Rage 2, the sequel that no one asked for, yet, many will no doubt appreciate nonetheless. When it comes to tight, intense, first-person gunplay, nothing quite lives up to the likes of DOOM, and although Rage 2 comes relatively close, it doesn’t manage to relay that same desperate vibe that DOOM effortlessly pitches at each passing second. I use DOOM as a comparison because it’s clear that Rage 2 is trying to channel that framework, but for a number of reasons, it falls somewhat short of the mark. That said, there’s much to like here.
The game throws you into the role of Walker, the last ranger of their kind, and then places you into a post-apocalyptic world that looks like it’s been plucked from a Mad Max flick. The story is pretty ridiculous throughout, which is likely something we should expect from a narrative that houses a theme like this. The game takes place a few decades following the first outing and shares lore, but in truth, it’s entirely possible to dive on in without having played Rage, and pull a similar experience to those that did enjoy the 2010 predecessor.
You’ll begin with the ability to select either a male or female protagonist, and from there, are thrown straight into the thick of it. The world, for however chaotic a world can be for one that’s been struck by an asteroid that left mutants in its wake, is all more lethal due to the presence of the Authority; a self declared military movement. Not to mention the return of the evil General Cross, a chap that wastes little time pissing you off. Between the game’s dog eat dog world, its harsh military, and the nefarious Cross, the game’s premise is set.
I cant wholly commend the plot here. The pacing is all over the place and the beats do very little to excite, despite their best efforts. Still, it does its job in keeping everything in place and structured, but it would have been nice to see more focus on a sturdier narrative. One thing I particularity enjoyed about Rage 2 is that it rarely leaves you hanging. You’re dumped into the world and that’s that, and although there’s a wealth of tutorials present to feed you into the basics (and intricacies) of play, you never truly feel like you’re confined to a script.
That speaks volumes, really, because although the story’s pacing is all over the place at the best of times, the gameplay is as open as the world itself. Pulling up the menu shows you just how deep the game is, with skill trees, unlocks, and benefits to chase after throughout. These are spread across varying attributes, spanning; weaponry, projects, and even vehicles. The only drawback on this front is that everything comes across quite convoluted, meaning that it can take time to fully digest what you need to be doing to upgrade these aspects.
Throughout the course of natural play, you’ll both scavenge and earn materials that are used to upgrade your varied capabilities. However, I spent a large sum of time just trying to suss out what the hell I was doing. When it comes to a game that houses elements of crafting and upgrades, accessibility is key. Here, it’s a mess, and something I hope is fine-tuned in a post launch patch. It doesn’t help matters that (when browsing the menus) there’s several delays to contend with; seemingly the game struggling to keep up with your commands.
Whatever the case, with that to the side, once you get to grips with the fields of play, it does become second nature. It’s just a shame that it takes a good while to get to that state of confidence. On the plus side, there’s so many things to work to unlocking, you can be often spoiled for choice. So long as you have the necessary wares – usually earned through completing missions, killing enemies, and gathering resources out in the wild – you can focus on unlocking traits and perks across all of the aforementioned categories, and much more.
Nearly everything comes with a skill tree or upgrade suite; weapons, vehicles, abilities, and so forth. Many of these are tied to a level-up system of some sort, which are mostly worked through via fulfilling both mandatory objectives and side objectives. The more you work to the latter, the more will be opened up to you in the former; rinse and repeat until you become an unstoppable force. Even at the beginning of the game, you’re given a good idea as to how much work you’ll need to get through to even just partially liberate the world.
The world map becomes chock-full of different objectives, objectives that typically improve your standing (and increase your level) with the game’s three overarching allies. Thankfully, the theme of each objective varies quite nicely, and tends to lean on something that your individual allies specialize in. Essentially, this ensures that gameplay repetition is held at bay, whilst making sure that you always have something new to soak up and enjoy. Though, before we start talking of gameplay mechanics, let’s take a brief dive into how to bulk up.
There’s two base forms of currencies in Rage 2; cash and feltrite. The former is what you’ll use to buy wares, inventory upgrades, and items from the game’s vendors, with the latter serving as a means to spend on upgrades – and, oddly enough, for healing your character. You’ll find both of these currencies out in the wild at a regular rate. The rest of the resources you’ll net on your travels tends to be used for either the previously alluded to skill trees, or, for item crafting – should you be of the correct level for the item you desire.
Nanotrite abilities are earned through visiting ARKs; ranger-specific weaponry and abilities that put you on an ass-kicking level that Chuck Norris would be proud of. Feltrite is used here for increasing the level of your Nanotrite abilities, subsequently increasing your base stats and affording you the chance to unlock additional perks. That said, to unlock a perk for use, you’ll need to input a Nanotrite Booster; purchased via vendors or rarely found in Ark Chests. Improving your weaponry works in the same way, with the exception of mods.
In order to unlock a weapon mod, you’ll need to slam in a Weapon Core Mod (found in Ark Chests), with more cores needed per-level raised. Upgrading vehicles is the easiest out of the lot, and simply sees you slotting in Auto Parts that are purchased at vendors, and found in Ark Chests. That leads us onto another simple mechanic; augmentations. Augmentations improve your character’s resilience; health, damage output, and overdrive – a limited time state that sees you becoming god-like for brief moments of time as you tear up your foes.
