Platform: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Shooty Mcshooterson With Some Open World Bits Shoved In
Honestly, most of us were surprised to see Rage 2 announced at last year’s E3 (barring the leaks). And that one Andrew W.K tune to go along with its Burning Man-style party aesthetics combined with its open world post-apocalyptic gameplay. Oh, and having it co-powered by Just Cause makers Avalanche Studios is a nice bonus.
So what are the final results for this union between Avalanche and Id Software after dredging up this IP out of obscurity? Pure shooting bliss. Yes, this is coming from me, who loved 2015’s reboot of Doom for its plethora of shooting and twitch action. Rage 2 so far has come close to that stellar title in that regard when it comes to the patented “running around and blasting everyone in the face while staying alive” gameplay of yore.
The rest of the open-world bits surrounding Rage 2 and its “take down the big bad called the Authority” narrative? They don’t fare as well, but let’s focus on the bright side of this apocalyptic-fiesta first. At least, the side that matters in the grand scheme of things.
Weapons-wise, Rage 2 impresses. What the game lacks in weapon quantity, it solely makes it up with quality thanks to the inventive secondary fire modes each arsenal contains. Want to light up the place? The Firestorm Revolver lets you activate burn damage via the iron sights trigger. Need to fudge around with tethers and test Rage 2’s physics engine to the fullest? The Grav-Dart Launcher is your main baby, though you’ll have to fight a bunch of air-dropped armoured goons to claim your prize.
Rage 2 also proves once again that shotguns are Id Software’s forte. They seem to be the only FPS-centric developer that gets these close-ranged weapons right.
Rage 2‘s Combat Shotgun, which you’ll get way before the two-hour mark, has the best heft and kick when it fires. Its secondary fire is the perfect knockback weapon to throw opponents off cliffs and ledges (and deathtraps) since its range extends just slightly while lessening its spread and damage. Heck, even in an open field where the shotgun is theoretically nigh-useless, I can use my Ranger powers to bob and weave close to my opponents to deliver the coup de buckshot blast.
Speaking of which, the skills you get from your Ranger suit power-ups also makes this game akin to your Crysises of back then, where experimentation is key.
Most of the time, you’ll be fighting in sprawling battlefields with junk and scrap for cover/verticality to fight swarms of enemies in. Furthermore, holding the Focus button pings enemy locations temporarily so you know what you’ll be fighting and how you’ll be ambushing them.
In no particular order, your Ranger suit can shoot out a vortex that sucks enemies in, then blows up to scatter their bodies all over the field, lets you do a Shatter melee that breaks down armour, and perform a ground pound Slam attack that is amplified by the height you’re falling from. Bigger drop, bigger boom.
And how do you power up your skills and weapons? By getting weapon mods and nanotrites to amplify your skills. You also need feltrite (the game’s blue essence that’s part upgrade points and part health) to unlock weapon and skill tiers, so scouring every nook and cranny in the game is essential to get the most out of your Ranger.
The missions dished out by the three different factions net you Project Points, which you can use to upgrade your character tenfold. These range from clearing out bandit settlements to Authority sentry towers; all of which require you to use your powers and weaponry.
After 12 hour or so doing all of that while assaulting raider gas stations and funky “Smash TV” segments, I can:
-multi-select targets for my wingstick/boomerang side-weapon
-take less damage just sprinting and dashing into my opponents firing at me
-play tennis with grenades. Enemies chuck ’em in my direction? I just melee it back to their faces. Grenade on the ground? Melee it and it’ll eventually find its owner.
-warpshock enemy faces in and proceed to shotgun/melee them to kingdom come
-get into Overdrive quick.
Yeah, about that: Overdrive is when your character goes “Super Saiyan” and powers up his shots while also regenerates health back quick. The only way to activate it is if you fill up your “Kill Meter” until the skull icon starts shimmering, begging you to unleash the fury.
Different weapons have different Overdrive properties; your firestorm revolver now acts as a long-range flamethrower/firestarter while your bullet weapons just bifurcate enemies like butter. You can also unlock more perks via Project Points to get to Overdrive quicker, or just bolster it further.
You generally want to keep your kill count going with no break in-between so that you can Overdrive longer.
I usually save it for bosses and bigger foes as a rule of thumb, but when you start dealing with the Shroud, the Authority, and other heavily-armoured goons, you may want to start activating it when you get the chance.
I could go on about how Rage 2 offers a lot more options and playstyle choices that make killing and fighting in the wasteland a ton of fun. I could also go on how detailed and lush the post-apocalypse look, from your dirty sewer grates to your random forest swamp area which looks like a war-torn Florida county. Hell, there’s even a section in the game filled with bamboo for some odd reason, to which I’ll say “sure, why not? It’s their world!”
The bottom line is that Rage 2’s gameplay will sate your lust for gunplay and open-ended first-person combat. I won’t be going on about the game’s plot and open world, because clearly that isn’t the focus of the studio’s ambitions and work.
Story-wise, it’s not the most inventive scenario: as the last Ranger, you have to help out three factions to open up Project Dagger to take down the big bad known as the Authority. Fans of Rage, all three of you, will see familiar faces, and the town hubs and trade centres do look pretty and funky with its detailing, lighting, and overall landscape layout. But it’s nothing to shout about; the towns and hubs feel very barren much like the desert and wasteland it’s set on.
And lest I forget to add: the driving is also a bit on the uneven side. While the default car, the Phoenix, is fun to drive when fighting against heavily-armoured convoys and Fury Road groupies, you won’t be impressed with the other cars and big rigs in tow.
The game’s driving controls are not ideal for racing at all, thanks to how they turn way too fast and how the camera “turn-and-snaps” to the side too quick to the point you’ll be disoriented. And the less said about the audio hiccups and bugs that crop up time and again unless you update the game on day one, the better.
At the very least, all of this is just a mild albeit annoying transition that gets the job done. That job in question? To give you that lull sense of comfort before you get back to the heat of things.
In over 12 hours or so, Rage 2 doesn’t overstay its welcome and flexes its action muscles, all the while lets its open world backdrop become your playground of destruction. True, there’s a lot of busywork to do, but the actual combat and shooting make the eventual grind a tad more enjoyable than it should.
Until a game like Doom Eternal shows up to challenge our preconceptions on what makes a great shooter, Rage 2 is a great way to sate your shooter action jollies by the boatload. Dig in!
-Great punchy weapons; all hail this game’s shotgun!
-Lovely set of skills and perks to tinker with.
-Best shotgun in 2019 so far.
-Incredibly pretty game.
-Everything combat-related is exhilarating…
-…the exploration bits? Pretty substandard.
-Open-world feels lifeless.
-A few annoying bugs, especially on the audio side