Originally released in 2011 Rage saw some success in delivering a post-apocalyptic wasteland open world shooter but not enough that many would have thought the series could continue. As such when Rage 2 was announced it came as something of a surprise even to those that enjoyed the original release. So now that Avalanche Studio, in conjunction with id Software, have had a chance to put their own spin on the series with a slightly different tone with a splash of color now dotting what was previously a brown landscape, is this new entry worth your time?
It is worth noting that while Rage 2 does take place in the same setting and picks up the story thirty years after the events of the original game, players will not be lost if they happen to jump in now. Instead they will miss out on only a few bits and pieces of extra storyline, some callbacks, and a few reappearing characters but newcomers will still be able to enjoy the game as is.
That being said, Rage 2 puts players into the shoes of Walker, a soldier who had previously been living a fairly safe life within the closed off walls of Vineland. That is until the powerful Authority led by General Cross re-emerged from hiding and absolutely devastated the settlement, slaying Walker’s mentor, most of their friends, and kidnapping anyone who was a “first-generation” Ark survivor. After grabbing the suit of a fallen Ranger, Walker finds herself (or himself if chosen) the last member of the order capable of using special abilities to defeat their foes. With Cross commanding a seemingly unstoppable army and sporting an invincible modified body, it is up to Walker to set out into the Wasteland to bring together three former allies and create “Project Dagger” in an effort to put down the Authority once and for all.
By starting out things with bang Rage 2 quickly gets players invested into the struggle of Walker’s people against the Authority and the various bandits and mutants that pepper the land and while the main storyline is a rather compelling one that has a number of interesting characters, it is also one that struggles to keep that momentum going. This is primarily due to the way that storyline progression is handled as players need to accrue “reputation” with each of the three allies by completing various tasks in the open world before being able to advance the story. This means that, unless you happen to spend plenty of time messing around prior to beginning some of these events, players will find themselves needing to complete side-quests in an effort to see the story through to it’s all too sudden conclusion.
It also doesn’t help that the main campaign is a bit on the short side, even when it comes to a standard first person shooter let alone one set in an open world. Players will easily be able to complete the core story within ten hours though there is plenty of side content and unique areas to explore that are unfortunately barely touched upon by the main storyline. Some of the best dialogue in the game ends up coming from simply hearing NPCs talk, with extra tidbits of info also hidden away in data pads scattered across the world, so those looking to get the most out of the game will still find plenty of areas that are untouched or simply left as side-quests as the core story never truly takes advantage of most of the open world.
Rage 2 is all about making sure that the player has as many toys as possible to play with and while they may start out with a fairly standard loadout it doesn’t take long before Walker becomes a wrecking machine. Players initially are only given a pistol and assault rifle as well as the ability to enter an overdrive state. While playing through the game players will find various Arks that house powerful weapons as well as Nanotrite powers.
While the overall number of weapons may be a bit on the smaller side of things it is interesting to note that every weapon in the game has two different forms of firing. Even the starting pistol can be rapid fired from the hip or aimed for powerful single shot accuracy while the shotgun can deal devastating damage or simply send enemies flying. Players even gain access to more exciting weaponry such as smart-locking rockets, a grav-dart launcher to toss enemies around, and more. Combine these firearms with a variety of throwable items including the signature Wingstick and the fact that every weapon can be upgraded in a variety of ways and players will easily be able to take and customize their experience to best fit their style of play here.
The Nanotrite abilities are what make Rangers powerful. Initially players only gain access to a Dash that can be used to dodge incoming fire and Overdrive, an ability that fills up after killing enough enemies and, when triggered, turns Walker into a nigh-unstoppable killing machine for a short period of time. After finding various Arks it is possible to gain access to a number of other unique abilities that can be used for combat as well as open world traversal. This includes the likes of Slam, a ground pound attack that is incredibly devastating, the ability to throw a Vortex that sucks enemies towards it before exploding or launches the player harmlessly up in the air, Shatter that blasts enemies away and strips them of their armor, and more.
Combining these abilities with your weapons makes for some great combat sequences not only due to the great tools at the player’s disposal but also because of how tight the gunplay is in Rage 2. Quickly using a combination of abilities to send yourself flying into a group of enemies only to slam them apart and trigger Overdrive and wipe out the remaining enemies is a real powertrip that only grows more satisfying as you upgrade the various abilities as well. It is worth noting that the upgrade system is a bit annoying to keep an eye on as nearly every system has their own type of required item in order to upgrade them. This ranges from Feltrite dropped from enemies to various upgrade chips found in Arks or bosses and can involve a little too much micromanaging, especially when you factor in upgrading various projects at the base to improve Walker’s abilities and the vehicle stats as well.
Initially players are given a powerful vehicle called the Phoenix that is capable of being repaired on the go and equipped with a set of machine guns. As players advance through the game they can unlock additional weapons for the Phoenix as well as a variety of different vehicle types, including a gyrocopter if they wish. The vehicular combat is solid enough but there is surprisingly very little to actually use the vehicle for besides traveling through the open world.
Along those same lines players will quickly find that Rage 2 may offer plenty of fun tools to eliminate their foes but actually kind of lacks a lot of big setpieces or major encounters to really let loose in. Outside of the aforementioned story missions the majority of your time in the game will be spent traveling to various locations in the open world and either destroying all of the enemies in that location, locating objects or unlocking an Arc, destroying pieces of Authority tech, or other activities that end up feeling one note in the end. The concept of filling up your reputation meter with the three leaders by completing these side-objectives works as a nice starting pace but the fact that so much of the map ends up feeling wasted by only offering repetitive side missions is a disappointment, especially since driving between locations often ends up feeling like more of a chore than anything else. This ends up leaving this open world game a bit barren feeling even for a post-apocalyptic setting.
It is also worth noting that while a patch has been released so far, players will need to keep an eye out for various bugs that still continue to appear in the game. One of which happens to halt the progress of the main storyline and, at least presently, can only be solved by loading up a previous save file so players will need to be careful and rotate their saves properly to avoid such a situation.
Visuals & Audio
One of the more immediate points that Avalanche and Bethesda made for Rage 2 is the fact that the game now has some vibrant color in it and that is true for the most part. Players will find that while there is still plenty of wasteland to be found the open world is now filled with a variety of different looking areas that, while not utilized well for the main story, are still fully able to be explored at the player’s own pace. Enemies variety is kept at a fairly solid level to keep things feeling fresh and tearing apart their bodies with Walker’s weaponry and Nanotrite abilities never gets old.
The soundtrack for the game is fairly standard with most of the characters featuring some solid voice acting, especially in regards to some objects talking that players likely wouldn’t expect. The sound effects of the weaponry and howls of your enemies are also nicely portrayed making the gunplay really feel like it carries some weight to it.
Rage 2 manages to deliver a highly satisfying arsenal of toys to devastate Walker’s enemies but doesn’t really offer a solid enough open world to really take advantage of these mechanics. The firearms players have at their disposal and their superhuman powers make every firefight feel like a blast but unfortunately in-between most of these battles players will be stuck running between fairly repetitive objectives in an effort to move along the sub-par storyline that ends far too quickly.