I might have been in the minority when it came to those who enjoyed id Software’s 2011 post apocalyptic shooter Rage. The combination of first person shooter and open world vehicular combat may not have been revolutionary but it was a very solid shooter and was an impressive technical showcase even if the world itself could feel a little too barren. If anything it made me want to see a Fallout game powered by this engine as it seemed like a perfect fit. Unfortunately that was never to be.
Now in 2019 a sequel finally arrives from Avalanche, the developers behind Mad Max and Just Cause. Advertising really pushed the punk aesthetic which did help make Rage 2 stand out from similar games in this setting but there’s more to it than that. First impressions do make it clear though that this is a game building on what Rage did right but it’s now within a game world that I feel better leverages both first person and vehicular combat.
The story itself takes place after the events of the first game but isn’t directly tied to it. Descendants of Arks, lifeboats for people who escaped the asteroid fueled disaster first covered in the original game, have awoken and begun to settle the world for themselves. You play as Walker (either male or female) a survivor of an attack by the cybernetic General Cross which has devastated your settlement. Being the last of a group of enforcers known as the Rangers, who have access to technologies from these Arks, you now have to travel the wasteland and find a way to defeat Cross for good.
The biggest thing that struck me with the world of Rage 2 (compared to the first) is how much more alive the world feels. Vehicles are always travelling roads and fights are constantly breaking out between factions irrespective of whether you are invited over or not. There’s even travelling traders barelling down the roads which have slot more personality than the Fallout versions. We’re not talking GTAV levels of clockwork city here with all that is happening but it’s enough to make it feel like a lived in place. Dotted around the map are settlements of which some are friendly but a lot of the smaller ones are the opposite. There’s a lot of Arks and technology to find amongst these locations and if you want to buff up your character as much as possible you’ll want to visit as many as you can. Mutant Bash TV, the game show that doubles as in-game challenge rooms, makes a return too.
As you play you past the game’s introductory mission, you soon find that putting on the suit and becoming a Ranger provides a considerable advantage over the enemies you’ll face. It’s your own little super suit that enhances your abilities substantially. In addition you, your starting vehicle and the weapons you acquire all have a large assortment of upgrades which will take time to get the best from. Once again making sure you scrounge for every available resource is key to maxing out your character. With the difficulty increasing as you go deeper into the map you’re wanting to be getting all the upgrades you can possibly build.
Visually the game is pretty good with detailed environments and characters that move well within it. Some of the enemies you face are grotesque and that’s even before they explode from a critical hit or shotgun blast. A lot of NPCs clearly lack detail though which is noticeable when compared against the main characters who like to get right in your face. The variety of encampments I’ve seen so far has really helped in making the map locations feel unique. I’ve enjoyed the audio and it’s worth turning the volume up if you like things that go bang and boom. Best thing about the game though is the combat. The guns feel great and there’s no shortage of barrels to shoot and set off some epic explosions. That coupled with your Ranger abilities can make the first person combat feel like an over the top action movie. Your car is handy in a fight too. Even in its base configuration it’s a capable machine with auto aim for the guns making it useful on the roads and even useful for taking down the first wave of enemies at an encampment before you storm in.
There’s a lot I’m liking about the game but it’s certainly not perfect. Having to find every hidden crate before an area is marked as completed can be a scavenger hunt in the worst possible way and you can feel like wasting a lot of time doing it. An upgrade can let you track these but it does take time to get to that point in the game. The weapon selection wheel is not overly intuitive as it doesn’t swap a new weapon for the one you are wielding but instead for the one you’re not… something I found very confusing in a firefight. This is mostly nitpicking but the first has an impact on your exploring and in the case of the second it’s a surprising quirk to see in an id Software backed shooter where having fun with your guns is a big part of the game.
Maybe what I like best about Rage 2 is that it doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is and that’s to travel the world and shoot up a whole lot of bad guys in some cool ways. Any political or artistic statements are lost due to the fact I now have a gun that shoots bullets that I can remote detonate. Sometimes that’s just all you need. 😉
Rage 2 is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Played on an Xbox One X via Game Pass.