To improve your augmentations, you’ll need three specific materials that only drop upon defeating the game’s tougher enemies, or, via those super handy Ark Chests. Finally, that takes us to the Projects. These are abilities that tie into the progress made with the above allies. Fulfill objectives that are specific to these allies, and you’ll earn Project Points. You’ll then spend these points improving combat, crafting, traversal, and much more. Like I said, there’s a lot to take in, and it’s all mangled up in such a way that it’s hard to understand.
Irrespective of that, the reward vs the time it takes to gel with these elements is usually well worth it. The base vehicle is good on its own, but throw in 20mm cannons and an ejector seat, and it takes it to a whole new level. The assault rifle is powerful enough to begin with, but throw in rapid fire and armor piercing rounds, and you’ll make mashed potato out of just about anything. Dashing alone is handy enough to get about, but throw in the ability to strike at the end of the dash, and you’ll liquidize almost anything that stands in your way.
I’m merely touching the tip of the iceberg here. There’s heaps of additional abilities that you can unlock across all of the game’s systems. These abilities are not only absolutely gratifying to use, but rarely ever get old. When you begin the game, the game’s fluidity and depth are insane enough at is it, but come the latter stages of play, once you’ve worked through obtaining many of the extras, Rage 2 is unlike anything else. I just wish the developer made the entire process more streamlined and more focused. Let’s see what the future brings.
Outside of a comprehensive map, you’ll also be able to browse a vast codex of information and lore as you pick up data chips on your travels. There’s a lot of information to soak up for those of you that enjoy that sort of thing. Now, onto the most impressive aspect of the Rage 2; the gameplay. Rage 2 is almost every bit as refined and as action-packed as DOOM is, or at least in regards to the visceral combat and gunplay. The major difference between the two being that DOOM is more linear, whereas Rage 2 is more free thanks to its open-world.
You’ll traverse the open-world taking on a host of varying objectives as you please your allies and work towards taking down General Cross once and for all. The world is full of distinct events, and although none of them are dynamic, they all feel quite random. This sits alongside the usual; outposts, road blocks, convoys, and much more besides. That’s not to mention the more impressive of side activities; Mad Max-like racing, and even partaking in a TV Show that sees you brutally kicking the living crap out of foes to improve your stature.
There’s no shortage of things to do here, and it’s all laid out rather well. Furthermore, thanks to how well placed many of the game’s events, opportunities, and locations are, the map feels surprisingly alive for a game of this type and theme. You’ll almost always have something to do, or, something to kill – the latter of which never grows tiring. I’ve been in constant awe of the game’s fluidity and depth in regards to how varied its play is, and whilst you can indeed simple move through this like a bog-standard shooter, you would miss out.
Fun in Rage 2 is found through creativity and experimentation. Sure, blasting or smashing an enemy’s head off with a slug or a clenched fist is satisfying on its own. However, taking out a whole group with a ground hammering slam, followed closely by a burst of overdrive-infused carnage to take out the strays, only elevates that fun either further. Choice is by no means exhaustive, but I would be here all day if I was to go over the sheer volume of wacky ways that you can lay an opponent to waste. It truly is a cut above the rest on this front.
It helps, of course, that the feedback is so responsive. Each and every weapon, ability, and vehicle remains damn near perfect to command. Which is just as well, given that the world itself is equally as gratifying to move through. The world is broken into several biomes, all of which present dangers and hazards of their own design, ensuring that there’s always something new to seek out and explore. Not to mention the vast amount of structures and areas to chart, complete with secret areas and craftily hidden sub-areas to further uncover.
Then there’s the enemies. Rage 2 is packed with enemies of all shapes and sizes, many of which will be at war with one another as you move through. These enemies tend to range the likes of standard grunts and mutated beasts, through to towering giants that put DOOM’s Hell Knight to shame. Typically, you’ll take down the game’s larger foes in very specific ways, and to the game’s credit, these methods are usually always innovative and exciting. The smaller varieties? You’ll dispose of, as frequently noted, however you see fit.
That, ladies and gents, is the crux of play. You’ll move from area to area, taking on countless objectives of varying structures as you chase the endgame. Even once you’re done there, there’s still plenty of things to get up to through side questing and exploration. Even if you’re just seeking lore, there’s so much to do. Believe me, Rage 2, despite how centered it is on simply shooting and scavenging, is a lot deeper than you would think. There’s hours and hours of play to be had here, making it well worth the price of admission alone.
Throughout all of that, Rage 2 is absolutely gorgeous. The game’s varied locations are excellently presented, putting forward a stellar design overall. Design that houses a care and attention to detail that FPS-based games will be taking notes from for a while yet to come. The game’s effects are equally as stunning, with some smart camera work that toys deviously with the senses. This all sits alongside an audio framework that’s just as well set; from its weighty cues, right the way through to its stellar voice work and its epic soundtrack.
Rage 2’s main drawbacks sit with its uninteresting story and its awkward, convoluted structure of progression. If you’ve both the forgiveness and the patience to overlook all of that, a shooter that deals in explosive action and sheer depth awaits. Rage 2 is all about having a mindless blast, and between its vastly varied combat, its interesting world, and its diverse gameplay, it certainly delivers on that front, and then some.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.