Developed By: Avalanche Studios / id Software
Published By: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS4 / Xbox One / PC
Reviewed On: PS4PRO
Rage 2 was first revealed on May 14th, 2018 through an announce trailer after Walmart Canada had accidentally leaked the game’s existence. Co-developed by Avalanche Studios (famed for the Just Cause series) and id Software (Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein) and is coming off the heels of the lacklustre reception to the first Rage. That title was mostly widely panned for having an ending that was so abrupt and ironically only resulting in the sequel coming a full 8 YEARS later. This time the sequel is set 30 years after the original game with a brand-new cast of characters.
You play as Walker, who wants to be a Ranger (enhanced soldiers) and gets their opportunity to be one after their settlement Vineland is attacked by General Cross and the Authority. Shortly after, the one in charge of the settlement Prowley dies leaving you a holographic message to discover asking you to initiate Project Dagger which will end the threat and bring peace back to the wasteland.
When the game started out, I did appreciate the option to pick between a Male or Female character (fully voiced) and was pleased that both voice actors did perform their roles well. Aside from that, I would say this game has one of the most throwaway stories in any game period. You would think that after the reception the first game got and the abrupt ending the game gave to players, they would at least try harder to make sure that that part of the game would not disappoint. Unfortunately, the main story path is almost laughably stunted as after the opening act all you have to do is go to three separate points on the map, do their opening missions, progress to level 5 with each of them, do their second missions then do the final mission and the game ends. That whole sequence can be completed in less than 5-6 hours (could be more without the complete arsenal at your disposal)
Now, just to be fair I can understand the reasoning why they structured the game to completely open for the player to explore, discover and progress the way the player wanted to. When it is done right, it can be a really rewarding experience. However, the thing about experiences such as those is that the “bread crumbs” that the player collects and experiences along the way have to be compelling enough and interesting enough that causes the player to want to absorb and immerse themselves in the game world that was created. Unfortunately, I would say after giving it a go initially I just gave up and tuned out because whatever story that is there is put together in the most uninterestingly way possible.
You meet interesting (well some) characters along the way but nothing really stands out at all in the long run. The first characters you will meet are Lily and Prowley with Lily being the standard sidekick-for-the-entire-game character and Prowley being the character who provides the inspiration and the driving force for the main character who predictably dies. The problem with the characters which extends to almost all of you meet is that they are just there to move the threadbare story along. Lily disappears after the initial tutorial mission only to show up during some radio conversations and the end for plot convenience. Although the game tells you that Walker was raised by Prowley and looks up to her, you are not even given any time to see that relationship develop to give weight to your character’s motivations. The three characters I mentioned earlier are Marshall, Hagar, and Dr Kvasir but after the initial meet, nothing about them is memorable at all. They just hand out the missions you need to complete alongside some very flimsy story beats about how they knew Prowley before.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the main antagonist, General Cross. All I can say is just that by the time the credits rolled I laughed as the game just ends in a moment of Deja-vu. Of course, there is an after credits scene that for some reason decides to tease the possibility that he might not be dead I was just rolling my eyes at that point.
The game was developed to be run at 1080p and 60fps in mind and that results in mixed results. The good? The game runs buttery smooth with little to almost no frame drops. The bad? The game really is not a looker. Sure, in some areas or environments the lighting would be just right, and you would have a nice picturesque moment. But those moments come very few and far between as most of the time the apocalyptic wasteland looks so dull even with the colours the game sometimes throws at you. Sometimes the texture loading even takes a while resulting in some environments looking noticeably washed out.
The game also released with weird design decisions. There is no Brightness or Gamma settings at all in the Options menu and that results in some areas of the game being completely dark that you must shoot your weapon just to see if there is anything interesting hiding in the darkness. The reason why you shoot your gun? Because ironically the game does not give you a flashlight either so your Assault Rifle will be your guide in the darkness. Finding chests can be a very frustrating experience because of this. There are also graphical bugs that have not been fixed to this day with one annoying one being some sort of lightning effect stuck to my character’s weapon and does not go away even when I restart the game.
