"Welcome to the Savage Arena where blood, guts, and attitude is all that counts. Don't just beat your opponent - destroy them. The more blood on the floor, the better." This all seems very nice as Rage puts it, but it's clearly not the case once you actually PLAY the game and cease staring at a box. Savage Arena is a futuristic sports game alright, but certain features and annoying bugs make it seem a little out of date.
Visuals are excellent in Savage Arena. Rage obviously put effort into them, and it paid off. Running Savage.exe brought up the familiar video card selection prompt and after choosing my VoodooČ, I watched as the main menu used fog trails (more on these in a bit) and another special effect involving beams that exploded into menu options. I found this to be a very dazzling trick and a creative way to use my 3dfx's power. During gameplay, visuals were silky smooth with a fast frame rate (there's an option to display it) in the 50's - very impressive for a mere Pentium 188mmx overclocked from an outdated 166mmx. Fog trails and amazing shadow work are both used to track the progress of the ball itself; this is definitely the best effect the game has to offer. The players themselves are rendered cleanly, but there is far too much clipping and distorted polygons that become visible at certain angles. Rage apparently didn't attempt to combine many polygons in each model and it's quite evident with all the boxy legs and arms on the players. The stadiums look nice, with well-rendered cement and painted creases and lines.
Savage Arena's sound is tormentingly weak. Low quality sound with a lack of effort is certainly the case in this game. The only really decent sample was the whipping sound of the ball traveling through the air when your player throws it. Other than that the sound is riddled with flaws and glitches - it sometimes blurs out and dies, then comes back. As a whole the audio is poor and if Rage can't do any better than this, they may be better off going out and "borrowing" some of EA's sound wizards.
Gameplay can be summed up in two words: annoyingly difficult. Absurd movement clashes with amazingly realistic passing and user-dependent accuracy. It's hard to believe how Rage could be so right with one aspect of control and yet so wrong with another. The passing and shooting is almost too precise, as you have to be deadly accurate with your shots and passes. I shot at the goalie and aimed for the upper left corner of the goal but didn't aim carefully enough and ended up hitting the corner of the post instead. On the scoring note, it's extremely difficult to win consecutive games. The computer AI is extremely high, and although many sports games leave the AI in the box, there is a limit as to how challenging it should be. Rage takes AI to another level. Sure, winning is possible in this game, but doing it consistently during league play isn't. The game itself based on a sport where two teams battle it out and you must throw a ball and hit the other team's goal (it's not a meshed net, but rather a force field adjoining two polls) to score points. Anything from within the crease is considered a power shot which you get merely 1 point for, but out of the painted zone around the net you receive a sweet 5 smackers under your team's name. Another thing to take note of is the extreme violence in this game. Definitely not for anyone younger than 13, this game offers brutal beatings and so much blood it makes Mortal Kombat look like something playable by little Timmy next door. A very amusing and violent feature are the fatalities and goalie kills. After punching a player enough times in the head, he will bleed to death and die, thus the fatality. The goalie kills are triggered when an opposing player gets too close to a goalie's crease. The goalie proceeds to LOSE IT and he punches the victim into his own net. That's right, all the way across the stadium and into *his own* net - quite difficult to do, yet very pleasing once you execute it.
What can I say, the violence stuck my fingers to the keyboard. The idea of throwing a ball into a net alone cannot be too luring with all the games competing for shelf space these days, but the great graphics and addition of gore makes Savage Arena somewhat interesting. Boredom becomes a factor if you take replay value into consideration, since the blood wears a little thin after a while.
I had mixed opinions as I played this game - on one hand, the violence and gratuitous blood make it entertaining - but then again you can't just rely on gore to make a game(think of all of those awful MK clones). When you take away the violence there isn't much left. If Rage wants to keep their games out of the bargain bin they have to learn to squeeze in as much game depth as possible. Now enough of this bloody mess, it's time for some white chedda macaroni if you know what I mean!
Highs: Well-rendered graphics, bloody good violence!!!
Lows: Unclear and low grade sound, disgustingly low polygon count, crazy movement and high difficulty levels