RAGE 2 is one of the strangest games I think I’ve ever played. After spending some quality time with it, I am still at a loss as to whether I absolutely adored it or absolutely hated it. It’s ironic, almost, as the first game had some ambitious and grand ideas but felt like it failed to deliver. Unfortunately, while RAGE 2 is pretty damn solid in some respects, it fails to hold its momentum and repeats the mistakes that its predecessor did eight years ago.
RAGE 2 takes place in 2165, which is around thirty or so years after the events of the first game. The world is now more or less a wild west type of society, where it’s every man for themselves. After an asteroid collided with earth, most of humankind died, and dangerous mutants began to rule the land. Amidst it all, a military organisation called The Authority declared themselves as the new power, and you’re one of the last rangers who can end their oppression. Following a bombastic opening, you enter the vast wasteland to seek revenge and stop the Authority.
I struggle to competently explain the plot of RAGE 2 because, to be blunt, it’s rather dull and only gets in the way of the action. Other games like 2016’s DOOM do a great job of almost satirising how unimportant story can be in shooters, opting for a self-aware approach that works beautifully. Despite iD’s presumed involvement, RAGE 2 enjoys no such luxury. The story, the characters, and the general pacing of everything feels like a disappointing potpourri of elements from games like Mad Max, Borderlands and, of course, RAGE 2’s eight-year-old predecessor. A weak story I can excuse for solid gameplay, but when to the detriment of the game’s pacing, I’d really wish more was done here.
RAGE 2 is structured like a fairy typical open world game that works both to its favour and against it. There are activities peppered throughout the world that give you more currency and abilities to use, which I’ll touch upon later, but there are the main missions that’ll further the story too. The world is big (and empty) so you’ll spend a lot of time driving between locations also, and while this sounds bad, there is still something oddly relaxing about exploring this barren open world. In other open world games, the world will probably kill you if you stay idle, in RAGE 2, you can explore things at your own leisure, which is something I could appreciate about it.
Unfortunately, my appreciation ends there. RAGE 2 is an aggressively pedestrian experience when it comes to open world games. You’ll do almost everything you’d expect to in a game like this – clear out outposts of enemies, destroy critical enemy structures, and uncover secrets. What’s a bit disappointing about RAGE 2 is that it hides most of the good stuff behind some of this side content, you’ll have to really explore to unlock essential abilities and weapons that really elevate the game’s combat. But that content is an absolute slog to seek out.
I could easily handwave this issue away by saying that RAGE 2 is better if you ignore all the side content, but the problem there is that you won’t see anywhere near as much that the game’s combat has to offer if you do so. RAGE 2 has some great combat, opting for what I can only describe as a more potent distillation of everything provided in 2016’s DOOM. Battles are fast-paced, frenetic and always a joy to play no matter what weaponry or abilities I had, but at first, they can be a bit boring if you haven’t yet got your hands on those tools. Slam and Vortex, which are precisely what they sound like, are two of my personal favourites.
As I eluded to earlier, the world of RAGE 2 is big and barren, which means you’ll need vehicles to get around. One of the differentiating factors of the original game, vehicular combat in RAGE 2 is disappointingly weak. You’ll be able to deck out your own vehicle, the Phoenix, with some upgrades and such, but it feels like the vehicle combat was very underutilised. I’m not sure if there were concerns it would put too many people off, or if it just wasn’t fleshed out, but RAGE 2 feels less designed around vehicles than Mad Max and as a sequel to RAGE that’s a major misstep. Once again, you can see the potential, but it is never truly realised in RAGE 2.
If you do choose to skip all the side content, you can expect to get around ten or so hours out of RAGE 2 from the main story. That being said, while it can be to a bit of detriment to the pacing, I do implore most players to seek out some of the side content to unlock some of the cooler abilities. Anyone looking to see everything RAGE 2 has to offer will get around twenty or so hours out of the whole experience, which feels about on par with the first game. Whether it’s worth doing all of that, however, is up for debate.
When RAGE 2 was first revealed, I was absolutely enamoured by the colourful artwork and the more colourful aspects of the game’s presentation. Unfortunately, the personality that was exhibited in those images is nowhere near as prevalent in the game proper. Some areas look great, lit by a warm and comforting neon blanket of lights, but the game seems rather drab and disappointing overall. Perhaps in the fight to get a very stable framerate of 60 frames per second, the game also looks rather low res at specific points on consoles, which was a tad distracting especially when an explosion would also result in a drop-in resolution.
Thankfully, much like DOOM before it, the eclectic soundscape in RAGE 2 is excellent. I was surprised to hear Mick Gordon wasn’t the composer here, as most of the overpowering and blustering tracks do a great job at mimicking his work, though I’m not entirely sure if that was the intent or not. Thankfully the sound design proper gives excellent weight to battles – chaining successive headshots are complemented with the perfect noise, lighting up so many pathways in my pleasure center that I was almost sure it was illegal. What I’m trying to say, I suppose, is that the sound in RAGE 2 gives a satisfying weight to the already strong combat.
THE PLAYSTATION 4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON A PLAYSTATION 4 PRO FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Underneath it all, RAGE 2 is one of the most energetic and frenetic shooters I’ve played since DOOM. But you must, unfortunately, wade through a poorly paced story, a drab open world, and a few locks and progression gates to even experience the best it has to offer. Those who persist will adore RAGE 2, but it’s such a bizarrely inconsistent journey to get there that it’s hard to recommend to everyone.