11 long years after the release of the original Rage, we get a chance to jump back into that dusty post-apocalyptic setting to continue our adventure through the wasteland, slaughtering numerous bandits and mutants as we do. This time around though Rage 2 actually delivers on the promise of a true open world experience and offers up a number of ways to enjoy yourself. Even though there are a few technical issues and the main story is nothing special, the folks at id Software and Avalanche definitely nailed the fun factor. Rage 2’s moment-to-moment gameplay is a pleasure to play.
Rage 2 is a first person shooter title collaboratively developed by id Software and Avalanche Studios. This collaboration effort made a lot of sense when I first heard about Rage 2 with id being known for their silky smooth gunplay and Avalanche known for building out large scale open worlds. And I hope to potentially see other AAA games co-developed in the same way by other studios in the future because bringing together separate strengths has helped Rage 2 feel better in almost every way when compared to the original game.
In the game you play as Walker, one of the few remaining Ranger’s who steps up to take on the Authority, the prime antagonistic force from the first game. As Walker (who can be male or female depending on which variant you pick) you’ll fight back against the forces of the Authority’s oppression and build relationships in numerous settlements as you do.
Now before I get too far into the review I must mention that you don’t have to have played the original Rage to be able to jump into Rage 2 and have a good time. Rage 2 is set 30 years after the events of the original game and while there are some callbacks to events that occurred and some characters from the first game reemerge here, you won’t feel lost having not played the original adventure. Those that have played it though may get a slightly richer experience when it comes to said events and the lore of the world.
Primary characters in the game get a splash screen intro when they first pop up, presenting you key facts you need to know about them but if you want to fully dive into character backgrounds and lore of the world in rage 2 you’re able to do so via reading the codex entries located in the in-game menu.
As I mentioned in the opening of the review, I was a little let down by the main narrative of Rage 2. It was by no means terrible but it certainly isn’t a story that is incredibly gripping and engaging. And many of the characters fail to become iconic or memorable. Many of the missions in the core questline have you travelling to a waypoint, clearing out all of the enemies in that zone and reporting back. While this was fun to do in-the-moment it does start to become repetitive when you’re heading out to do it for the 10th time.
That’s not to say that all of Rage 2’s missions are the same though. The world is actually full of a ton of things to do outside of the main story. It was outside of the key missions that I actually had the most fun with Rage 2 to be honest. Clearing out bandit camps, crashing enemy convoys, wiping out Mutant nests and competing in races provided hours of enjoyment.
Where Rage 2 truly shines is with it’s combat. It’s easily the best part of the game. Shooting through enemies feels so satisfying, the guns have a real sense of power and weight to them and the Nanotrite abilities allow you to blend bullet spraying with supernatural melee focused attacks for some utterly devastating carnage. id’s experience crafting gun based combat lifts Rage 2 to another level. And when things get really fast paced and chaotic it feels just like Doom…But in a wasteland.
The weapon design in Rage 2 just like the use of them is really fantastic. Most weapons have that satisfying crunch when fired and also possess a secondary firing feature such as the shotgun unleashing a pressure blast when aiming down the sights or the pistol gaining the ability to switch to a 3 round burst.
There are so many upgrades to earn and things to do to keep you entertained outside of the main story in Rage 2. The menu at times just seems like a home for your numerous upgrade and skill trees, with weapons each carrying up to 5 levels of progression that increase damage, fire rate, handling and crowd control abilities and are able to be equipped with additional perks to further increase things like magazine capacity or reloading times.
You also have a tree that progresses your own physical attributes as well things such as damage resistance, movement speeds and a ton of other upgrades can be purchased. Even the Nanotrite abilities have a tiered upgrade system allowing you to tweak things like cool-down times and usage limits.
The more time you invest into Rage 2 directly impacts how upgraded your character will be and what attributes you have available to you. While having so many skill trees available to upgrade at once was a bit overwhelming at first, once I grasped what each one contained and could see the changes reflected in my own Walker I began to really like the level of customisation Rage 2 offered.
The world itself is beautiful and throughout your adventures you’ll cross into a number of different biomes that change the look of the environment, keeping things visually interesting. Gone is the brown, grey and orange colour palette of the original game. It’s been replaced here by dry, yet interesting deserts, brightly lit cities and lush jungle environments all accented with the game’s signature neon pink visual language. But although the world looks great I did find it to be a bit lifeless at times when travelling around away from one of the key settlement areas. With large stretches of the open world being completely void of life, whether that be enemies or NPC’s.
Travelling through the open world is done with one of the game’s variety of vehicles. There’s your primary vehicle which you’re able to customise to your liking but you’re also able to steal any other vehicle you come across in the wasteland. Throughout your adventures you’ll pilot tanks, trucks, buggies and even a gyro-copter among other things, each capable of different levels of speed, manoeuvrability and combat options. Where the combat sequences in the game are all first person, travelling around in or on vehicles switches the camera perspective to 3rd person.
Each vehicle in Rage 2 has it’s own look and feel. Though I found the weight in some vehicles made some of them really hard to get used to. But I did appreciate the realism of how different each type of vehicle felt.
While travelling through the environment of Rage 2 I did occasionally run into the odd technical hiccup. Far from anything game-breaking but there was a fair amount of asset pop-in and frame rate drops when travelling into new areas or engaging in combat with numerous bandit vehicles. I reviewed the game on PS4 so can’t speak to how prominent these issues may be on the PC release.
The main story in Rage 2 can be completed in approximately 12 hours. It’s a mostly streamlined experience but as I mentioned earlier it’s also quite forgettable. Where you’ll have the most fun with Rage 2 will be in it’s world, it’s side missions and clearing the collectables on the map. Gaining experience and new weapons, vehicles and Nanotrite abilities along the way. If you wanted to see and do everything Rage 2 has to offer, you can easily triple the playtime of the main story.
If I was to sum up Rage 2 in a single word it would be ‘fun’. The gunplay feels so good and when chained together with Walker’s Nanotrite abilities you can have a real blast taking down the bandits and mutants that plague Rage 2’s wasteland. While I would have loved a more engaging story and deeper characters I did love the true open world and it’s visual diversity. It’s a big step up from the original Rage and if the team’s take on player feedback, Rage 3 is well on it’s way to being something amazing.
A PS4 review code was provided by Bethesda Australia for the purpose of this review.
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