Rage 2 Review – A Wild Carnival Full of Fun and Destruction

    Title: Rage 2
    Developer: Avalanche Studios / id Software
    Release Date: May 14, 2019
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Bethesda
    Genre: First-Person Shooter

What does it take to stand out from the crowd? Is it a fresh, new look? Perhaps, a vibrant, unique personality? Or, maybe, just a whole damn mix of everything and anything that’s awesome? These questions come to mind when thinking about open-world shooters as these games are a dime a dozen.

Having played id Software and Avalanche Studios’ co-developed open-world and insane shooter Rage 2 earlier this year, and highlighting that the game’s not your typical open-world shooter, it’s clear that I thought it stood out from the massive crowd of open-world shooters that all promise to be “vast” and “epic”. What it is about Rage 2 that doesn’t make it a slug-like slog is simple: it’s fun, chaotic, and loud — however, there are parts to it, like the story, characters, and world-building that might make players rage a little.

Rage 2 is set in a post-apocalyptic world where an asteroid has annihilated a good chunk of the earth’s population. If that isn’t bad enough, ruthless and bloodthirsty gangs roam about as they’re on the hunt to scavenge what remains — killing those that dare to challenge them. To top it all off, what you’ll be really worrying about is the menacing General Cross and the tyrannical Authority who seek to rule with an iron fist. As Walker, the last Ranger of the wasteland who’s basically like a super soldier (who you can choose to be a male or female protagonist), it’s up to you to rage against the machine that is the Authority — taking down thugs along the way — in a crazy fight for justice and freedom.

While Rage 2 follows the events after the first Rage, there’s absolutely no need to play the original to understand the story and characters in the sequel. The game essentially is the equivalent of that of a post-apocalyptic action movie where things have gone to shit and all that’s left is to survive or die. All of the characters involved in this deadly masquerade of survival aren’t all that memorable, though. The primary culprit for this is that Rage 2 tries to do too much with its narrative, it wants to be comedic and wild with its edgy jokes and moments, but it also tries to be overly dramatic at times which just feels so out of place.

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To put things in perspective, I honestly laughed a few times during the game’s serious moments and was tempted to skip these moments all together. However, I did enjoy female Walker’s sassiness. With that said, ultimately, the characters and story aren’t going to keep you playing — it’s Rage 2’s “do anything and everything you want” open-world gameplay, and its energetic and gratifying combat that will.

Rage 2 is a bloody, chaotic playground full of fun toys to mess around with that never gets boring — unless you simply jump from mission to mission. The main toy in this playground of sorts is the superhero-like abilities, known as Nanotrites, that you can acquire. These Nanotrites are in Arks, that are kind of like treasure chests, which are scattered across the wasteland you’re in. Each Nanotrite is both handy and insanely rad to have since they make combat so much more satisfying, like the Slam ability that’s an epic ground pound which can clear out hordes of enemies in an instant. Enemies, however, can be difficult to take down, so expect to get into some tough battles.

With that said, combine the Nanotrites with the full arsenal of upgradeable weapons at your disposal, and you got yourself one heck of a good time, especially since the first-person gunplay is so quick, smooth, and wicked. What’s more is that there’s the ultimate ability, Overdrive, that transforms players into a beefed-up powerhouse that adds yet another layer of fun with the game’s impressive, intuitive combat.

On a little side note, for all the shotgun fans out there, I’m happy to report that the shotgun in Rage 2 is so freakin’ good. Each weapon has two shot types. For the shotgun, the primary shot type packs a serious punch, but the second option lets you blast foes away — leading them to get splattered on a wall, or if at a cliff, drop to their deaths. Also, the exploding-bullet revolver, Firestorm Revolver, that you can shoot a few rounds and detonate each with just a button press, is also satisfying.

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Combat is the delicious bread and butter of Rage 2, but exploring its open-world is the full-on, eat-whatever-you-care-to-eat buffet that can be as satisfying and plentiful as your heart desires. Essentially, it’s up to the player to decide how things go, but for me, there was never really a dull moment traversing across the game’s open world as there was always something that I wanted to do. However, I wish that the open world was more connected to the story and characters — it essentially is a big space filled with several missions to choose from. Going through the missions is good and all, but it would’ve been great to get a sense of reward for completing them, like perhaps a story snippet that revealed the past story of one of the main characters.

Sure, I wasn’t that interested in the characters with the main story missions, but all the missions, from the main ones to the side ones, are pretty enjoyable. The core missions are well-structured, full of moments that always keep you on an adrenaline rush, but aren’t dragged out for far too long, which make them engaging. The side missions, on the other hand, may seem more like a chore list, but really, I had a blast chasing down massive convoys and taking them down, completing tough bounty hunts, and winning fast-and-furious races. To put it simply, Rage 2’s world fulfilled my creative and curiosity needs.

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Going back to the topic of racing, though, the Phoenix, the main car/tank vehicle you have, is without a doubt a huge plus with the game’s fun factor. It just is so badass and Mad Max-like, with its great selection of weapons and upgrades, well-crafted handling — and horsepower that’s no joke. There are other vehicles that can be used, like a broken-down enemy vehicle or a futuristic gyrocopter, but really, the Phoenix is god-tier.

Exploring around the world of Rage 2 is even grander thanks to the game not having the usual bleak-and-lackluster color palette, like in the previous game. Rage 2 features a more vibrant, colorful, and sprawling world that has five distinct areas which are mostly fun to stroll through. The reason I say “mostly” is because three of the areas of the five areas are well-developed, full of life, but the other two, which you need to discover, are somewhat underwhelming and empty. Since there are plans to add even more content to Rage 2 in the near future, perhaps these two areas will be developed more — only time will tell, I suppose.

I did like, however, that I wasn’t restricted when exploring the wasteland, as I could go anywhere I’d like. Just a heads up, though, the introduction is very underwhelming, and this is mainly because visually and level design-wise, it looks so unfocused to the point that it was thrown in at the last minute. Other than that, the visuals are nice enough, and the sound design is impressive.

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Rage 2 isn’t a snooze fest, it’s a wild carnival full of fun and destruction. Sadly, the game’s lackluster, disjointed narrative and characters make the vast open world less memorable. If you’re going into Rage 2 to just go on a full-throttle, no-holds-barred rampage, you won’t be disappointed at all.

Score:
/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brad Crespo

Editor-in-Chief - On a quest to play as many new games as possible while trying to finish an endless backlog.