Rage 2‘s obnoxiousness is baked into its very DNA.
It’s unapologetic and uncivilised, stuffed to the gills with lairy lawlessness in a way that comes across as more needy than necessary, neon graffiti scuffing up every environment, and hot, punky pink squirting across… well, everywhere you look.
In its desperation to side-step the “Christ, this is a bit brown” critique of its beige-in-more-ways-than-one predecessor, Rage 2 has possibly gone too far the other way. It’s not id or Avalanche’s fault that the similarily pinkified Far Cry New Dawn hit the market before Rage 2, of course – we can only imagine how disheartening it must’ve felt to have been beaten to the punch by a competitor using one of your USPs – but for all the high-octane balls-to-the-wall mayhem in the marketing materials, Rage 2 is a surprisingly ‘meh’ experience.
That’s not to say it’s not a blast to play – at it’s very best, few shooters can currently match its tight, explosive combat, we reckon – but beyond the careful enclosures of the main story missions, Rage 2‘s world is as bleak as it is pink, and no amount of battering punks or thieves or mutants can adequately off-set an empty landscape bereft of meaningful content.
AVE-RAGE AT BEST
id’s DOOM-like meaty gunplay paired with Avalanche’s open-world opulence certainly sounded good on paper, and we were genuinely excited at the prospect of the union. These are two vastly different studios with vastly different expertise and pedigrees, but in the end, these differences make Rage 2 feel like two vastly different games at times, too.
On one hand, there’s id’s tourniquet-tight combat, as gleefully violent and gruesome as its ever been, and on the other, there’s Avalanche’s big, atmospheric set-pieces. The two never seem to come together, though, and before long, the repetition of the superficial busyness starts to fray at the seams. The main campaign is too short, and the free roam and side missions are too dull, making the game feel hopelessly unbalanced, as though all the action is entirely front-loaded.
That action, though? It’s so good. Whipping out Wingsticks and dealing out drones as you stomp through nests and hideouts never gets old, and the devastating power of your arsenal means there’s no shortage of delightfully gruesome explosions as body parts fly across the screen, bouncing in meaty splats from wall to wall. And if that wasn’t quite enough there’s also your Overdrive power, a kind of ultimate ability that lets you wreck all kinds of additional havoc as you replenish your health and clock up those multi-kills.
It’s possible some of your additional powers unlock a little too late into the campaign, but to be fair, you’re probably having too much fun to notice. That said, it’s worth seeking them out as soon as you get the chance; while you certainly don’t need them to progress, it’s a damned sight more fun to chop up your enemies with ’em than without.
There’s a story to accompany the stompingly good combat, of course, and it’s to the game’s credit that it’s not overly complex. Essentially a good ‘ole fashion tale of vengeance you play as either a male or female Ranger, the last bastion of goodness in a post-apocalyptic world gone bad.
No, it’s not particularly original, but don’t let that put you off; it’s up to you and your strong, sassy protagonist to suppress the land’s wayward wanderers which range from mutants devastated by cruel science experiments to bandits like the punkified Goon Squad you’ve seen in most of Rage 2‘s promotional teasers.
There’s also the Authority, a cold, determined militia led by the oh-so-aptly-named General Cross. With a range of differing skills and weaknesses, each faction requires a bespoke approach, and it’s cool to experiment – usually on the fly – to find out which of your strategies you need to tweak in order to take them out.
Unlike Destiny or other games of its ilk, the secret to Rage 2 is to get stuck in. Hanging back and taking pot shots might work for a short while, but as the Feltrite – the shiny blue crystals that replenish your HP as well as top up your XP – vanishes quickly, so only by ramming forward can you collect the spoils of your labours. This is what makes the combat so thrilling as you stomp over the corpses to progress, mixing-and-matching your powers and your guns to maximise your chances of reaching the other side.
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RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
In the open-world, though, you’ll soon find your eyes drifting to the corner of the screen to ascertain what collectables you have left to gather, mindlessly mowing down enemy after enemy in endless search of those hot pink containers holding vast quantities of Feltrite and cash.
While there are Ark chests to collect, too – essential for upgrading weapons and powers as you go – you’ll soon realise that beyond these, there’s not a lot of reward for exploration. Coupled with the fact that the vehicular play is pretty dire – most of the road vehicles handle like shopping carts on ice, floating across the rubble-strewn roads as though made of butter – you might start to feel a little frustrated as you’re stopped in your tracks and forced to eradicate another roadblock or take out yet another fuel station.
There’s also a curious mission that demands you not only complete a delightfully brutal arena mode but a drag race, too. As a nice-to-have, it’s cool to see a variety of gameplay mechanics in order to keep the game fresh and get you to experiment a little, especially if the monotony of the side missions is already starting to grate. But slipping them into mandatory missions that require you not only to complete them but also win? Nah. We’re not so keen on that.
There’s sadly a number of frustrating bugs, too, including missing audio, absent subtitles, input lag, crashes, and AWOL prompts and progression cues. While most are more annoying than anything else, the latter is particularly frustrating, especially if the prompts fail to pop in a main story mission.
In Bethesda’s defence, these issues aren’t anywhere near as pandemic as those affecting some of its prior titles, but they happen frequently enough to remind you that Rage 2 lacks that final coat of precision and polish.
Rage 2 verdict
There’s a delicious, deadly elegance to Rage 2‘s combat, and without it, this review would’ve been vastly different indeed.
But for all the frantic fluidity you get in those high-octane clashes, there’s just not enough happening outside of the eight-ish hour long campaign to keep you properly engaged, and the furious fun of those tight, tense story levels only serve to emphasise how achingly repetitive everything else is.
With a "Games as a Service" roadmap already in place, there’s every chance we’ll see id and Avalanche put right the wrongs and squish the bugs, but for now, Rage 2 is more boring than berserk.
A first-class shooter stuffed into open-world mediocrity.
Fabulous, meaty gunplay
A satisfying assortment of bonus powers and abilities
Story missions are mostly enjoyable
A lack of enjoyable things to do once you’ve completed the main campaign
Terrible vehicle mechanics make driving a chore
A cluttered, confusing UI and menu system made worse by input lag