Rage 2 Review
I know I played the original Rage when it came out way back in 2011, and I know it was a shooty, kinda open-worldy, post-apocalypty thing, but I can’t remember jack hell about it. I do remember it being ‘okay’, and it had some strong Mad Max vibes but I’ll be damned if it left a mark. A bit of digging around resulted in similar sentiments across the board from reviews and players alike, so I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that Rage 2 is a truly unexpected sequel. I know I’m definitely not alone in thinking just how barmy the advertising was with it too — because Rage 2 takes all the bleakness of a post-apocalyptic world and then just goes and gives everyone and everything in sight a metric f**kton of sugar (to be taken orally, nasally or intravenously; your choice!), then gleefully sits back to watch the madness unfold.
Why sugar and not some other, perhaps more potent, narcotic? Mostly due to the colour-palette of sickly pinks and popping blues reminding me of sherbet and fizzy sweets, but also because of the horrendous, shuddering, comedown you feel after blowing apart a Goon Squad with cackling glee with beautifully punchy guns, wonderfully juicy explosions and delicious sounding decapitations. The mania is intoxicating, but in the following stillness you realise your hands are shaking, you’re bug-eyed and your breathing is almost inappropriately heavy — you want to do it all again, you pyromaniacal, gun-toting, addict, you.
Rage 2 is a sequel to Rage only in that it’s set in roughly the same location and shares the same name as its predecessor. Make no mistake, there is nothing soft about this reboot. The Authority has returned to reign doom upon the survivors of the apocalypse with horrific amalgamations of machine and genetic splicing and it’s your job, as the last ‘Ranger’ (the survivors' elite soldiers loaded with nanotrites to give them superpowers), to stop their evil plans. It’s basically the same story as the first game, just with the word ‘returned’ added after the big bad is mentioned. It’s not going to win awards for originality. It should, however, win awards for being absolutely insane.
I definitely don’t remember much of a sense of humour in Rage, but developers Avalanche and id are definitely trying for one here, though it doesn’t land particularly consistently. It doesn’t have the outlandish charm of Borderlands, which it is definitely tipping its hat too, but it dabbles quite happily in its own ridiculousness. Stand out moments include anything associated with Mutant Bash TV (an arena mode to earn prizes), the voice and personality of the Phoenix (your main vehicle) and, oh yes, having Danny Dyer commentating your adrenaline-soaked rampage. The latter is totally optional, to be turned off at a click of a button, but I thoroughly enjoyed being egged on and told I was being ‘PROPAH NAWTAY’ everytime I blew some poor soul apart with my shotgun.
Speaking of guns, the feeling of how good the shooting mechanics are in Rage 2 are borderline inappropriate. If you’ve ever played the 2016 version of Doom, you’re going to feel some strong similarities here, just cranked up even further. Like Doom, Rage 2, wants you to get right into the thick of things — no sneaking around cover and sniping safely. It wants you to become an ichor-coated monster, and encourages this gruesome behaviour by every enemy dropping health upon death, but only being available for scant seconds before disappearing. Combined with an AI that is actually very accomplished at landing hits on you, you have no choice but to wade in up close and personal to blast goons apart quickly and very, very violently to get your rapidly depleting health back.
And boy, howdy, what Rage 2 lacks in variety of weaponry, it makes up for in just how much bloody fun they are to use. Every weapon is suitably meaty, from the humble assault rifle to the smart rocket launcher. Everything spits bullets like they’re going out of fashion with powerful controller feedback, and a wonderful ‘crack’ as the muzzle flares. I’ve gone on (and on) in previous articles about the humble shotgun being the FPS king of guns — and Rage 2’s offering gave me goosebumps with every claret-stained splatter. It felt far, far, too good to use. Though, I was also rather fond of the Firestorm Revolver, allowing you to send enemies on fire with a literal snap of the finger.
But even that isn’t good enough for Rage 2. No, you also have various nanotrite-fueled superpowers to give you a hand during a scrap — culminating in a manually activated ‘overdrive’, which just cranks everything right up to 11. You move faster, your vision is sharper, enemies are brightly coloured, your guns go absolutely berserk and you just become an absolutely sugar-rushed monster. It only lasts a few seconds — it’s all you need —but the comedown (as I’ve said earlier) is just awful as the shunt back down to normal speed can often feel very jarring, leaving you with an empty magazine and a lot of very angry goons right in front of you. During the sugar rush, you get abilities such as ‘slam’ and ‘shatter’, designed to send your opponents flying and splattering against walls in between the scream of your bullets.
Between the gore and loud noises, you’re going to find yourself spending a lot of time driving around the open world wasteland — which isn’t as bland as it sounds. While of course, you’re going to see the cliched barren landscape dotted with ruined buildings from days past, you are also treated to vast swamplands, full cities and an excellent day/night cycle that provides some excellent backdrops as you carve your way across the landscape. There’s an insane amount of things to do while you’re out and about, too. Most do boil down to ‘go out and kill the bad guys’, but there are plenty of opportunities to race other wastelanders, chase and hunt down convoys (by and large, my favourite activity to do) and hunt massive mutant abominations. Within all that, you also have to go out and search for Arks — pre-apocalypse capsules loaded with new weapons and abilities. These are not mandatory to find, barring a few key story plot points, but certainly make your playthrough much easier and more entertaining.
Accomplishing these tasks give you experience with various quest-givers dotted around the major settlements in the game, which in turn grants stat boosts, new abilities and additions to your arsenal. Rage 2 inundated you with a plethora of skill trees, equipment upgrades and weapon boosts — to the point where I would have to consciously remember to go and check every single skill/equipment tree within the menu, just in case I missed something. Rage 2 is packed to the gills with skill options to satisfy almost any kind of player.
I appreciate that I sound a little breathless talking about how powerful you feel running and gunning through Rage 2, grinning all the while, but it isn’t without its issues. There are some strong odours of last-gen when it comes to the game using almost the same five or six character models with different clothing when exploring a settlement. Despite there being so much to do, there are some real problems with repetitive gameplay (but, luckily, it’s very good gameplay) and frankly Rage 2 struggled to ruin consistently smooth on my faithful Xbox One. I would regularly have the game crash every time I played it at least once, and there was constant texture popping throughout my playthrough — especially when driving around. Consulting with some fellow gamers, this was not unique to Xbox One, but on PS4 also. PC players are reporting it runs fine, but only if you have a high spec machine. Also, for the first time ever, I experienced mild motion sickness and headaches playing a game on my TV screen (normally reserved for when I play VR without headphones), but this was solved when I turned off the motion blur via the settings menu. I can’t tell you why this happened, I can just tell you that I did — and it’s certainly something you should be conscious of during your time with Rage 2.
Despite these issues (which I’m sure, like all big releases these days, will be patched over time), I have had an incredibly fun time playing Rage 2. What I do wish, however, is that it just embraced its madness just a bit more. Sometimes it feels like there are two different games smashed into each other in terms of tone, and that can make for some rather jarring story moments where emotional weight just makes no sense. Many could argue that Rage 2 should perhaps swing the other way and be more serious — personally, I think that would be a cop out. We need more insane games that don’t take themselves too seriously, especially when they carry themselves like Rage 2: like a sugar-addicted child pushed into a misdiagnosis of ADHD purely because its parents don’t want to take responsibility for what a little hellbeast it's become.
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