Rage 2 is unabashedly, unapologetically and unmercifully a video game. From the boot up to the opening sequence to the final mission it is an outrageous thrill ride that will not fill you with rage at any point. Well, maybe some small parts. In this Rage 2 Review, we will show what Bethesda’s developers Avalanche and ID have crafted, a sequel to the original Rage that basically turns the dial up a notch in every possible way. If you have no idea what Rage is all about, imagine you had Borderlands sitting in front of you. Then you picked up DOOM 2016 and forced it inside of Borderlands. This weird monstrosity would fuse together and become Rage 2.
The apocalypse is a very common setting for media these days. Ever since Mad Max came along there has been plenty of different iterations, from zany nonsense like Borderlands to intense drama like The Last of Us. Rage 2 firmly falls in the Borderlands section (even though that isn’t post-apocalyptic). An asteroid has wiped out most of the life on Earth, some things have survived through underground arks, raiders roam the wastelands and an evil fascist regime is viciously attempting to take control. There’s a few other factions at work, weaponized vehicles, and crazy mutated creatures all in the mix as well. While the story won’t really grip you and individually some characters aren’t particularly interesting, the world has a lot of intriguing lore elements that you’ll enjoy experiencing.
The story serves a purpose. That purpose isn’t to portray incredibly in-depth character study or to shine a lens on the detrimental effect of capitalism on society, it simply gives you an excuse to f*ck sh*t up across a playground. I honestly can’t picture any of the characters in the game other than the protagonist Walker (male or female) and the villain, General Cross. Both characters motivations are plain and simple and the most story you’ll get is in the hectic opening that sees Walker’s life destroyed by Cross. After the surprisingly engaging opening, you’re unleashed upon the world on your quest for revenge and heroism.
How do you do it? Well, you have a brilliant arsenal of weaponry and skills at your disposal and plenty of opportunity to show them off. The shooting feels so smooth, vibrant and reactive. It’s so similar to DOOM in terms of feedback, it feels like a very finely crafted art. If shooting the guns is enjoyable, watching the bullets tear into an enemy is the massive, beautiful cherry on top. Enemies react realistically to getting pumped full of bullets, shoot them on the leg and watch them fall or on the shoulder and watched them turn. Pull off headshots and you’ll hear a satisfying ping and when the final bullet hits an enemy a skull icon will appear over the reticule as evidence of your marksmanship. Enemies aren’t the brightest and will literally be all gunning all out for your blood. It makes the action even more frantic and opens up exciting possibilities for you to utilize your toolbox.
The progression in Rage 2 isn’t subtle in any way. You earn upgrades as you complete missions and activities but you earn new weapons and skills by completing a series of specific missions. Whether it’s the shattered attack or the rapid dodge or the ground slam or even just the double jump, each of these new powers brings something new to the gameplay and adds a little bit more exciting. My favorite moment of the game was uncovering the Combat Shotgun. It’s easily one of the best shotguns in gaming history, satisfying and powerful but precise and heavy. The revolver is good and has a nice little twist, the rocket launcher is fantastic and literally explosive and the sniper rifle equivalent is wonderful fun. Even defensive skills like the barrier will be helpful throughout the many trials the waste throws at you.
There’s plenty to do in the waste. There are four different enemy factions all with unique designs. You’ll have enemies who can become invisible and cause you hell while you hunt them, mutants that just bomb forward in your direction and then there are goons who’ll attempt to use baseball bats to launch grenades in your direction. The designs are distinct and it’s easy enough to distinguish the different enemies. It’s more interesting when mini-bosses get involved. They’re always a nice twist on whatever is happening and add an extra level of mania to a likely already crazy situation. Some skills, like the stealth attack, meaning you can do massive damage asap. This isn’t a quiet game, essentially your goal is to create as much carnage as possible and hope for the best.
The biggest downside to this, and to the whole game, is that it gets repetitive. You’ll be doing very similar things over, and over, and over, and over again. It’s fortunate that the gameplay is so fun and you’re always kept going. The most basic missions will see you cleaning out enemies from an area, others might see you defending a point, some you’ll destroy specific objects and some you’ll have mutant eggs to destroy. My favorite were the mutant missions but it never felt like there was enough. Entering an underground nest and battling your way to an exciting boss battle was always a great time. It’s a real shame that these missions, like the pit stops, are few and far between in comparison to the much more common bandit camps.
Another annoyance is the ridiculous amount of in-game currency. There are project points that unlock helpful upgrades that you unlock by advancing the main story. There are place and ordinary money that’ll buy you ammo as well as get you items that can upgrade certain weapons like grenades and the (utterly brilliant) wingstick. There are vehicle upgrade parts and ability upgrades as well as weapon upgrades. It’s all a very overcomplicated system that at the start of the game is pretty frustrating and intimidating. You do eventually get used to it but rather than continuously upgrading Walker I choose to jump into the menu every now and then and try and focus on upgrades. There’s also feltrite which upgrades certain items and is a material you get in certain locations. Again, so much going on in the menu.
The production value here is on the higher end of the scale. The graphics are generally excellent across the board with only a couple of character models (General Cross being one) letting it down. The different areas, from the lush forest to the dingy swamp and arid desert are all fantastic and the use of the pink/purple coloring to specify certain areas or object is brilliant and brings the world to life. The sound design is brilliant. Guns sound sharp, vehicles roar and enemies all sound alive. Even the towns sound interesting when you’re wandering around in them.
We’ll sound off on one of my favorite aspects of the game: the bat mob-sorry-Phoenix. This is the car that you upgrade and will use constantly and fortunately it is fantastic. It’s a total dream to drive and there’s a ton of fun to be had traversing the landscape. There are convoys traveling around that you’ll hunt down and pick apart with your weaponry and speed. It’s a total beast of a machine and it’s a shame there aren’t more missions that take advantage. There’s a lot of other vehicles too, most of which are pretty pointless to use. The motorbikes are a cool novelty, the tank is incredibly cool to use and the Icarus aircraft is exceptional for exploration.
The final word on Rage 2 is that it has the potential to be a top quality experience. There are plenty of annoyances here with repetitive gameplay, currency, empty areas and a lack of a narrative (you can beat the story in about six hours comfortably) but they’re all held together by incredible moment to moment gameplay. The shooting, the abilities, the movement, the graphics, and the enemies are all excellent and really counteract the disappointing elements. Thank you for reading this Rage 2 Review, please share and send some feedback on the comments below!