There is a hell of a lot of pedigree and experience behind Rage 2. iD Software are the masters of the first-person shooter, and Avalanche Studios are the brains behind the open-world craziness of the Just Cause series. Mash these two genres together and you get an open-world FPS that does a lot of things right, especially with the combat gameplay, but fails to deliver on the open world aspect.
Rage 2 puts you in the shoes of Walker, one of the last Rangers of the Wasteland, as he/she seeks to finally destroy the reign of the Authority. Rage 2 is set thirty years after the events of the original game, where the Wasteland has evolved, with nature taking over areas of the land, however, gangs of goons still roam, causing chaos and destruction. Walker has to find and work with three familiar characters in Loosum Hagar, John Marshall and Antonin Kvarsir in order to rekindle an old technology project in order to defeat the mech-boss of General Cross
Each of these NPC’s are located in different areas of the maps, and with each location comes a number of side quests that can be completed for rewards that can be used to level up your character. The main one of these are your Nanotrite abilities, which are Walkers special powers, and this is what really makes Rage 2 different from your normal first person shooter. These abilities range from a Dash ability that teleports you short distances, Shatter, which is a melee attack that shatters your enemies and Defibrillation, which allows you to self-revive after a death. There are loads more to unlock, and they are all found in Arks that are situated around the map. The Arks can also contain some of the more interesting weaponry, ranging from an amazingly powerful Shotgun to the more sci-fi based guns like the Firestorm revolver, which allows you to shoot bullets that set your enemies on fire. These are the moments of Rage 2 that really excel, as it makes the various enemy camps much more fun to take out. Each weapon also has a secondary fire mode, as for example the shotgun turns into a air gun which can push enemies over a railing or ledge.
In fact, all the Nanotrite abilities, when combined with the ludicrously weaponry, makes Walker an overpowered killing machine. Dashing, Double jumping, Slamming, followed up by shotgun blasts is so satisfying, and is also the best way to play the game. Hanging back and trying to take enemies out from distance with an assault rifle will see you dying much more frequently. This is because upon their death each enemy will drop a substance called Feltrite which can be collected to increase your health. So, its always best to get in and amongst the action. The shooting does feel very Doom-esque and this is Rage 2’s greatest positive.
There is a lot to like with the design of Rage 2, especially with the characters. It is safe to say that the design team probably went a bit crazy with some of their ideas, with the human-creature riding scientist Kvarsir, and the Trump-esque Klegg Clayton (who needs you to be a “winner” just to meet him). I can’t say the same for the Wasteland, as unfortunately it does look a bit samey. Some of the different regions do make a slight difference, but this is where the open world setting doesn’t really work for me, as one bandit fuel depot looks identical to another, meaning its very difficult to recognise where you are in the world by your surroundings, so you end up relying purely on the on-road satnav, or making use of the fast travel system to the nearest town. There is no real reward for going off road and investigating, as there isn’t really anything to find apart from roadside-loitering goons to kill.
There are also a huge amount of upgrades to complete, whether it be your Nanotrite abilities, weapons, cars – nearly everything in the game can be upgraded and improved by the items collected on your shooting travels. And I also have to mention the cheats that Avalanche have put into the game, especially the Danny Dyer commentary, which is fun and awful all at the same time, but it does really demonstrate the level of detail and originality that has been pumped into Rage 2, and there is also lots of additional free content to follow.
I did really enjoy the campaign, which will last you in the region of twelve hours, although at times it feels like it just there to force you to do some of the side missions in order to level up, but I found the characters interesting and well written, with only a hint of cliche, and it was all good fun. There is a huge amount of side missions and extra stuff to do afterwards, however, the problem is that a lot of these are very similar and this is where the grinding sets in, and it does take some of that fun away. The small but well curated world contains bandit camps, sentry turrets and moving convoys to hunt down and take out, and unfortunately this is where another downside of Rage 2 hits you. You see, its no fun whatsoever to drive a vehicle around the world, as the handling is just shocking. Taking down a moving convoy is a challenge, mainly due to the fact that it is so difficult to get a car around a corner, whilst aiming and shooting at the same time. The motorbikes are even worse. Rage 2 was made in the same engine as the Just Cause series, and the vehicle handling there was also quite suspect, but what that game had was a great way to traverse the world via grapples and parachutes, which is missing here. The character movement does feel somewhat sluggish but that could be due to the fact I have also been playing a lot of Apex Legends, so I am used to the fluid character movements there.
I did come across some technical issues with Rage 2. Sometimes the on screen button prompts don’t appear, which causes an issue when you have to pick an object up as part of a story mission. These can usually be resolved by pausing then coming back, but sometimes it did need a full game reset. I also came across a situation on a few occasions where I lost all game audio, which again needed a full reset. These are not game breaking bugs but did spoil my enjoyment somewhat.
Rage 2 is a fantastic first person shooter. Rage 2 is also a disappointing open world game. But seeing how 95% of the game involves shooting people that’s not necessarily a big problem. Each gun acts and feels differently, and the satisfaction of hearing the splats and crunches of the enemies body parts as you unload a shotgun blast into them is just divine. If you buy Rage 2, just go mad and enjoy the awesome combat, and try to forget there is a big open world to explore.