If there is one thing that bothered me most about the graphics is the fact that during prominent story cutscenes, the facial animation for certain characters is amazing but then as soon as it transitions to in-game dialogue the facial animations get way off. It’s really jarring once you start noticing it.
Presentation & Gameplay
I would say that in the gameplay department is where it is most apparent of the game being developed by two different developers. Firstly, ground combat in this game is incredibly satisfying reminiscent of Doom 2016 due to how similar the feeling is. The simple way to put it is that it is Doom in an open world setting. The players get access to an arsenal of weapons not including the standard Pistol, Assault Rifle, Shotgun, to the more adventurous stuff like Smart Rocket Launchers and the Grav Dart Launcher. They all have their own special features like being able to light someone on fire with the Firestorm Revolver or throw them around with the Grav Dart Launcher it becomes a playground for player creativity. Coupled with special powers like Shatter and Vortex, every combat encounter is a blast. It is highly advisable that those of you who do pick up this game to immediately go to every Ark to unlock all weapons and powers. Although I feel that this kind of gameplay would have shined more if it was less open world and more arena shooter like Doom 2016 was. It’s just a minor personal preference though.
Now that we have got the amazing ground combat out of the way let me just say that almost everything else around it is so lacklustre. For example, Car Combat is uninspiring as the only thing the player will be doing is just chasing convoys to destroy them. The funny thing is any other car you pass in the Wasteland just does not attack you at all so when you aren’t chasing after convoys there isn’t any car combat at all. That itself just becomes so monotonous so quickly due to how there is little to no variation in how these convoys play out.
Then it comes to the various activities in the Wasteland. The activities you will be doing include clearing out Goon nests, Shrouded bases, recovering Ranger logs, killing Crushers etc. There is a substantial number of things to do in the open world of Rage 2 but you will probably end up on two sides of the fence. On one side you will enjoy clearing out all those activities from the map working your way towards the Platinum trophy. If you are on the other side like me you would eventually realize like the convoys, the activities in the game become incredibly monotonous over time. You just feel like you keep doing the same thing repeatedly. I would not have had an issue with it if with each cleared encounter there was a compelling reason behind it like an interesting turn of events or mystery to solve. There isn’t except for just collecting Data Logs which were meant to flesh out the game world but even those just felt tired after a point. I think the most disappointing thing for me is how the world and enemies feel so uninteresting and lifeless.
I haven’t even gotten to the numerous bugs I have encountered including the game crashing, characters going invisible, bodies getting stuck in walls, enemies falling off the map and getting stuck in some obscure ledge. The GPS works sometimes and bugs out other times. I even encountered a convoy that has such a strict route that caused them to U-turn after 30 seconds of driving, it was hilarious. Another hilarious thing I realized was how driving out in the open world there was no music whatsoever but during a story mission where I had to compete in a race, there suddenly was. There was just so many weird things that didn’t work in this game.
What I Loved
- Combat – The ground combat in this game is top notch and it really shows the pedigree of what id Software has brought to the FPS genre all these years.
What I Wished was Better
- Campaign – It doesn’t have to be an extensive story. Just one that is not a completely forgettable one.
- Side Missions – The variation in activities were good but I just found very little reason to do them.
- Car Combat – Should have been better and some vehicles (motorcycle) handle like ass.
- Enemy A.I – I think the first Rage had smarter A.I compared to this game.
What I Disliked
- Too many systems – if there is one thing, I have not yet touched on is how there are too many systems going on in this game that just feel like padding to make the game feel more bloated than it is.
- Laggy Menus – This makes the above much worse as you have to navigate incredibly laggy menus with no reason as to why they are so laggy.
It is strange how no one expected Rage 2 to be coming out and I don’t think anyone was even asking for it but here it is and after putting down the controller I just kept questioning what was the reason for it even existing. I don’t think it is a bad game, but it is far from a great one. It is fun in parts but only occasionally displays flashes of what it should have been rather than what it ended up as. It really has not escaped me the irony of the marketing tagline for Rage 2 being “Insanity Rules”. All the pre-release trailers and marketing hype had more ambition than what we got in the game itself which is a shame considering that it is a somewhat promising game. As it stands, I would not recommend anyone picking this up at full price but only if you really have nothing to play or it is on a sale.