Publisher: Reverb Publishing
Developer: 2 Dawn Games
Players: 2 – 32
In fear of this review sounding like a press release, I'm going to get a few things out of the way: Ravaged has a decent selection of weapons, a decent selection of large scale maps, surprisingly thorough vehicular/melee/projectile combat, decent controls, it's powered by the Unreal Engine, and it (essentially) checks all the points on the checklist of things that make a decent game. The problem is, as good as that stuff looks on paper, the game lacks a certain vibrancy that would make it a truly standout experience. And in the genre of multiplayer-only FPS, without that *pop*, it will quickly succumb to the success of the heavy-hitters. After all, why play a seemingly unknown albeit decent game like Ravaged when COD (or Halo, or Battlefield, etc.) are calling.
Intentional or not, Ravaged is essentially the multiplayer-only equivalent of id software's RAGE. Not to say that it's as good as RAGE, graphically or otherwise (I actually loved RAGE on PC), but it offers a very similar post-apocalyptic world that is “ravaged” by endless fighting. Not only is the world very similar, but the game uses vehicular combat as its main distinguishing factor, much like id's last title… I like to think of it as BF3 & RAGE getting drunk one night and making a baby. Unfortunately, like all infants, it has quite a bit of growing to do.
While it lacks the overall polish of big-budgeted titles, because it's powered by Unreal Engine 3 it still looks pretty good and runs wonderfully. A GeForce 560, for example, will have no problems running maxed out at 1080p (sans AA). Not only that, but you can lock 60fps in the options menu (although I'm not sure how much dynamic tweaking, if any, goes on under the hood.) The sound is great too and the overall presentation sets the stage for what would hopefully be an awesome experience.
In terms of loading out, you can choose between the standard classes you'd expect — soldier and heavy, assassin and sniper, etc. No surprises, but still well-rounded. Each group has their own unique melee and primary weapons, but there's no unlocking or anything so you're kind of stuck with what's there (for now?) Vehicles can be pretty badass, particularly the ones with multiple weapons/seats… Sure, if a heavy rocket launches the vehicle everyone onboard will likely die, but it's still kind of fun hauling ass as crew… On paper, anyway…
The game's most obvious issue, ironically, is that it's biggest strength often weighs it down. You have big maps with a bunch of different death-machine vehicles for death dealing (from choppers to ATVs), but if your transportation is destroyed, you're left having to hike all the way back to one of the camps. This wouldn't be an issue if there were dozens of people running around to kill (or kill you, as even that would allow you to respawn closer to the action). However, the game was surprisingly desolate, and while it's a literal take on the post-apocalyptic motif, something tells me the emptiness of this wasteland isn't intentional. To counteract this, there are a couple of smaller maps, but they lack the vehicular carnage that is the game's main selling feature.
Typical scenario for me went as follows: With so few people I thought I would have an easier time finding fodder to gib by taking a helicopter across the map (there weren't even enough teammates to fill a buggy). As far as controls go, there's nothing inadequate about Ravaged's scheme, however I've never been good at flying virtual helicopters (that was my mistake). So anyway, I'm flying across the map and get really far out and there's still nothing there so I turn around to fly back. That's when the helicopter starts doing that wishy-washy, back-and-forth thing — you know the one; the chopper-equivalent of the flat-spin from Top Gun (it must have been the wind or something)… Anyway, I'm going down in a bad way but instead of just blowing up with the helo and respawning back at base, my videogame instincts kick-in and I unintentionally bail-out at the last second before impact. As my chopper explodes, I survive with only slight fall damage.
So now I'm in the middle of nowhere with about 66% health. At this point I had three options: 1.) start sprinting back to the spawn point, which would take 5 mins real-time (with no action in between because there are so few players). 2.) Pull out my grenades and kiss my ass goodbye. Or 3.) Exit to Desktop. Grenading myself would have been the quickest (even quicker than going to the menu to respawn or to exit), but I opted to exit. I wouldn't consider myself an impatient gamer, but there are tons of games I want to play and my game time is limited. Spending even an hour hoping that more players join is not how I want to spend that time…
Ironically, I think 2 Dawn kind of anticipated this as the spawn system allows you to be born-again pretty much anywhere you have teammates. Including (but not limited to) passenger seats in vehicles, in the proximity of teammates, in your captured bases, and so forth. The thing is, when you're playing on maps this huge with half a dozen people, your choices are still so limited.
Because of how many servers were running on fumes, I actually thought I was playing a beta/pre-release version. But as of the writing of this review, the game was officially released almost a week ago; if this is what launch week is like, it's gonna be pretty damned barren a month (or year) from now. I'm gonna play it a bit more over the next couple of weeks in the hopes that it gets busier. If it does, I'll probably make a note of it here as I feel as though I haven't really been able to experience this game the way it was meant to be played… If things don't change, however, this review will stand as it is.
‘Tis has always been the risk of multiplayer-only games; if there are no players, you're boned. A shame too, since there's nothing really wrong with Ravaged or its gameplay. The real problem is that 2 Dawn decided to join the ranks of an oversaturated genre and is directly competing with games whose advertising budgets are probably 10x as much as Ravaged's development budget… That's an uphill battle if there ever was one.