If first person shooter video games are to be believed, violence and rage are your best solutions to almost any problems. A shotgun and a fist can fix even a broken car, especially in a Mad Max styled end of days dystopia. The first Rage was an interesting experiment for developers Id with a new game engine that was essentially Unity before it was a thing. Regarded mostly as a by the numbers affair at the time, it was a game I physically couldn’t play. There was something about the way Rage 1 rendered that caused the most violent motion sickness I have ever felt. It didn’t matter how it was rendered or on what system, it was just a no go for me. Now Rage 2 is running on an engine that doesn’t make me vomit I can finally jump into this universe and see if was I missing out on anything or if I was better off steering clear in the first place.
If you’ve played DOOM (the 2016 version aka New Doom although it’s not entirely New anymore) you’ll know what to expect from the shooting, running and punching mechanics at the core of Rage 2. If you worked on a total conversion for DOOM and then ported that to a console you’d have a cracking game but it seems like Avalanche Studios really wanted an open world again akin to Just Cause and Mad Max. What you end up with is punk apocalypse Doom levels, slow driving around a wasteland and incredibly tedious hidden object gameplay.
Let’s get to the good stuff first. Rage 2 is one of those superhero feeling fps games where you get the most fun from overpowering through ridiculous odds. You can find and equip some interesting upgrades that essentially turn your ranger character into a walking bio-mechanical super powered death machine. Running around blasting people with palm strikes, exploding punks with well timed grenades being knocked back and all sorts of naturally timed “ouch!” moments. Once you get fully powered up and unlocked the game feels like a new Crysis in the best of ways. The Ai can be a little wonky, it will occasionally get stuck in walls and be completely oblivious to you but when it works and you’re taking on the waves it really does click nicely. Figuring out how best to navigate around neon rusted wastes to take out a few drugged up punks is when Rage 2 really gets its namesake right.
The problem with Rage 2 is that it’s not happy to stay with the fun. The pink punk aesthetic starts as a way to see where you’re supposed to go and interact with but you’ll quickly find that the essential boxes are placed in dark out of sight areas and plenty of pink objects are just there for show. You’ll have to look at a lot of the token background objects while you explore as the game isn’t linear enough to naturally pick up the powers, weapons, vehicles and upgrades. To get any of these you’ll need to either explore the very vast open world or buy maps, then travel to the location, enjoy some shooting fun and then spend far too long searching for boxes and arcs to power up. Too often you’ll skip bothering with a storage box because you don’t unlock the radar that helps you find anything until a good 2/3rds through the campaign or you’re just frustrated with searching around the same old stuff and just want to get back to the action.
Given the vast open world Rage 2 has you’d hope that the driving would be fun but sadly it’s just a bit slow, heavy and clunky. Your first armored car is the only vehicle you can upgrade and comes with guns and an ability to regenerate its health making the other collectible vehicles redundant. All cars come with a nitro booster that refills but it never really feels satisfying and it feels like the boost is there to fix the steering. Ironically the most fun to be had with the vehicles is a hover bike that has no boost. With a bit of trickery it works like a helicopter and makes traversing the wastes a lot more enjoyable. I found myself flying up any nearby cliff and zipping across the land, essentially helicoptering from A to B and enjoying the visual landscapes. Even this fun is tempered though as you can’t superhero punch down from any ridiculous height as you just break your legs and die. A fall to earth that reminds you that you’re not playing a super hero shooter but a shooter that unlocks limited super hero aspects as you go.
Rage 2 is just too inconsistent for its own good. Often there are moments searching the world where you’ll find a town or outpost with some NPCs that build the lore in a Fallout New Vegas style way but even they have nothing to offer but another long drudge out to a fun shoot out and a boring search for items. Fast travel and spawning vehicles can be finickity and it cannot be understated, the searching for items is the worst and Rage2 is full of it. Find the levels, the powers, the guns, the datapads, the crafting materials, the ammo, the areas to explore, the arc power chests, the quests, the key NPCs and general chests. Once you unlock the power to find the important items via a very basic radar it becomes less frustrating but it’s a reminder of another feature that feel like they should be present from the start.
The further I got into Rage 2 the more bugs I found. During one major cut-scene the character just stood there seemingly not being triggered correctly. Thankfully just pushing on past them did sort the level eventually and it’s testament to how well built everything is but it’s a fairly common occurrence. The story that drives the exploring to key locations and missions just isn’t strong enough to give any sense of urgency and the villain of the piece is brilliantly over the top but his fights boil down to Bowser levels of simple repetition and the ending just didn’t pay off at all.
Rage 2 is a game that has some fantastic moments, plenty of questionable monster designs, a real visual polish that almost takes away from the aesthetic, a ridiculously slow start and an overall feeling of an FPS that can’t quite decide what middle ground it wants to take. You’ll find plenty of fun figuring out how to smash your way through an encampment or taking down a hulking great sewer monster but what follows will be the tedious search for boxes of loot and a long drive home with only this niggling thought that entire experience would have been better as a linear set of levels, with all powers and guns unlocked as you progress, maybe with demons and a better soundtrack.
6/10 – More than 2 moments of Rage but ultimately doomed.
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