I was a big, big fan of the original RAGE when it released in 2011, with its chaotic take on the post-apocalyptic shooter making for a really good time. Sure, it may not have lived up to the hype that having a renowned FPS developer like id Software behind it brings, but it still managed to keep me entertained as I went on a shooting rampage.
Naturally then, I was particularly buzzed for RAGE 2 – especially with all of the emphasis that had been placed on its extreme gunplay and the insane antics you’d partake in across the game’s open-world environment. In fairness, it delivers on a lot of the promises that it made with the game offering some of the most brutally satisfying shooting that I’ve seen in any first-person shooter, but unfortunately a lacking sandbox of a world and some repetitive missions prevent it from striving towards shooting perfection.
RAGE 2’s tale takes place a good few years after the original game, with the player taking on the role of a male or female ranger who has to defend their home from a vicious attack by The Authority: the most powerful military force across the wasteland that are led by the nefarious General Cross. Of course, after this attack you want revenge, so you head out across the land to find a means to take Cross down with a little help from some of the wasteland’s inhabitants as well as a few familiar faces from the first game.
Firstly, I simply have to talk about how satisfying RAGE 2’s combat is. The best way to describe it would be as ball-busting insane and utterly chaotic fun, which is what Bethesda have been promising for some time. There’s a great variety of weapons at your disposal (though you won’t get them all naturally through the campaign and some require proper exploration to uncover) and actually using them to take down your foes just feels so satisfying. You’ve got basic things like an assault rifle, pistol, or sniper which are a lot more conventional, but the game also ups the ante with things like the rocket launcher and hyper cannon too – there are some meaty enemies to encounter though, so the bigger guns are appreciated.
Each of the weapons have an alternate fire option too which changes them up a little, so you’ve got extra versatility in their use there. Want to know what’s most important though? RAGE 2 has a classic id Software shotgun that feels BLOODY brilliant to use, with each blast packing a hell of a punch that feels like poetry in motion to witness in-game. Basically, RAGE 2 absolutely nails it with its choice of weapons with each one feeling sublime to use.
You don’t just get to use weapons though, with the player also able to unleash an assortment of abilities on their foes. Some of these offer ridiculous powers that’ll make you feel like you should be one of the Avengers: you can force push enemies to help blast them to smithereens, use an anti-gravity jump that’ll launch you skywards (and can be followed up with a hulking ground pound), or you can activate your ‘overdrive’ ability to amp up your power and send your character into a LITERAL rage. That’s just naming a few too, with plenty unlocked as you progress through the game – it’s satisfying and ensures you always have something new to do, whilst combining them with a bit of shooting makes for some fantastic set pieces. Honestly, the combat is so over the top and fun that it’s hard not to have a smile glued on your face as you take your enemies apart, and it certainly helps RAGE 2 stand out as one of the more exciting shooters available.
You can upgrade your weapons and abilities as you progress through the game which makes them more effective. It’s satisfying because, again, you’ll feel yourself improving and becoming more powerful as the game goes on, but it also ramps up the insanity of each showdown. I mean, force pushing an enemy and seeing them blast apart becomes very satisfying, as does launching yourself to even more ridiculous heights than before so that enemies feel all the more smaller as you zoom your way back down to them with a well-timed blast from your shotgun.
You also get to use some vehicles to drive around, which can also be upgraded to get better firepower and speed. It’s a fairly big world that you’ve got to explore so their use can be essential, but with random convoys of enemies (a la Mad Max) to encounter as well as some insane races, their use can prove to be a lot more about fun too. It’s good stuff and just take the carnage of the experience up a few notches.
So I’ve had a lot of good stuff to say about RAGE 2, but unfortunately it doesn’t deliver in all areas of its design. For example, the missions of the game could end up feeling a little too repetitive and felt more like filler on occasions. In fairness, some of the main story missions made for some great set pieces and showed off the game’s combat well, but there aren’t actually that many (you could probably run through them all in around six to seven hours) so those who want a more fleshed out experience will need to take part in the side stuff. The problem is that it just feels a little ordinary and run of the mill as far as open-worlds go, with basic showdowns with enemies in the Mutant Bash (it sounds more fun than it is), item collecting, and base clearing antics making up the most of them. It just feels like a waste of potential, especially when you consider how fun the gameplay itself actually is.
The world itself is lacking in substance too. Whilst it’s undeniably attractive (well… as far as wastelands go) and there is a good variety in its selection of environments that range from luscious to barren, there was nothing there that gave it any real personality. The towns you visit don’t offer much outside of the basic amenities, the side-missions don’t really utilise the world in meaningful ways, whilst the only real vibe of anarchy comes more from your enemies than your surroundings. It’s certainly not a lifeless place and there were times where it could look really impressive (RAGE 2 is definitely a stunning game and its full of colour), but it did lack that extra SOMETHING to make it stand out when compared to other open-world games with nothing on offer to really incentivise the player to scour through its every nook and cranny.
RAGE 2 is full to the brim with chaotic fun thanks to its outstanding gunplay and the insane abilities at your disposal, but some repetitive missions and an unimaginative world see it faltering a little the more time you spend with the game. Are the problems bad enough to make it worth missing out on? No chance, but they do stop it from reaching the glorious heights it is clearly capable of.
It’s still a very enjoyable first-person shooter and I had a lot of fun embracing its anarchic features, but it’s disappointing to know that RAGE 2 had the potential to be so much more.
Developer: id Software, Avalanche Studios
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC