Rage 2 Review
Great shooter action, not much else.
When Bethesda announced that they would be pairing up Avalanche Studios with id Software for Rage 2, there was something promising about the idea. With Avalanche having extensive experience in the open world genre and id known for its exquisite shooters, it seemed that an open world sequel to 2011’s Rage could be a winner. With the game finally in our hands and having seen the credits roll on the title, what it turns out to be is a mixed bag. Rage 2 is ultimately a game that is let down by its progression systems and dull open world, which are a stark contrast to its incredible gunplay and style.
In Rage 2 you play as the last Ranger, named Walker. The Rangers are a team of mercenaries in the post-post apocalypse that Rage 2 is set in that protects the land against an army of mutants known as the Authority and their leader, General Cross. Your ultimate goal here is to find, confront, and kill General Cross by teaming up with three central freedom fighter type characters. You are essentially attempting to level up three factions to the point where you can assault the Authority base. If you’re looking for some deep narrative about what’s occurred between the ending of Rage and the beginning of Rage 2, you’re not going to find it here. In fact, Rage 2 is light on story altogether. There’s just not much here to sink your teeth into on this front.
Rage 2 is an open world game. Meaning you’re going to have a map full of activities to attend to. These range from driving and racing events to clearing out bandit camps and attacking armored convoys. The game is probably 70% shooter and 30% vehicular combat and exploration. Rage 2 is strongest in its shooting, however. This aspect of the game is the most engaging and you can constantly feel the ties to id Software here. If you liked 2016’s release of DOOM and want some light open-world trappings, RAGE 2 can be a lot of fun with plenty of weapons and power-ups that add to the shooting mayhem. The shooting in Rage 2 really is incredibly enjoyable. As much as I dislike some aspects of this game, there’s a great sense of feedback when fighting multiple enemies through visual and audio queues that make ripping through a bandit camp an absolute blast. The combination of different weapons and abilities allow you to tackle any fight differently. The core gameplay loop here is similar to other id shooters — kill your enemies in fast, frantic action while scouring for ammunition and health to keep the party going. Power-ups and abilities do give things some variety though and there are plenty of different situations that you can seek out to find this shooting action that you crave.
The open world of Rage 2 is essentially a shooter playground full of activities and outposts to tackle as well as Arks to find which contain the all-important power-ups, abilities, and new weapons. Each of these activities are tied to one of the three characters you are trying to level up to reach the end game. The game is pretty straight forward in telling you what you need to do from the very beginning. You need to meet three central characters who can help you start “Project Dagger” which will allow you to confront The Authority leader. There’s John Marshall, whose activities are focused around combat. There’s Loosum Hagar, whose activities are focused around Engineering. Finally there is Dr. Kvasir whose projects are focused around Nanotrites. Your map will be dotted with Purple, Orange, and Green activities which each correspond with one of the characters. The activities in themselves are almost all based around the shooting, so they are enjoyable if just for how good this aspect of the game is. With many different enemy types coming at you at once, and some incredible visual effects tied in to the shooting gallery gameplay, each fight feels tense and can offer some challenge to players of all skill levels.
While this silo progression structure isn’t something new, it might be Rage 2’s weakest aspect. It makes the game feel incredibly linear, showing you the finish line so close to the start of the game. That finish line is actually woefully close as well in terms of how long it takes to get there. You can bang through Rage 2 in a couple of sittings if you really want to, as you basically need to complete 3-4 missions for each character before the ending of the game opens up to you. What’s worse, is that the game never really pushes you to do anything off the main path. While you know that there are plenty of things to do and find in the world, nothing ever tugs you away from the main path. Our first playthrough of the game was over in about 8 hours, we collected zero of the weapons out in the world, found about half of the combat abilities, and never messed with things like weapon modifications, vehicle upgrades, nanotrite ability modifiers. There was no roadblock to playing like this, and it all happened so quickly that I was actually surprised that the game was technically over.
While this clearly wasn’t the way that the game was designed to be played, there wasn’t anything that ever forced us to do anything different. There were no roadblocks or difficulty spikes that made us feel the need to find better weapons, abilities, or vehicles. That said, different players are going to get different things out of Rage 2. Some are going to explore the world a little bit more. We did after we saw the credits roll, and some of the abilities and weapons that you find can really give you some cool new ways to tackle encounters or missions. There are skins to unlock and purchase, cheat codes that can alter the game in amusing ways, and arena style Mutant Bash TV events to partake in. Rage 2 is definitely going to be the most fun for players who dig into it, making their own adventures looking for loot and tracking down power-ups, weapons, abilities and the activities that reward them.
Unfortunately, if you don’t do this along the way, the fun in Rage 2 can be over pretty quickly. Which kind of feels like wasted potential. There’s a great shooter in Rage 2, with some unique weapons and abilities to find. There are a ton of systems and upgrades to manage as well, but none of it is ever forced on the player to engage with. So, unless you take it upon yourself to seek out the good parts of this game you might never see it.
On the presentation front, Rage 2 is a beautiful game. Past the neon purples and pinks is a vast and varied world. From swamps and forests to desert highways, Rage 2 is a pretty game. It can also be quite gnarly as well with incredible attention to detail in violent dismemberment of your enemies. Rage 2 doesn’t set a new high bar for shooters in terms of visuals, but it’s certainly up there with the very best. Visual fidelity aside, the world of Rage 2 never reaches its full potential though. It doesn’t have that “lived in” quality that many games of this type strive for. NPC interactions are incredibly limited and the general flavor of the world is downright bland. There just isn’t enough going on either out in the open world or in the town hub areas to make it ever come alive.
While there are some interesting characters introduced to you throughout the short campaign that give you some sense of the incredibly dire nature of the world they reside in, there’s just not enough of it to immerse you or make you care about the mission you are on. There aren’t any real random encounters in Rage 2, like other open world games. Driving, flying, or walking around the world you’ll find that there just isn’t much out there to add much color to the world. You’ll meet NPCs at the region hubs, and they’ll have side missions to tackle, but these really don’t offer the type of world-building that is found in other games. You’ll find armored conveys to attack, random battles on the side of the road, and some hidden out of the way locations, but it never really adds up to something meaningful.
Rage 2 ultimately feels pretty shallow, if just because it’s an open world game. The depth and immersion of open world games has increased significantly in the past few years and there’s an incredibly high bar being set by other developers in terms of building out a world and then allowing players to make it their playground. Many of my complaints with Rage 2 do ultimately stem from the design decisions in the main path and the inability to push you towards interacting with the many systems that have been put into the game. Rage 2 is an incredible shooter, with an interesting combat system that begs you to try new things. Even after the credits rolled I found myself seeking out new challenges just to get more of this aspect of the game. A simple tweak to the number of missions that needed to be done before heading into the main story path ending or some kind of gating that forced you to seek out the cool things in Rage 2 could have made this immensely more enjoyable.
At the end of the day, Rage 2 is supposed to be a ridiculous game that pushes the absurdity to incredible levels with over-the-top violence. It certainly succeeds in this regard, but it also would’ve been nice to see what Avalanche and id could do if they built out this insane world with more story or reasons to explore it.
As a shooter Rage 2 is incredible. It’s everything around that core competency that brings the game down. A lack of narrative, world building, and questionable design decisions in terms of progression leave the experience feeling flat.
- Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Published By: Bethesda
- Developed By: Avalance Studios, id Software
- Genre: Shooter
- US Release Date: May 14th, 2019
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "As a shooter Rage 2 is incredible. It's everything around that core competency that brings the game down. A lack of narrative, world building, and questionable design decisions in terms of progression leave the experience feeling flat."