The original Rage was a competent shooter fueled by the genre veterans at id, but as lifeless as the barren wasteland it was set in. A kickass shotgun and impressive AI can only carry a game so far. Instead of desiccating in the desert heat, id partnered with Avalanche Studios to inject some of its signature style into the sequel, RAGE 2. While its pink spray paint and ‘tude ends up being superficial window dressing, Rage 2 is a deeper, more fast-paced shooter that can hang with other genre heavyweights despite the mediocre world it is trapped in.
That mediocrity doesn’t reflect the shooting as its gunplay is far superior than most other first-person shooters thanks to the smooth aiming and shooting. Nailing the basics is key but it’s the abilities, weapons, and movement skills and the way they all interact that give the game the boost it needs to excel.
Rage 2 Review | Tools of destruction
Players get access to a few different special powers: a concussive push, a throwable gravity ball that suspends enemies, a ground pound, a dash, and a hologram barrier. These combine with the extensive arsenal that has some creative firearms as well as a stable of satisfying standbys. Inventive secondary firing modes and superb sound effects elevate the gunplay and give you more than a few options for almost every encounter.
Individually, each facet of the combat is solid, carried by the fluidity of the controls, but Rage 2 succeeds by having a speedy combat loop that exercises those responsive controls. Enemies swarm in and even though their variety is lacking, their overwhelming numbers can make firefights quite hectic, which is reinforced by its thumping, Mick Gordon-esque soundtrack.
Players are encouraged to integrate all of the game’s disparate tools since every weapon and power is readily accessible and has a useful function. You can use the dash to avoid a rocket, instantly push off a goon’s armor, then finish him off with a shotgun shell to the dome as you leap off and ground pound the foes on the lower level all within a handful of seconds. Harder difficulties make combat better too as it makes players play faster and more effectively utilize its many mechanics.
Its pacing welcomes that sort of constant movement and its controls allow it, but its health system is the most direct way the game makes players move quickly. A multiplier fills with the blood of fallen enemies, greatly increasing the amount of health crystals that fountain out of corpses with each passing number.
Faster killers get more health back and, since the health doubles as a currency, more money for upgrades. It’s an ingenious mechanical way to incentivize aggressive play that pays both in the moment and when you go back to town to purchase goods. Through its interlocking systems, Rage 2 is an intelligently crafted shooter that hangs near, without quite surpassing, the newer Doom and Wolfenstein games.
Rage 2 Review | Upgrades upon upgrades
And this loop only gets better as the game progresses because of its extensive upgrade systems. Weapons, powers, and your character can be modded and each takes a different type of skill point to do so, which creatively forces players to progress evenly. Choosing what ones to pick is difficult because so many of them are useful and almost never boil down to boring damage modifiers.
Upgrades can make the ground pound suck enemies in first or ensure that the assault rifle automatically reloads when you use another weapon for 10 seconds. These enhancements add a mechanical layer to the gunplay without making players feel weak or shallow at the very beginning. Progression is natural since players start out strong but only get stronger as the game goes on, keeping combat fresh as well as pacing out the game’s complexity. Despite the laggy menus, the game’s progression props up its mechanics and helps them reach their potential.
Rage 2 Review | Car troubles
Although, the rest of the game doesn’t reach its potential with as much grace as the rest of it is relatively undercooked when juxtaposed against the gunplay. Given its Mad Max inspirations, driving should play a sizable role in Rage 2 but it doesn’t. There’s a decently sized garage of vehicles to get but there’s no reason to stray outside of the default car since it is the only one you can pump skill points into.
But there aren’t even that many upgrades, which almost makes sense given that there’s not much incentive to actually upgrade it. Outside of methodically driving to every mission location, there’s only one race track and course in the game. Combat is more fleshed out and controls surprisingly well but is still hamstrung by the limited opportunities there are to actually shoot at other cars.
Optional random convoys are essentially your only way to see vehicular combat and, outside of the final mission, the game never makes you get behind the wheel. It’s a shame because there is a glimmer of great car combat that never gets a chance to develop as thoroughly as the on-foot gunplay. Vehicles almost appear as an afterthought given how little they contribute to game and only seem there by some arbitrary mandate.
If anything, the driving is only there to facilitate the open world; another one of the game’s mishandled aspects. It has a few more biomes this time around, giving the world a much-needed change in scenery; an obvious effort to address the monotony of the first entry’s world.
Although different environments do not mask how rote of an open world it actually is. Its vast amount of empty space is stitched together with the same random bandit camps and side activities that appear as mere items on a checklist rather than a game full of interesting objectives or places to explore. Not only do puzzling death canyons make some places tedious to navigate, but it also just seems to be big just for the sake of it. Open worlds need to strive to be more than large landmasses as size doesn’t equal an interesting world that’s fun to inhabit. It’s just land to be driven over to get to the next fortress or mission.
Rage 2 Review | Mad Meh-x
The characters also don’t make the world more interesting either. Splashing pink on everything and having box art starring a woman that looks like Imperator Furiosa after she pounded seven Red Bulls may give off the impression of an endearing punk personality, but Rage 2 is mostly as dry as its sandiest dunes. Characters aren’t as wacky as they’re built up to be nor are they written well enough to invest into. The protagonist, despite having a voice, is also about as uninterested in the story as you probably are but not in a charming, self-aware way like Doom.
Cutscenes drone on as the cast belabors the importance of the menial task you’re about to do, which mostly involves shooting a bunch of half-naked people in glow paint or deformed mutants. And while the action is always the highlight and makes it too easy to drive from outpost to outpost in order to get a fix, it hardly makes an attempt to go beyond that and give better reasons for your actions. The antagonist is also underdeveloped with a half-baked scheme that doesn’t ever go beyond cartoonishly evil and woefully bare. Rage 2 even has an abrupt ending too, further cementing how little narrative progress it has made over its predecessor.
Rage 2 has made mechanical leaps and bounds over the original though and is how the game almost completely overcomes its rough areas. The combat lets players stylishly slice through hordes of wasteland scum without letting the tempo waver for a moment, especially on the higher difficulties that push players to use everything in their arsenal. Deep upgrade trees augment these core systems and ensure that it keeps up this pacing until the credits roll. Superb gunplay that constantly evolves and never lets up makes it easy to overlook Rage 2‘s weaker areas.
There simultaneously needed to be a lot more of Rage 2 and lot less; a lot more depth in its driving, story, and missions and a lot less repeated content and long stretches of empty landscape. With all of the fluff in between frenetic firefights, most of Rage 2‘s incredible moments are bookended by elements that are underbaked by comparison. But id’s knack for making impeccable first-person shooting mechanics makes Rage 2 succeed despite having faults that would doom a lesser shooter.
GameRevolution reviewed Rage 2 on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.