Editor’s Note: This review was written thanks to a review copy provided by the publisher.
The original Rage didn’t blow anyone’s socks off but it still had great ideas. An open world, vehicular combat game was something uncommon in a time where there was an overabundance of military shooters and racing games. When Rage 2 was revealed at E3 and showed off more of this in a colorful, chaotic mix, the excitement for what ID Software and Avalanche Studios could create was high.
The Last Ranger
The story of Rage 2 is the least interesting thing about the game. Your character, Walker, is the last Ranger. As the last Ranger you are given Nanotrite abilities and Overdrive, explained later, to help you on your quest to take down the Authority. The story revolves around you working with other resistance camp leaders to complete “Project Dagger”. “Project Dagger” is essentially the only way to stop General Cross, the ultimate villain of the story who can sort of transfer his consciousness and memories into other copies of himself.
All of that sounds interesting but is just tired and rote. As an excuse to run around fighting bandits and blowing things up, it’s fine, you even meet interesting characters that give you Borderlands 2 feels, with their quirkiness, and over the top insanity. But don’t be surprised if you start forgetting about the actual hows and whys about the plot.
Aside form the story there is a huge amount of side activities you can complete. Racing, competing on Mutant Bash TV (basically horde mode style challenges), completing bounties, finding lost Rangers, taking down giant mutants. When looking at the map it really does feel like there is a huge amount of content. Not to mention the content updates coming in the near future, for free!
So Good It Should Be Illegal
This is where Rage 2 really shines. Shooting is incredibly satisfying. Your character initially starts with a pistol, par for the course, and then an assault rifle. As we’ve seen with Doom (2016), it’s all about the shotgun. The shotgun just elevates the gameplay even more because it feels incredible to shoot the enemies and feel the impact send them flying backwards. You eventually acquire a rocket launcher which also makes destroying base camps extremely fun. Rage 2 is at its best when you are running around and shooting enemies in as quickly as you possibly can. Also, the Wingstick from the original Rage is back, but once there are more difficult enemies with armor it becomes a lot less useful.
Plus, it helps that the whole thing looks and runs great. It looks like Doom(2016), but has a more colorful aesthetic, which is to balance out the color of the desert setting, which is majority of the world. The game eventually takes you to a swamp area and a jungle setting. I played Rage 2 on a launch PlayStation 4 and did not experience any slowdown or issues graphically. The only performance issue I had was navigating the menu. It was extremely laggy and sluggish anytime I went to navigate the menu.
But what really spices up things this time around is Overdrive. Overdrive is a meter you build up by killing enemies. When Overdrive is activated you all of a sudden go into a red screened rage. This allows you to regenerate health while dealing a huge amount of damage. It also causes your weapons to shoot more explosively. For example, your shotgun’s shots explode on impact and allow you destroy more enemies at once rather than having to shoot them several times.
To add more to the chaos, throughout the game your obtain Nanotrite abilities. You initially start with Shatter, which allows you to lunge towards targets and unleash a huge kinetic push which can break armor, and most of the time, send enemies flying. Some of the other Nanotrites are Grav-Jump which gives you a double jump ability, Defibrillation, allows you to resurrect when downed by enemies giving you a boost of health if you hit the right button combinations.
When you start upgrading these Nanotrites, by finding Ark Chests and Ark pods, the abilities just get stronger. This makes the gameplay even more wild when you start using Overdrive and Nanotrites together giving you multipliers which builds up your Overdrive meter. A cool feature that I actually did not use to often was the alt-fires for the guns. Some of the guns, like the shotgun for example, have an alternate fire which shoots a burst of air that knocks back your enemies. For the rocket launcher, it allows you to lock on a couple enemies so your rockets then split off into multiple rockets and head right towards them exploding them into chunks.
Hit the Brakes
This is where Rage 2 really flops. The E3 gameplay reveal crazy madcap car chases and vehicle combat, and overall direction of the marketing made it seem like this was going to be a huge part of the game. Although it seems like the huge open world and layout of roads and ramps just begs for you to get into some altercations of the vehicle type, it just doesn’t happen. Most of the enemy vehicles you come across are giant convoys which are marked on your map. The convoys themselves are actually fun to take down, but there just isn’t enough of this.
You start off with the Phoenix, which is your main vehicle throughout the game with its own voice, kind of like KITT from Knight Rider, and is upgrade-able. You can add missiles, a charge that takes out shields, and and auto cannon. There is just so much barren wasteland that is completely wasted by the frequent pass by of ally vehicles and the annoying Trader that offers vehicle upgrade materials, and ammo. Most of the time I would park in front of the enemy base camps and use the Phoenix to take out the initial enemies and then exit to annihilate them with all my other abilities and weapons.
It just makes no sense that the developers would create such a huge open world with nothing to do besides the enemy base camps. The driving is not really responsive especially when needing to make sharp turns but that is not even an issue when you are not really experiencing combat that often. You can use it to travel from point A to point B, but you can also fast travel and summon the Phoenix. This is the “thing” that Rage 2 is missing: satisfying vehicle combat. Mad Max had a much more in-depth vehicle combat system in it and really made it fun. Rage 2’s vehicle combat was missing the in depth system that would actually make you invest in the vehicles.
Overall, Rage 2 succeeds at being an energetic and exciting action shooter. The story is not a highlight but really doesn’t matter as long as it gives you reasons to head into base camps and destroy the Authority. The vehicle combat is great, even if you don’t have many chances with it, and the empty open world doesn’t exactly help. But despite this, it is still worth your time.