the landscape on foot laying waste to alien footsoldiers, vehicles, and massive boss constructs. It’s all good fun and the action doesn’t let up for a minute, but that’s also a downside to the title as it’s nigh impossible to know what’s going on at any given minute. Add to this a control scheme that’s overly responsive and poorly implemented and you’ll never know where you’re aiming from one minute to the next. Then again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it means you’ll be firing nonstop, which can result in some pretty explosive effects.
John Woo, eat your heart out, because the pyrotechnics and visuals in this one will leave most people stunned. Crates and vehicles explode in a shower of sparks and flame, while machines discharge electrical current in violent displays of power. Alien soldiers literally come apart at the seams, leaving trails of blood across the landscape as their heads, arms, and legs go bounding off in different directions. Even the landscape itself changes as armored cars come crashing through city streets, spaceships crash into the surface of the planet, and giant craters are formed from the force of explosions. The sound effects are appropriately moving as well, featuring screams, explosions, the ratta-tat-tat of bullets, and plenty of futuristic fare as well. If there was one word I could pick to describe the sum total experience, it would have to be overwhelming.
While Expendable is by no means revolutionary nor even especially wonderful to play, it still manages to convey a sense of fun and excitement in a way, if you can make sense of all the images constantly bombarding you. To say the very least, this game gives new meaning to over the top action sequences, and it makes Apocalypse look like a casual walk in the park. The first few times you take this one out for a spin, it’s a real blast to play, but due to the sheer intensity it eventually overpowers you (or frustrates you) and the novelty value wears off quickly. Action gamers hungry for a fix may get a kick out of Expendable, but in the end the title proves to be like a sugar rush, as it’s fast, intense, and energizing, but leaves you feeling drained and somehow empty in the end.