GAME: Rage 2
DEVELOPER: id Software, Avalanche Studios
PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks
AVAILABLE ON: PC (Steam), PS4, XBOX One
Rage was not a particularly memorable id Software title but it certainly had a lot going for it. Being mostly a showcase for id’s new idTech engine, it showcased a lot of impressive graphical detail for its time and certainly was unique in its approach to things like texture streaming. It gathered mostly average reviews, aside from myself who personally loved the game aside from the lackluster ending. So personally I was actually pretty excited when they revealed that Rage 2 was being made, and even better by the team who made the Mad Max game. So how is Rage 2 compared to the first game, or even other id Software titles? Let’s find out when we take a close look at Rage 2.
As a whole the tone of the game is very 90’s, and not in the good way. It just feels like the game is trying too hard to be “extreme” in every way possible and gross you out as much as possible. The entire time I was playing this game I just felt like it was trying to be this gritty hardcore wasteland game, but it just ended up making the game feel remarkably difficult to get into.
One fascinating aspect is how Rage 2 simultaneously has a better story yet somehow worse story than Rage 1. The story itself has more of an actual arc to it. The focus is on avenging your adopted mother’s death at the hands of an Authority general known as Cross. Taking down the general proves difficult however, since he has the ability to clone himself. So you have to work with three head figures of the wasteland to take him down. Loosum Hagar from the first game in the town of Wellspring, John Marshall in the town of Gunbarrel, and finally Doctor Kvasir (also from the first game) in his laboratory. Sounds all fine and dandy right?
Well, Rage 2 has some serious issues with its story in all honesty. The most glaring issue is how none of these elements are properly introduced. Instead you’re just kinda thrown into it without given much opportunity to get to know any of the characters you’re supposed to care for. Your mother for instance gets killed in the very first mission you play. Rage 2 completely misses the point of a game, where the story is interactive, to allow the PLAYER to actually feel attached to characters before sacrificing them to the plot gods. It doesn’t help if this is a good driving factor for the main character if we as players have no real attachment. Heck, even if Rage 2 was a movie, having a character die so soon that is integral to the plot would just feel cheap. And that’s how it feels here.
The game also has a serious lack of any likeable characters. Most of them feel like caricatures or one-dimensional gimmicks, lacking any sort of actual personality or likeability. It leads to a situation where you have plenty of characters to talk to and accept quests from. But due to how the game makes no effort to get you to know these characters before helping them, you’re left feeling kind of distanced from everything going on. Not that the main character Walker lacks any eagerness to do all of this but we as players certainly do not share that enthusiasm.
Walker is the main character of the game. Unlike Rage 1 where you played a nameless Ark survivor (Rage Guy if you will), in Rage 2 the main character has a voice and a name. And a gender that is up to the player. Personally I decided to go with female Walker simply because that’s the gender I always pick when I have the option. But it doesn’t seem to matter which Walker you pick since, well, both are equally boring and bland. Walker doesn’t have any discernable personality traits beyond being your basic hero and thus ends up feeling kinda boring for most of the game. You’re not even allowed to make any choices that could affect the story itself. So really you’re just kinda going through the motions as the game strings you along from location to location.
Which brings us on to the topic of gameplay. Rage 1 was really a very linear game that had the illusion of being open world. But Rage 2 on the other hand is completely an open world game. In fact it’s extremely similar to Mad Max, the game Avalanche Studios were probably most known for prior to Rage 2. The main issue with Rage 2’s gameplay is its repetitive nature. Sure you have a massive world to explore but several locations you visit feel quite literally copied and pasted around with some feeling identical and some quests having you visit old locations again, giving a very intense sensation of deja vu throughout the entire thing.
