After eight years away from open-world games, can Rage 2 stand on its own with others such as the recently released and similarly set Far Cry New Dawn, and the upcoming Borderlands 3?
In 2011, id Software created a new IP named Rage, set in a post-apocalyptic themed world where mutants, bandit gangs and robotic superhumans roamed the wasteland. Since 2011, id have made some outstanding games such as Wolfenstein: The New Order, 2016’s Doom, and Wolfenstein 2. Now they’ve teamed with Avalanche Studios (behind the Just Cause series, and 2015’s Mad Max) to revisit that world they created back in 2011.
The universe of Rage 2 is similar to that of Mad Max (and a nightmare for Anakin Skywalker) – rocks, sand and explosions as far as the eye can see. Events take place 30 years after those of Rage, and the wasteland is starting to grow and evolve.
You play as Walker, the Last Ranger, whose main goal is to rally his/her allies and launch an attack against the returning villains from the first Rage, The Authority. If you haven’t played the original, The Authority believe it is their job to restore the wasteland by killing anyone who does not mutate themselves with cybernetics (think the Borg from Star Trek).
Sadly, the main campaign is only five-to-seven hours (depending upon the difficulty and boss fights), and many of the quests in Rage 2 are rinse and repeats. Go to this location, clear out the enemies and come back – or dreaded fetch quests. Thankfully, however, the combat makes these quests entertaining.
Meanwhile, the combat in Rage 2 is, for lack of a better word, gruesome. Players will feel the weight behind each shot from their weapon, so anytime you drive past a bandit outpost, you’ll be wanting to satisfy that itchy trigger finger just to hear the splosh of headshots. The pairing of id Software and Avalanche Studios have taken the gunplay from 2016’s Doom and merged it with cult classic Bulletstorm. Your character Walker is equipped in a state-of-the-art suit (basically the power armour from Doom) AND also has nanites/nanobots! This allows players to double jump, dash, smash, bash, and turn enemies into all kinds of ash.
“The combat in Rage 2 is, for lack of a better word, gruesome.”
The variety of weapons in Rage 2 is a little on the light side, but each has been master-crafted to ensure that it’s not only unique, but useful. Players get the standard pistol and assault rifle, but the shotgun can be altered to fire a single slug when aimed down sights. There’s even one weapon which pays homage to the tether system from Just Cause.
Of course, the most iconic weapon from Rage is back, the wingstick! For those who don’t know what that is, it’s not only the greatest weapon in the game, it’s given to you right at the start! The wingstick is a throwable bladed disc that, unless It strikes a solid object, will return to Walker. If you get the deluxe edition of the game, players are also treated to one of, if not THE greatest weapon in video game history, the BFG from Doom (which arrives in a meteor that looks like it’s come straight from Mars). While the weapon mechanics and gunplay are outstanding, the variety of weapons in Rage 2 at launch can seem a bit underwhelming with titles like Borderlands 3 teasing billions of guns, and the vast array of customisation options in Far Cry.
While the gunplay is amazing, the melee and depth perception isn’t. Throughout your time in Rage 2, players will find wooden boxes with ammo, health and crafting items. You’ll stand over a box and hit the melee button, and you’ll hit nothing. The aiming reticule will even highlight red and tell you what you’re looking at and still if you melee it, you’ll hit nothing. You’ll need to take a step forward (so you’re basically standing on top of it) and try again, crouch and melee, or if you get frustrated (like we did) you’ll end up shooting the box. Strangely, the movement reaction seems to have a bit of input lag, which takes a little bit of getting used to. (changing the sensitivity settings does help this, but its still a small learning curve).
Unlike similar titles like Far Cry New Dawn, there’s no character customisation, or silent weapons. If you enjoyed personalising your main character, or clearing enemy outposts with a bow and arrow without raising the alarm, you may be disappointed to find out that loud is the only way in Rage 2 (or you might love it).
