When the original Rage was released in 2011, it was not really critically acclaimed, but due to some of the things it did well, like the animation and level design, it did manage to gain a cult following. However, even then not many were expecting to see a sequel from that game 8 years later, but I am genuinely glad we got one.
Rage 2 tells the story of Walker, a member of an elite police force called rangers that aim to protect the people of the dystopian setting. However, they are invaded by the Authority, an evil dictator-led organisation that wants to mould the new world into their image. This not only leads to a bombastic opening that hooks you in, but also to the death of most members, leaving Walker as the sole ranger of his community, hell-bent on revenge.
Unlike the last time around, the game has been co-developed by two studios, Avalanche and id software, who did the first one. Id Software has been responsible for the shooting and action side of things, whilst Avalanche has worked on the open world and the car combat. It’s a fusion that makes sense as both studios get to draw from their strengths, and Rage 2 serves as proof of that.
As id had previously made the excellent DOOM, you can really see them apply what they had learnt from it to Rage 2. The shooting is mechanically satisfying, the on-foot traversal is fluid and the enemies are varied with all different skills and attack patterns, really making you utilise your complete arsenal of guns and power. Not to mention, the game passes the Shotgun test, by giving you one of the best shotguns I have used in a shooter that actually works long range as well.
The powers are a new feature in this series, and it is by far one of the best things I have seen added to a first-person shooter. Not only do they really make you feel powerful with their polished vfx and impact, but they are seamless to use. For example, I ran into a shield carrying enemy for the first time, and this enemy tends to charge at you. So, I used my Rush ability to side step from the enemy, quickly turned around to use Grav-Jump (basically double jump) to lift myself high in the air. Since I have a skill upgrade where I can stay in the air for a few seconds whilst aiming in the air, I did that and managed to get a couple of shot into the enemy who was now looking the other way. To top off this power filled cake with a cherry on top, I unleashed my favourite move, Slam! A ground-shattering power that sees you shoot to the ground, causing a painful shock-wave to the enemy.
Very few games these days manage to give you powers that you can use in harmony, often because they are bottle-necked due to being tied to a single energy bar. However, they have cleverly subverted that issue by allowing each power its own cool down, giving you the option to stack powers on top of each other. Not to mention, certain powers like Slam are created with combinations in mind, where for example the higher you activate the power from, the more powerful it becomes, naturally working well with Grav-Jump.
The key behind taming Rage 2’s wild and often dangerous wasteland is learning to use these powers in combination with your weapons against unpredictable enemies who can surprisingly kick back your thrown grenades at you, in mid-air nonetheless, needing a little bit of creativity in their demise. The enemies really did surprise me quite a few times with their cool abilities to counter my attacks. It really makes the enemy feel like more than just cannon-fodder.
The map this time around is fully open, littered with side quests that you can expect from an avalanche game with both offensive and friendly vehicles travelling the dirt roads. While there isn’t anything too special about the open world itself, I believe it fits well with the theme of a dystopian world, so I personally had no issues with it. The best collectables however, are the power-ups based in these small arks that only a Ranger can enter. These give you either new weapons or power-ups, giving you an incentive to explore them.
What is interesting about this is that one of the ways you can locate this is by holding your focus button, which allows you to see these pillars of lights shooting to the sky from a distance. The source of these are the arks. However, it would have been cooler if we could use this ability in the car as well, as I had to kept getting out to just look for the beams as this ability just works on foot. I would have also appreciated more fast travel options to explored places, to save busy players some time.
In regards to traversal, you will have a quite a few cars at your disposal, all with different weaponry, however the poster car for the game is easily the Phoenix, a powerful vehicle with support for many different weapons. While I didn’t have much issue with the handling, a little more tuning could have been done to make the car more tightly controllable. In my opinion, Arkham Knight’s Batmobile could have been an inspiration, especially with how you can change between combat and traversal mode. Even then, the driving combat did not frustrate me, and Phoenix is quite kickass.
Whilst the combat is absolutely solid, and allows you to think creatively, the same can’t be fully said for the level design and player guiding, unfortunately. I had some issues with finding my objectives, particularly with side missions. Whilst I could see the pink paint and other outstanding indicators guiding me to a certain point, some mechanics were almost ignored.
Apparently, I had to press a switch to open a shutter in one case. That on its own wouldn’t be an issue, however the game never tells you beforehand about these particular switches, which are relatively small. So, for a moment I thought they weren’t interactable as the game hadn’t communicated it to me. They could have easily had a switch during the opening few missions where you enter the bunker to make you aware for it. Basically, some mechanics could have been communicated better.
Another nitpick I have had regarding mechanics communication is with the training sections. Every time you pick up a weapon or unlock a new ability, you are introduced to its usage via a brief training section, making you aware of the weapon or ability’s power. Tutorials are definitely a good thing, and I would be fine with this had id software not worked on DOOM.
I feel like they should have taken some lessons in regards to weapon introduction from the BFG section in that game. It was a fantastic buildup, and then as soon as you got the weapon, you had a straight hall crowded with enemies heading your way. Instinctively you’d fire, showcasing the raw power of the iconic weapon. In just a few seconds without any hand holding or tutorial screens, you knew how and when to best use the weapon. It would have been intuitive to have elements of that present here. But still, the tutorials are helpful, so I can’t complain too much.
What I particularly appreciated in this game is that your character Walker is fully voiced, giving him much more character as he comments on situations happening around him, and whilst the story itself isn’t anything too elaborate, some of the set pieces are genuinely cool, further elevated by voice acting. More developers need to do this in first person games, rather than using them as an excuse to give you silent characters.
One thing I was worried about initially was how they were going to handle the music, and whilst the game does have a general tongue in cheek feel, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted with the music. Luckily the music is fantastic, and while not composed by Mick Gordon, has riffs and samples quite similar to his work. Having a more dramatic approach with the music really complements the game’s often odd nature, giving situations more stake and urgency.
Overall, I have immensely enjoyed this game, and while the open world might not be anything innovative, I absolutely cannot drag down the rest of the game for it. The gunplay is exhilarating, the voice-over is well performed, and the superpowers are implemented in one of the best ways I have ever seen. I am glad we got Rage 2.
+ Polished Gunplay
+ Creative Ways To Combine Powers
+ Walker is Voiced
+ Adrenaline Pumping Original Music
+ Enemy Are Smart and Unpredictable
- Xbox One X Version 1080p