Aside from the story missions, you have a number of different mission types in Rage 2. Bandit Dens are essentially outposts where the goal is to clear them out. Crusher Nests are dungeons with a boss at the end. Road Chokers are more basic road blocks where the goal is to raise the roadblock and clear out enemies. Authority Sentries are massive turrets that deal a shitload of damage to you, but are worth a fair bit of XP to take out. Mutie Nests are nests of… you guessed it, muties, where the goal is to take out all of their eggs. Pit Stops are places where the goal is to blow up all the gas tanks. Repowering Stations are places where you have to overload some energy Pylons until they overload from waves of enemies.
The main issue with all of these locations is that all of them feel the same. You mostly kill enemies, gather loot and rinse and repeat. And that brings me to my biggest gripe with Rage 2. The loot and how it ties in with your character upgrades. All of your character upgrades are locked behind resources of some kind. And instead of these upgrades being out in the world for you to find, each location only gives you seemingly random resources to spend on these upgrades in the menu. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it and it feels extremely boring to essentially grind resources from location to location, rather than perhaps more locations being built around getting certain upgrades or ability upgrades.
The only locations that offer anything worthwhile are the Arks which offer either a new Nanotrite ability, or weapon. I kind of wish more locations would feel like these ark locations and offer more unique loot rather than just spewing resources at you.
That being said, what the game does well and what makes the game somewhat fun is the combat. Given all the nanotrite abilites you can find and the various weapons you pick up, it becomes sort of a combat playground where you’re free to approach combat however you want. Your nanotrite abilities allow you to several cool things, including shattering enemies with a kinetic push, slamming down into them, or even creating a vortex that sends them flying into the air.
You also get a fair amount of weapons to play with, including wingsticks from the previous game. All of the weapons are pretty fun to use and all have different tactical uses depending on the type of enemy you’re facing. Another cool addition is the overdrive mode which boosts all your weapons and your strength. Unfortunately even on Hard mode this ability becomes insanely overpowered once you’ve leveled up your abilities, and allows you to pretty much be in Overdrive continuously as long as you have enemies to kill.
The combat is not perfect however. One major issue is that the enemies just kinda blend together in the end. All of them just kinda act the same way in terms of AI with no real threat or challenge once your character is upgraded enough. I played the game on Hard difficulty and after a while it just felt like I was breezing through the game on Very Easy unless the game got cheap and faced me with obstacles that killed me in 2 hits or less. Sure, some enemies charge at you with shields but you can just shatter them or throw grenades at them. And then there’s the issue with the BFG 9000.
The BFG 9000 is a deluxe edition exclusive weapon that is pretty much the game’s kill button. It can take down most bosses in one or two shots and is devastating to the Authority Sentries you meet. Sure, the ammunition for it costs 1000 bucks per plasma cell, but even that is pretty cheap when you consider how easy it is to earn money in the game. It creates a situation where you have this weapon that is ridiculously overpowered, and very easy to get ammo for. The weapon ruins all the challenge in the game and feels like a cheap way for people to just get a pay-to-win weapon.
The game also has a lot of driving in it, which feels exceptionally clunky and unresponsive. Which is a shame given you have to actually drive some races to progress the story in the game. Unlike the first game the only thing you get from driving are auto parts you can use to upgrade your vehicles. It’s nowhere near as involved as the first game, making racing almost feel like an afterthought in Rage 2. Though given how clunky the driving controls are, it may be a blessing in disguise.
One of the main issues with the car controls is how the turret will lock onto things. Why is this a bad thing? Cause it also locks onto things that aren’t a threat to you! I’m serious, the turret locks onto to empty cars and even loot! WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU HAVE THE TURRET LOCK ONTO THINGS THAT POSE NO THREAT TO YOU?!!! Especially during car combat where you NEED to shoot things that have a higher priority this is infuriating beyond belief! I cannot stress how bad of a game design decision this is!
You also have the Mutant Bash TV arenas making a combat with the incredibly unlikeable Desdemonya as the new host. Her entire personality is that she’s old and gets off on murder. The arenas lack any sort of original gimmicks and feel like complete rehashes of the ones from the first game, making it feel entirely pointless and like the racing it feels like a complete afterthought.
And let’s get talking about the controls as a whole. For the most part, the game controls fine on PC and on console I can probably see no issue with it other than the fact you’re playing a FPS with a gamepad which to me just feels weird. But the PC version has some notable missing features, such as being able to bind the mousewheel. By default the mousewheel is bound to up being your next weapon and down being your previous weapon. This is actually the opposite way to how I prefer things. Which drove me absolutely insane at times where I meant to switch to the next weapon, but accidentally picked the previous one.
Oh and despite the game having a ton of pitch black areas, there’s no button for a flashlight. Go figure. I mean when Doom 3 had more features than you, you know you have issues.
And whoever thought it was a good idea to have messages that pop up and cover the screen for every time you complete objectives needs his ass kicked. Especially whoever thought requiring the player to press ENTER to get rid of them was a good idea. Because you may be aware that on a keyboard, Enter is on the right side. Which is very awkward when you have your hand on the left side and your right hand on the mouse, having to move either hand away from those positions to press Enter whenever any message is on the screen.
In all honesty, having popups that pause the gameplay in any game like this is a crime. It baffles me that they still have some instances where all you get is a simple message that shows up on the screen without pausing the gameplay. Why couldn’t the rest of them act this way?
SOUND AND GRAPHICS
For the most part the game sounds pretty good. You have some really good weapon sounds and crunchy headshot sounds. All good stuff. The voice acting unfortunately is often so boring to listen to that I praised the gods the game had an option to skip dialogue. I mean, it’s not easy to make the dialogue interesting when it’s written like it is to begin with, but the voice acting did not help. I also ran into a pretty annoying bug where voice clips would randomly not play or were playing at such a low volume they were inaudible. This wasn’t even just voice clips from NPC’s, it was all kinds of things. Sounds just not playing for various reasons. And the music is okay. It suits the mood. Nothing memorable, nothing bad. It’s there.
Graphically the game looks as you’d expect. For the most part. They decided to put a very saturated color filter on it that enhanced pink and blue colours, giving the game a very intense neon look that makes it hard to look at at times. Especially during the overdrive mode where everything just looks like you took an overdose of LSD. It has a fair variety of areas to explore but never really looks all that interesting. I did like some of the Authority base interiors though, simply because they really reminded me of Doom 2016.
Oh and the game is extremely prone to crashing for some reason. Not sure how well it plays on consoles, but on my PC system it wasn’t unusual for the game to crash like 3 times in half an hour. Especially near the end of the game or when certain events happened. It was especially common when driving around. That coupled with the game having abysmal performance drops very frequently made it a chore to get through it. I was running the game on low to medium graphics settings and would still get frame dips into the 30’s and even 20’s occasionally. And I have a fairly decent system with a Ryzen 7 1800X CPU.
All in all, Rage 2 is an extremely underwhelming game. It does some things right but ultimately does a lot of things that just feel like it’s checking things off a checklist. The difficulty for the most part is way too easy once you’ve got some upgrades going. Or too difficult in places where you’re either in a vehicle or faced against a really cheap enemy. But even those fall victim to the BFG 9000 which ruins any challenge the game could pose you. It’s a bug-ridden mess at times too, prone to both crashing and just not working as you’d expect. At times it gets so close to being good. But whether it is the weapons just not feeling strong enough, or the locations not feeling interesting enough, or the story just being both predictable and completely incapable of engrossing the player, there’s always something that ruins the experience.
It also feels like it has no original cell in its code. Everything feels derivative, with the open world feeling literally copied from Mad Max, the suit you have and its abilities feel copied from Doom 2016, and a lot of the elements that were in Rage 1 are also here but feel completely soulless and copied over just to be there. It is a sequel that completely lacks the charm and likeable characters that made Rage 1 fun to play.
That being said if any of this looks like something you’d have fun with, you’ll probably enjoy the game. Because at times, it is enjoyable. But it’s not great. The game is currently available on Steam and from Bethesda. And if the game’s current story is not enough for you, there is more DLC coming in the near future.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10