Rage 2 Review
Open world games are a weird breed. The old elevator pitch of unchained exploration has been co-opted by overly familiar mechanics and invisible borders. One feels less freedom, and more rising panic, at your ever-expanding task list. Rage 2 sits neatly in the center of the open world spectrum. This game doesn’t break much in the way of new ground, but it elevates established ideas to a fun, frantic place. I wasn’t often surprised by what I experienced, but I was ceaselessly compelled.
This isn’t to say there aren’t a few problems right from the jump. Rage 2 proudly boasts a story best described as ‘included.’ You play as the last living Vineland Ranger, out for revenge against the cyborg that *yawns* killed all your comrades. This is fine, however. I never felt like the narrative was working against my enjoyment of the game. Rather, it was kind enough to get out of my way and let me stretch my legs. No, the meat of Rage 2 is cooked into the gameplay loop.
Hit The Ground Running
I have a short attention span for open world games. It’s never long before I’m dragging my heels or abandoning the game altogether. Rage 2, for all of its flaws, got its hooks in me fast. The mission system is streamlined, with little back-and-forth required to make speedy forward progress. There’s no leveling, and thus no level-grinding. If I wander off the beaten path, the enemies won’t magically transform into hulking bullet sponges. There’s only a handful of guns to experiment with, but they’re distinct enough to offer a lot of variety. Even with the limited number of weapons, I was immediately dedicated to acquiring them as soon as possible.
At first, I was less than impressed by the guns at my disposal. One shoots fast, one not as much. The usual fare. Then I was given the Firestorm Revolver. One trigger launches explosive slugs into your enemies. The second trigger detonates those slugs. I could hit six different opponents with a chain of fiery explosions. Or, I could shoot one guy six times, followed by a thunderous fireball that turned them into person-shaped ashes. There was no less than twenty minutes of gleeful cackling that followed my discovery of this gun. Other weapons are great, but none of them let me set fistfuls of people on fire from the other side of a bandit camp.
Not everything is mad laughter and day-glo carnage, however. The missions run the gamut from fun to filler. Harvesting meteors hit the ground is just as thrilling as it sounds, while every new Ark is another murder-based science experiment. Got a new gun? A new skill? Why not use it to dispatch this convenient horde of raiders? It sounds tedious, but I felt real joy the first time I used the Slam move in actual combat. Picture an endzone dance move that causes earthquakes. Meanwhile, the Authority sentries sit somewhere in the middle. They’re tense battles, at least at first. Once you find that weak spot though, it’s almost as routine as the meteors.
Smooth Moves and Shattered Limbs
The only other choke point I’ve encountered are the item chests. Clearing out a nest of bad guys is fast, frantic, and never has to happen the same way twice. It’s a slapdash ballet of blood, bullets, and blinding colors. Then you poke around the stage for three to thirteen minutes making sure you find every last storage container, ark chest, and data pad. Eventually, you get compass upgrades that make the search slightly easier, but it’s always a pain in the ass. Admittedly, this is a self-inflicted form of suffering. I don’t have to ‘complete’ all of these locations. I can always find supplies elsewhere if I’m stuck. The game is just designed in such a way that you’re gently encouraged to wrap all that up before you move on. In fact, driving through the world, you get a lot of gentle encouragement from the game.
Driving around in Rage 2 is great, so long as you ignore the constant sidequest notifications. They’re not all that intrusive, to be fair. You’ll just be humming along when your character (or someone on the comms) will point out the presence of a bandit den, or a supply depot, just off the main drag. Again, you don’t have to answer every summons. You could just keep driving, maybe take care of that later. Or like me, you end up pulling over seven times before you get to your actual objective, slightly richer and very late. This is a standard open world grievance, and not a very serious one at that. Driving is otherwise such a pleasant experience that I’ve opted to go the long way to several very distant destinations. Fast travel just doesn’t afford the same opportunities to mow down raiders and mutants as you go.
It would be easy to break this game down to its constituent elements. You drive, shoot, and soak up loot, slowly growing strong enough to rip the head off of an evil empire. Each piece holds satisfaction and joy that belies its base description, however. Combat in Rage 2 feels smooth as glass, with every gunfight playing to a violent rhythm. Travelling throughout the world is fast and engaging, with every pit stop bringing new wonders of varying quality. Even the stock-standard open world components have been polished to a vibrant sheen. While it hasn’t reinvented the wheel, Rage 2 still manages to deliver on every promise with ease. Among sandbox shooters, this game shines, crackles, and sparks.
***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***
- Combat feels terrific
- Gameplay loop is speedy and slick
- Mission system doesn’t waste much time
- Storage containers mess up game flow
- Easy to get constantly waylaid
- Certain missions get old fast