by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Looking For Redemption
I’m going to be up front with you all; I hated the original Rage. For all the hype surrounding it, what we ended up receiving in my opinion was well-polished mediocrity filled with bullet sponge enemies of an absurd degree, bland environments of sand and debris, and a story that teased potential and then was over almost as quickly as it began. The game looked beautiful, but it lacked so much soul that once it was completed, I never touched it again. For years we went without mention of a sequel, and I considered it was probably for the best.
Then seemingly out of nowhere, we got trailer after trailer showing over the top gunplay, Mad Max-esque style auto combat but turned up to eleven, and frequently it was set to backing tracks from one of my favorite musicians Andrew WK. Okay id Software, okay. You got me. Let’s check this out and see if RAGE 2 can get the lingering bad taste of Rage out of my mouth.
Ready To Fight
RAGE 2 wastes no time in dropping new players right into the faster pace of the new installment. As the game begins with the ominous Authority laying siege to yet another wasteland settlement, carnage is all around as the camera slowly pans in to an equipment room where a generic male and female soldier are trading banter back and forth. It’s actually a character select screen, and whichever of these you pick will be your character for the rest of the game.
After selecting the male character, the female and I finished prepping for battle and as we moved towards the door, it suddenly was blown inward, splattering the character I didn’t pick all over the ground. After clearing out the enemies on the other side, I took the time to look at the mess left behind of the other character for mine to quip, “Better you than me.” The absurdity actually got a big laugh out of me, just because it was so nonchalant. RAGE 2 doesn’t take itself seriously, and that only works in its favor; and they want you to know it from the start.
The entire game is full of moments like this, you go from gun battle to gun battle, tearing up enemy combatants through the land with a plethora of deadly weapons and deadlier powers. My personal favorite through the game was using the starting assault rifle in conjunction with an ability that is essentially a gravity well that pulls the enemy in and then tosses them about. It’s quick, it’s efficient, it’s a bloody, gory, intense good time. The same can be said for nearly every other weapon and power in the game. There’s no wrong way to kill in RAGE 2, and the combat definitely puts it several cuts above its predecessors. That being said, gunplay isn’t the only part of the game. It’s a big part, it’s an important part, but it’s one piece of a whole.
Ready To Drive
The automotive combat in RAGE 2 is also leaps and bounds over the original. Speeding through the different zones of this new wasteland offers up thrilling instances from insane jumps, high-octane combat not unlike the Mad Max game of a few years ago, and plenty of different races to participate in. But despite all that, the new open world is… not as awesome as I was hoping it would be.
Now let me be clear, a lot of effort has gone into all these new settings but it’s just not enough. For how heavily populated the map is with things to do, far too often it feels like dead space between them. Now sure, there are some beautiful vistas between each point but sometimes it’s just wide open deserts. Or wide open plains. Or wide open swamps. It’s the same complaint that I had with Rage, and with the aforementioned Mad Max; you can have a game set in a wasteland and still have it feel more alive. If you’re not in combat, driving is just a slog from point to point as you look for the next activity to do.
Arriving at each of these points though is a different story. Nearly every location large and small has distinct character to it, whether it be one of the many bandit roadblocks or down in the dark dungeon-like sewers that are now havens to nests of mutants. These landmarks have an incredible level of detail put into them that make each spot memorable, but the open world between them is almost a detriment to the experience.
Ready To Die
I have to say that RAGE 2 is absolutely an improvement over its predecessor but there is still room for improvement. From a gameplay perspective, the combat is on point for both the in and out of car experiences. Specific landmarks within the world are a joy to experience, but it seems like a good portion of the open world suffers from being too lifeless and the plot suffers from being too inconsequential to the overall context of the game. RAGE 2 is nearly there, but the environments could have benefited from a bit of condensing to breathe a bit more variety and a little less wasteland into them. Oh and as a parting note, crank the difficulty up when you start the game to get the most out of the combat experiences.
Thrilling, over the top gunplay and car combat, landmarks are a joy
World is too lifeless between landmarks, story is often forgettable except for a few key moments