REVIEW –The first Rage was a grey and brownish shooter, with slow methodical combat plus gritty aesthetics that was forgettable to many. It was too short, the story also ends abruptly, and it caused many gamers to rage about the ending. Rage 2, on the other hand, tries to become remarkable, and show the world how awesome, and colourful the world is after an asteroid hits your planet.
The sudden shift in tone and style is not the only thing that is changing. Rather than being developed by id Software, the sequel is being spearheaded by Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios. Let’s see how they do behind this weird id Software franchise, whether it is going to be a fun race or a car crash.
One missed war
Rage 2 takes place thirty years after the ending of the first game, we play as a new character called Walker (player can choose Walker to be either male or female) living in Vineland which is filled with first generation Ark survivors. The Authority has not been seen for the past thirty years after the great war between The Resistance and The Authority. Things are looking good, as the Rangers try to keep the peace, but suddenly The Authority returns nearly kills everyone and kidnaps multiple first generational ark citizens for their experiments. After this brief intro mission, we are pretty much left to our own devices by the game. There are three people who we need to complete missions for in order to finally truly defeat The Authority.
So the problem with Rage 2 is that the story is pretty non-existent, and I do not mean the lore of Rage 2, as there are a lot of collectables, items to collect and logs to read. Those are fun to read and give a lot of insight into the world, and how it has been going for the past thirty years. However, the main story itself is entirely only composed of eight missions. The intro mission which is linear, and then two missions from each of the main supporting characters, and then the final mission which is again linear to deal with the Authority. If you only follow the main storyline, then the visit to The Wasteland will be a short one for you. Also, there was a war between The Resistance and The Authority which initially thought they were referring to Rage 1’s story, but it seems rather than doing a sequel showing those events we get to play as a Lone Ranger.
The plot for Rage 2 is barebones and if you want to pick up the game for its story that is not a good idea. Now as for picking up Rage 2 for the gameplay…
The Wasteland is your sandbox
The gameplay is, however, one of the shining beacons of 2019. While at a single glance it is reminiscent of Far Cry a bit, the overall package is much more different. In Rage 2, once the initial intro mission is done you are truly let go. The game gives you two weapons, a vehicle that can be upgraded over time, and lets the player lose. No boundaries, or limits, plus the game even tells you where everything is in terms of items. You just need to go looking for it. So if you want to get the rocket launcher early on, or the ability to slam the ground like Hulk to cause massive damage, you just need to look at the menu and read the description for the logs. Drive around a bit near the location in the hopes of finding it. It is not revealed on the map but can give you a slight goal to work towards an item. Also if you press the focus button, while it in the wasteland, the ARK’s locations will light up in the sky.
Besides the basic pistol, machine gun, and shotgun we get the oddball weapons for Rage 2. A magnum that fire remotely detonated flame bombs, a Plasma cannon, a Grav Dart launcher which makes the enemy get flung around or smashed against walls. A Hyper-cannon that is a weapon similar to the old Quake 2 energy weapon and the Wingstick is back (There is the BFG 9000 but that is a deluxe edition only weapon and cannot be picked up without that version of the game). All of the weapons have five tiers of upgrade paths, with some giving the bigger capacity for magazines, while other upgrades will do quicker reloading or bigger damage. The abilities themselves can also be upgraded, and after an upgrade is unlocked, further modifications can be bought to enhance a skill. So, for instance, the Slam skill ability will do 200% maximum damage, but then you can go into the skill perks and reduce cooldown, or add a neat little black hole that pulls enemies together.
There are also projects you can unlock from all three supporting characters. The more bases you take over, clean boss enemies, and side activities you complete the more XP you earn from them. For every level, the player gains three project points. Some of these projects add bigger inventory size, faster running, and even more cash from crates.
In fact, if people try to rush with the game, they are severely limiting their selves on the gameplay end. However, even with this freedom, there are a couple of issues. As mentioned above there are a lot of things you can upgrade, but the issue here is that there can be at times two or three currencies needed to unlock an upgrade. Plus there are five or six resources that further complicate the game. The gathering of these resources is easy, and it is quick to level up the projects, but you need to do a lot of them.
