STAFF REVIEW of Rage 2 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Rage 2 Box art The better part of a decade has passed since we were first introduced to the zany, chaotic and action-packed wastelands of id Software’s RAGE. In gaming, and pop culture in general, that constitutes a long time. Thus, it was somewhat surprising when Bethesda announced plans to bring a sequel to fruition, and stated that it’d charged both id Software and Avalanche Studios with doing so.

Fast forward to today and we can now look back on RAGE 2, after having had the chance to go hands on with, and play through the post-apocalyptic shooter. Was it a good idea to bring the series back? In this reviewer’s opinion it certainly was. While RAGE 2 is not as good as its predecessor, or as memorable in various ways, it’s a very solid and fun shooter that offers pretty impressive gunplay and movement mechanics.

This new campaign takes place decades after the conclusion of its predecessor, and introduces us to a rebuilding world. Humanity has thrived in what remains of its former world, and has gone about attempting to recreate a proper civilization. Their efforts have been rewarded, too, with the return of some technology and certain plants, leading to a jungle-like section of the game’s open world. Through this communication, and their undertaken efforts, the region’s humans have also been able to construct several different towns, all of which have their own I.D., though despite all of that progress having been made, the world is still a perilous place. Bandits and marauders patrol the dusty roadways, mutants prosper underground and in certain hideouts, and bullets still speak louder than words. Progress may have been made, but danger still lurks everywhere in RAGE 2, meaning that traveling outside of the world’s camps and towns is a dangerous proposition.

Enter Walker, the last remaining (male or female) Ranger from an advanced settlement that is unfortunately no more. His or her story begins with a bang, after the Authority – the main enemies from the first game – return with force during the opening cutscene. Leading the way is familiar villain, General Cross, whose hatred for humanity knows no bounds.

Over the course of the game’s surprisingly short campaign, you’ll battle against different types of opposing forces, be it mutants, humans or members of the Authority, all while attempting to help bring a long dormant project to life. To do so, you’ll have to meet with and help three specific characters, who unfortunately end up being little more than glorified quest givers. In fact, none of the NPCs in RAGE 2 are very memorable, which is a disappointment. Then again, the story is mostly just an excuse to shoot and blow sh** up, which is something it succeeds at.

As was the case with Avalanche’s Just Cause 2, only a limited amount of story missions exist within RAGE 2. In total, there are only seven or eight, meaning that the majority of your time with this game will be spent doing side missions and activities. Once the opening mission concludes, the choice is yours as to who to talk to first and which missions to undertake, but the truth of it all is that there aren’t many to worry about. The three NPCs all offer two each, and that’s it.

The idea here is that one must complete open world activities and side missions in order to level up within each of the three different ‘factions’ (for lack of a better term). Certain things are tied to specific leaders, be it taking out convoys, attacking enemy outposts, killing giant monsters or completing arks. Speaking of arks, it’s important to mention that they are pivotal objectives, which help you improve Walker’s skills and weaponry. While they may present as optional fare, your best bet is to venture to as many of them as possible before you worry about getting to the end of the short story. If you don’t, you will likely miss out on certain firearms and special abilities, like dashing, slamming to the ground, putting up a bullet blocking blockade and both a shotgun and a rocket launcher, among others.

I made things a lot easier for myself by doing as much side content as possible before tackling any of the NPCs’ story missions. This meant searching for arks, killing the enemies that stood outside of them, and attacking bandit encampments, outposts and the like. In addition to this, I also took out mutants, searched for hidden chests full of money, and looted both chests and fallen meteorites in order to get feltrite crystals. The money went towards buying bullets, rockets, grenades, health items and upgrades for some of those things, while the feltrite crystals were used for both healing and upgrading skills, weapons and the like. Downed enemies drop them, and picking them up during battle can keep you close to full health, so long as you don’t wait too long.

You’ll need to get to level 5 in each project in order to unlock its second story mission, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem if you play like I did. Without even knowing that was how things worked, I set myself up well by getting to between levels 4 and 6 for each of the quest givers just by doing side missions and optional things. It didn’t take long, nor was it boring, and it allowed me to do most of the campaign missions without having to grind at all.

Truth be told, one of the biggest problems with RAGE 2 is that it’s overwhelming. The menu system is sluggish and full of different tabs offering upgrades for different things. Each one requires something different, too, be it nanites, project points, vehicle parts (for your main vehicle and other stored ones) or feltrite crystals. Keeping track of everything is a pain in the ass, just like navigating the menus.

