Rage 2 comes to us from a partnership in development between Avalanche Studios (best known for Just Cause and the Mad Max game), and id Software. It’s also the surprising sequel to 2011’s Rage, a particularly mediocre game that no one thought would ever get a sequel. And yet, here we are. So, is the loud, post-apocalyptic, colourful shooter any good?
Another day in the post-apocalypse
Rage 2 takes place 30 years after the first Rage, which in turn takes place after the Earth was hit by a meteor, decimating life and leaving mutants, rubble and not much else in its wake. The player takes control of Walker, who can be either male or female based on the players choice. After an action packed opening with a lot of people dying and a lot of action to be had, it turns out that there are a few problems. The most immediate of which is that a dangerous group called the Authority has returned and is threatening the settlers way of life. Which isn’t great to begin with, but it’s theirs, and still better than what the Authority has to offer.
Walker, due to circumstances (remember how I mentioned all the dying), quickly promotes themselves to the role of ranger by ‘liberating’ a special suit off a corpse that’s still kind of filled with pieces of the old owner and sets out on a journey to gain help from influential players out in the wasteland for a way to stop the Authority and bring… Not exactly peace, but like, a sense of calm maybe? A little less death and violence than there would be otherwise?
That’s the basic premise, and the player can learn more about the world through quests, characters and data pads. The issue being, though, is that there’s a lot of uninteresting content to trudge through to get there. I’m not normally one to skip story, but I regularly found myself walking away from NPC’s offering me sidequests once I had the quest in question, finding their dialogue lacking character and that I just couldn’t get myself invested in their problems. Which is frustrating, considering a lot of the main characters offering quests are a lot more charismatic.
The main quest can be tackled in any order the player wants, and you’re more than welcome to ignore it in favour of plowing through bandit camps or exploring. Unfortunately, however, you will also find yourself regularly badgered to return to said main quest every now and then. You know, in case you forgot. The dialogue of finding goon camps and the like is also repetitive, you’ll be hearing the same dialogue a lot.
Get ready to die
The gameplay, however, is where Rage 2 shines. I found myself sort of equating it to somewhere between Avalanche’s Mad Max in that its very vehicle heavy, but it also reminded me a lot of the Far Cry series in that the missions are similar, given that it’s a handful of varying types (clear camps, blow something up, etc.) and again, you’ll be encountering them a lot.
Unlike the dialogue though, this isn’t a bad thing. The gunplay is absolutely amazing, different guns feel completely unique in their use and the abilities Walker has adds another layer to every fight, allowing you to tackle each enemy in a way that feels smooth, intuitive, and incredibly destructive. It’s a delight to go through and watch the goons or mutants pile up.
There’s also the ability to cater to your own play style, as you can upgrade your nanotrite abilities to cater to your play style, if you find yourself favoring a certain ability. You can also upgrade guns, vehicles, and gain abilities from completing missions and improving your standing with the three main characters, each offering their own different abilities.
It never feels like too much though, and I found myself welcoming the options because it meant I had more ways to kill things. Which is fun!
The driving, however, takes a little while to get used to. There’s a huge range of vehicles to choose from and you will absolutely need them to traverse the wastes. There’s a lot of land and Walker doesn’t move nearly fast enough by themselves to transverse it. Most vehicles also have big ol’ guns attached so you can shoot while you drive! Which you’ll also be doing a lot of, because a lot of firefights break out along the road on regular intervals.
The biggest failing Rage 2 has is that it’s fallen prey to ‘open world for the sake of open world’. You’ll be seeing the same few biomes and there’s not a lot going on in any of them, unfortunately. Just a lot of rubble, very samey rubble that doesn’t offer a lot in terms of exploring. It’s a far cry from Bethesda’s Fallout series which took the chance to place all kinds of items around in order to take advantage of an environmental story-telling mindset, but Rage 2 doesn’t seem like the kind of game that wants to pride itself on its story.
All the same it felt like a hassle to drive from shooting segment to shooting segment. Which is unfortunate because once you arrived at a settlement or an enemy infested camp or anything of the sort, it was an absolute joy to behold. A lot of effort is put into portraying post-apocalypse life, you can see the way the settlers have built things up, how it all works, and the goon camps in particular are colourful and interesting to explore and look at, even if they do feel a little bit samey after a while.
The goons are also a joy to listen to, though it can be hard to listen to their antics when they can sight you from so far away.
The games colour, humor and gunplay make me want to like this game so much. But the open world and trudging from NPC to NPC to get sidequests feels like a chore. Anything that’s not blowing guys up feels like a bit of a chore, and it’s frustrating because it’s so clear a lot of love went into creating this, to the point where I’m solidly left on a rusty metal graffiti’d fence as to how I feel about the game.
It’s definitely one that will appeal to FPS fans and id fans, but the slower nature might be offputting. Others, however, might find themselves drawn into the FPS scene entirely thanks to the dialogue and humor.
It’s an odd game, and it revels in that fact.