Rage 2 on PlayStation 4
The world of Rage 2 has changed quite a bit since the last time I traipsed across its barren wastelands nearly ten years ago. The wastelands are certainly still barren, and the conflict between Eden survivors, thugs known as Goons, and the nefarious Authority now rages once again, but things have gotten a lot more eccentric.
The dull color palette of the original game has been tossed out the window and the funk-meter has been turned right up to the maximum for a sequel that sometimes feels more like a reboot.
Not that I’m complaining; the original Rage didn’t do enough to stand apart from other shooters of its era, and we’ve done the drab post-apocalypse aesthetic to death.
So it’s on to splashes of purple and pink, and in with a new breed of NPC and Goon that don whimsical clothing and have their hair gelled in a blonde quiff or a spiky mohawk.
And it works, actually. While Rage 2’s graphics are nothing to write home about, the new look goes hand in hand with its explosive gunplay and chaotic open world action.
This is a power play experience that plays at a hundred miles an hour and never makes you wait particularly long between chaining down your enemies in over the top firefights, or punching their heads clean off their shoulders if you prefer.
The quirkiness suits comical violence and lightning pace. But I do wish there was a little more context explaining the how and why of this bonkers world.
Rage 2 is exciting because it’s a collaboration between two studios –id software, and Avalanche Studios– both adept at their respective genres, a fusion of brilliant gunplay and open world know-how: I don’t think many people will be playing it for a quality narrative experience.
However, that doesn’t mean I can forgive a plot that’s this wafer-thin, or an open world this lifeless. Particularly so, given the aforementioned disparity between the style of the first game and this sequel.
But Rage 2’s story really is as simple as defeat the evil faction as a one-man army after completing a load of fetch quests, and there are precious few interactions with NPCs, no imperative put on character development, and hardly even anything in the way of lore.
Notable characters are lazily introduced (and there aren’t many) with ten-second exposition sequences, and the dozens of other NPCs one comes across offer no conversation or when prompted. Rage 2 tries to go all Borderlands with its style, but it’s missing the clever writing to make it ever feel anything more than skin-deep.
The sandbox is essentially just a giant playground to go and have fun in rather than a living, breathing “world.” Enemy Goons and Authority mutants exist to be killed, not to be interacted with, and there’s nothing to exploring the wastelands beyond ticking an objective off a list.
Rage 2 really is a by the numbers open world experience and it’s complete with all the obligatory open world activities you’d expect.
After meeting the game’s three quest-givers, you’ll traverse the sandbox uncovering Ark pods that house new weapons, destroying bandit camps and roadblocks and Authority sentry towers, competing in races and fighting vehicle convoys, and working through main story missions –all slight variations on things you’ve done before in basically every open world game ever.
I feel like I’m being harsh on the game, but I have to talk about the failures of its new composition first –the facade of its colorful new premise, the absence of an interesting story, and lifeless open world.
Make no mistake, though, I had plenty of fun playing Rage 2. The quality of its gunplay is absolutely top notch and the combat is so exhilarating that I’m prepared to brush most of its shortcomings aside just to keep blasting my way from objective to objective.
If you’ve played DOOM then you’ll have a good sense of Rage 2’s combat, which is every bit as intense and frenzied.
Beyond just the slick shooting there are special Nanotrite abilities, which you can use to ragdoll enemies across the map or inflict death from above in earth-shattering slams.
Then there’s the rage mode itself which initiates an overdrive of everything in your arsenal, allowing you tear through hordes of bad guys in pulsating sequences of bloody violence.
It’s mad, unrelenting chaos that I never really tired of even if it does comprise 95% of the entire Rage 2 experience.
There’s vehicular combat, too, to be fair –though I didn’t find it as interesting as I would have liked. I think Avalanche Studios actually did a better job with Mad Max in this department, actually, which felt faster and involved more strategy than just blasting at armored convoys.
And even though there’s an impressive number of different cars, trucks, and tanks in Rage 2, the actual driving of them isn’t all that exciting, which is a shame because traversal was a big part of what made Just Cause so fun.
But Rage 2 never really gets in your way. It’s an entertaining romp from start to finish in which you’re immediately made to feel all-powerful, even on the harder difficulty settings.
It’s a game you tune into to tune out –light, somewhat mindless entertainment that doesn’t feel all that exhausting despite the repetition.
That said, even though 15 hours isn’t particularly long to experience an open world game’s main story, I’m happy the developers didn’t opt to stretch things out across too many missions and activities.
There’s just not enough substance to the story, characters, or world for anything more. Yet if you’re so inclined, there’s plenty of activities to keep completionists busy for 25+ hours most likely.
Ironically, when I think back to my favorite moments of Rage 2, it’s the gunplay set in its most linear story missions that I found most compelling.
Moving through the tight hallways of Authority research stations and underground bunkers, frequently ambushed by deliberately placed mutants, I could have been playing DOOM.
Well, a DOOM with only three or four mutant enemy types and one that reuses the same mini-boss the same number of times throughout…
So Rage 2 is a pretty bog-standard open world game when you’re out exploring the sandbox and it’s a less accomplished version of DOOM when it’s at its best.
It’s still a good time, but this much-anticipated collaboration between id software and Avalanche Studios has unfortunately proved a jack of both trades and a master of neither.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair
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