You see, each of the three quest givers is entrusted with one special part of a bigger project, which everyone hopes will destroy the Authority. When you speak to and help them, it unlocks their project category in your menu system, but it all essentially just boils down to perks. Things like 25% extra ammo, no fall damage, extra grenades, increased health, better health regeneration and the like.

Easily the best thing about this game, though, is its combat. The gunplay is fast, fluid and sometimes even frantic, and the movement is certainly up to par. The result is a series of gunfights that are as fun to watch as they are to play. That’s a good thing, too, because RAGE 2 is filled with combat and is focused upon it. Outside of such battles, there’s not a lot to the game. It even comes into play within the open world, where enemies can be found at the side of the road, as can large towers that attack you on sight. The good news is you’ll have a trusty vehicle that can almost always fire a buttload of bullets, rockets or whatever else you’ve unlocked.

As one kills groups of enemies, a meter of sorts fills towards an overdrive ability. When triggered, this allows Walker to shoot more ammo, deal extra damage and blow bad guys up in even more visceral (and gore-filled) ways. It’s a great help, especially early on when the game is more challenging, since it can also regenerate your health. However, you’ll end up being so overpowered near the end of the game — at least on normal — that you might start forgetting about it.

Mutant TV thankfully returns, but it’s not as wild or as memorable as it once was, nor is it as prevalent. In my twelve or thirteen hours with this game (one or two of which were spent after completing the story), I only discovered two of them, and they appeared on the map. One was related to a story mission, while the other was not. The one that was part of the campaign appeared in combination with a race, which seemed to be the only organized race in RAGE 2. I found that disappointing, even though it was possible to challenge certain drivers to impromptu races out in the open wasteland.

The driving? Well, it’s decent. There’s nothing spectacular about it, and the vehicles you’ll need for the campaign are pretty limited. You’ll get an armored vehicle to start off with, will unlock and need a tank, and will also be given a buggy to race in. Some can also be unlocked by getting to level 10 in certain projects, but that takes a while and isn’t really necessary unless you’re after achievements. Other than that, it’s up to you as to whether you really want to hijack and store enemy vehicles, because they’re not exactly necessary either.

Simply put, there’s not enough wow factor or enough variety here to really make RAGE 2 great. Its campaign is short, and most of the content found within it (main and side) boils down to shootouts. They’re fun, but get repetitive after a while, and after twelve hours I was pretty much done with the game. Going in, I had expected this thing to be double that length, and hoped that it would be as great as the first one, which blew me away and had me addicted to my console for some time. That didn’t end up being the case, although I did have fun nonetheless.

RAGE 2 is a good and well above average game. It’s just not the great game that its predecessor was, or the great game it could have been. There’s too much repetition, and more style than substance. The open wasteland also isn’t as interesting as it could’ve been, as much of it is desolate and dull, with little going on unless you drive up on a camp, an ark, a monster’s lair, a ranger echo or a gas station that requires blowing up. Even then, most boil down to killing a bunch of enemies, looting the area and then leaving.

Once you finish the game, there will likely still be lots to do, but if you’re like me you’ll be somewhat bored of it all. It’s not like a lot of interesting new objectives open up at that point. It’s simply clean up and collectible hunting, by way of looking for chests, shooting balloons or finding one of the game’s other type of collectibles.

When it comes to presentation, there are easily more pros than cons here. RAGE 2 is a nice looking game, and one that sometimes looks quite beautiful, but it does occasionally tend to look muddy. The NPCs don’t look spectacular, and some of the environments are lacking in detail. It does run very well, though, with a stable frame rate despite all the craziness going on on screen.

The sound effects are boisterous and fitting, and really bring the firefights to life. Thus, it’s easy to get immersed into RAGE 2. The mixing and voice acting could’ve been better, though, because sometimes it’s difficult to hear what the NPCs are saying. Still, it’s hard to really complain about or slag the audio as it’s pretty solid overall.

With all that having been said, RAGE 2 is a game that is easy to recommend to people who like and are in search of good open world shooters. A masterpiece it is not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing. Although it’s not as great as I was hoping, I enjoyed my time with this sequel and am glad that I played it. It might not be a masterpiece, but it’s a fun way to spend ten or twelve hours.

**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which was played on our X. We purchased it.**

Overall: 7.1 / 10
Gameplay: 7.6 / 10
Visuals: 7.9 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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