Capture that mutant!
There are a lot of side activities in Rage 2, and they are rather simple in order to maintain the quick pace of the game. From base takeovers to destroying giant convoys, mutant dwellings, and even battling mechs, or giant mutants, the world of Rage is never a bore. There is a limitation though on how you can approach a base or situation, as there is no stealth option (in case the player would want to do that), and most of the encounters are easy even on hard difficulty. Plus the AI is not that smart, and while there are a lot of different enemy types, they do not evolve to counter our speed or abilities that we earn throughout the game.
The combat becomes a fast-paced frantic mess, and I mean mess in a good way. It feels like a first-person shooter Hotline Miami with having all the upgrades, or most of the beginning ones such as Slam, or Shatter. Having double dash unlocked, or Rush plus a melee kill skill is just pure adrenaline. I cannot get bored of the combat even though the AI is not that great. You’ll be finding new ways to kill one enemy to the next all the while the enemy can barely keep up with you. The guns and gun damage is also visceral with blood, and body parts flying all over the place, and if we acquire enough kills with our guns we can go into overdrive where everything gets a purple hue, health starts regenerating, and we can cause massive damage. This is not a cover shooter or even a slow methodical shooter, this is balls to the wall action, and if you stay in one place that will be your funeral.
The vehicle combat is a tiny bit easier than their Mad Max game, but also a tiny bit more disappointing. In Rage 2 you only have to shoot their weak points or the armour of the enemy. Some vehicles will have shields, but those can be easily dismantled with an upgrade onto your vehicle, or with heavy weaponry. The disappointment with the combat is not that it is simplistic, but that the enemy vehicles do not put up a fight. They just go on their own routes around the map, and that’s it. They never stop to chase the player, or even stop to attack the player, maybe get out of the vehicle. These enemies are almost static in their behaviour which is a massive step down from the Mad Max game they made where the enemy would get out of the vehicle.
A dusty, and hazy open world
In the long line of weird decision for Rage 2, the graphics section is the top of it. This review is written based on the Xbox One X version, but truly on the console here is how it works. The interior of the buildings range from okay to good, but anything to do with the outside world looks okay to horrible. This is because the developers decided to lock the game at 1080P / 60FPS on the consoles – does not matter if it is a base PS4 or Xbox One or PS4Pro or Xbox One X. While the 60FPS is awesome, the rest of the game is just not fun to look at, and I actively had to avoid thinking about the quality of the graphics presented.
The outside world has horrible pop-in, texture loading’s, blurry outdoors, and the low draw distance. As this is an apocalypse you would not expect too much art variety, but they get around that with some lore adjustments, and we get jungles, mountains, so it is not just the sand dunes we look at. A shame for the graphics as the art design is superb, and I enjoy fighting against the enemies, as they are well designed, plus it is one of the most colorful FPS games I have played in a long time. The sound design is also great, with every shot having a heavyweight to it, and the music during the fights are almost identical to Doom (2016). There is once again a tiny wrinkle in this department also, as there is no radio, or music when you drive from point A to point B during the game. Unless you fight against a convoy but other than that, prepare to listen to silence or the occasional gunfire in the distance between random enemies. This is probably the first game I would like to see an upgraded version of on a next-generation console. As while the gameplay combat is superb, the graphics simply do not do justice for this game.
War always changes
In the end Rage 2 is a bit of a mess. The story (not asking for too much here) and the graphics are a bit of a letdown, especially on the consoles. However, the combat, the sound design, and the pure madness when playing the game is enough to keep me playing for a long time. It is the ultimate relax and chill game for people and is even faster than the old Doom game. A fun game, in the end, crippled a bit by a few issues.
+ Fun almost Hotline Miami esque combat
+ Great selection of weapon, and activities
+ Superb Music
– Graphics on the consoles takes a hit due to 60FPS design
– Story is barebones
– Too many upgrade resources
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Genre: First-person shooter
Release date: May 13, 2019