Visually, the environments and world of Rage 2 are beautiful. The introduction of the game gives players a glimpse of the character design and enemies that they have waiting in store for them. After completing the tutorial and learning some of the controls, players are sent out into the open world, given a main quest to follow, a car and a gun. What you choose to do first is all up to you.
The different environments in the wasteland and the random and frequent battles between mutants and bandits help Rage 2’s world feel alive. Hearing explosions, gunfire and dirt bikes racing around a gas station while you search a nearby cave not only develops the wasteland as a world, but also makes every moment entertaining. Strangely, something that is missing are animals and creatures. The world is alive with the remains of mankind, but the world feels empty without birds, deadly creatures of even strange yet friendly critters.
Rage 2 isn’t made to be like the simulation games like Fallout or Skyrim, it’s an insane Mad Max action game. Getting off the beaten track and away from the story allows players to experience the wasteland whichever way they wish. After finishing the short campaign, players can accept bounties, side missions, enter a wacky reality TV show where you face waves of mutants for prizes, and more!
Throughout your time, Walker can stumble across Arks (think vaults in the Fallout series), which either provider the player with a new weapon, or a new ability for their power suit. Players have the ability at the start of the game to “Focus”, although it isn’t properly explained where this ability or power comes from, this allows players to scan out for enemies nearby, activate special abilities and open Arks and Ark Chests. After dealing enough damage to enemies, Walker can enter an Overdrive mode, allowing players to deal additional damage, move faster and heal – plus some weapons even have some alternative modes. When focusing and in Overdrive the screen animation alters and flashes rapidly, which may make some players feel sick (raises hand).
“Rage 2 isn’t made to be like the simulation games like Fallout or Skyrim, it’s an insane Mad Max action game.”
The driving and car combat in Rage 2 is entertaining, if not a bit cumbersome (similar to that of driving the Batmobile in Batman Arkham Knight). The AI voice of your main vehicle is also fun, and a bit of a smartarse (when arriving at a gang outpost, hearing a sarcastic “Good luck” always gets a giggle). While driving for exploration is enjoyable, the mechanics aren’t made for racing.
After you leave the tutorial city and make your way out into the wasteland, players will experience one of many roadblocks, strongholds, and even be ambushed by bandits on dirt bikes. Players have the option of entering in racing side missions and against NPCs (the keyword being optional). However, one mission requires Walker to enter and win a race, and with the driving engine being made more on exploration and a bit of combat rather than racing, this mission can get frustrating.
For a game based around an apocalypse and having Mad Max as an inspiration, surprisingly the developers didn’t incorporate a fuel gauge. It’s not necessarily something that is needed, but it could have added a bit more of a challenge, as well as spacing out the exploration and campaign.
The menu configuration is straightforward, and easy to understand for new comers to FPS games. Players can upgrade their weapons and abilities, by increasing their double jump, adding armour piercing rounds to their pistol, or adjusting how much ammo they can carry, though it’s not as in-depth as Far Cry or Borderlands.
The map in Rage 2 is massive, though some small bugs tend to get in the way. Waypoints placed on your map do not disappear once you arrive at your destination, so next time you open your map, the waypoint is still set. Also navigating through the menus has a bit of lag. Rage 2 also wouldn’t be a 2019 game without… microtransactions! Thankfully, they’re only for weapon skins and that’s it. So, if you want a golden assault rifle you can have it, but you’ll need to get premium currency.
Rage 2 is entertaining, explosive and, most importantly, fun! If you loved 2016’s Doom, Bulletstorm, and open world games such as Mad Max or Just Cause then you’ll love this. Though the issues with the game are small, they do start to stack up when all put together.
If you’re looking for something more in-depth, with a bit more of a simulated world and personalisation, Rage 2 won’t scratch that itch, but without a doubt it will entertain you. With outstanding gunplay, an insane punk neon world and Doom/Bulletstorm inspired combat, Rage 2 will have you visiting this wasteland a lot more frequently than that one in West Virginia…
Rage 2 is available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.