While single-player games aren’t anywhere near extinction, I think most will agree they’re much harder to find today than in previous generations. It seems like nearly every new title uses some sort of multiplayer component or live service offering to extend its lifespan instead of the “one and done” approach of games of yesteryear.
Therefore, the announcement of Rage 2, a strictly single-player open-world first-person shooter, came as a pleasant surprise at a time when games never seem to end. Sure, the game already had a roadmap for future DLC announced at launch; however, if you really wanted to, you could just play through the campaign, watch the credits roll, and be done.
This straightforward, “what you see is what you get” presentation is apparent by how the game was marketed and how it delivers its content. In addition, the goal of this review is to assess the overall quality of Rage 2’s offerings and help you make an informed decision as to whether or not it’s worth your time and money.
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Rage 2 is an aesthetically pleasing game that’s able to work around the usual trappings games set in post-apocalyptic wastelands fall into, which are brown and muddy visuals due to a lack of diversity in environments. It does so by peppering bright-colored graffiti throughout its world and incorporating noticeable differences in terrain and enemy types in each of its six regions, which include a lush jungle, a swamp area, a barren dessert, and the rest falling somewhere in between.
They all feel at least slightly distinct, with some standing out more than others, and impact combat and traversal in subtle ways. At first glance the game’s world seems massive and filled with an infinite number of enemy camps and notable locations to discover; that’s until you realize that a large portion of it is just empty. The saving grace here are the enemy camps, which each feel uniquely designed and vary in terms of size, verticality, and appearance.
Combat looks most impressive, thanks to the game’s great UI design. Whenever you’ve just killed an enemy, a red skull will appear above your reticle to indicate they’re dead. Your focus ability allows you to see enemies through walls, highlighting their bodies in bright purple.
These small details come in handy during chaotic gunfights, especially when you factor in your character’s special abilities, which have a tendency of cluttering up the screen. However, this is a fair trade off since performing each power makes you look like a super hero and often results in enemies being turned into bloody messes, their bodies sent flying, or some combination of the two.
I played the game on a PS4 Pro and spotted a noticeable delay when switching between tabs in the game’s touchpad menu, likely tied to performance. This setback became increasingly annoying the more I played, especially when trying to upgrade my character and figure out which skills to spend resources on.
I was surprised to see Rage 2 continue the story from the original Rage, given most people seem to have forgotten much of its plot. However, it’s never hard to make sense of what’s going on and the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined from the start, probably a bit more than I’d like.
This is where Rage 2 performs most poorly, as the game constantly simplifies characters and plot points to be as black and white as possible, offering little room for personal interpretations. For one, the player character “Walker,” who can be either male or female, is extremely bland. There are attempts to make them appear relatable and provide you with a justifiable “call to action”; however, these never truly resonated with me.
Additionally, a majority of the other main characters feel just as one-note and forgettable as Walker, which results in a lot of uninspired and generic feeling dialogue exchanges. The only exception would be Doctor Antonin Kvasir, an old scientist and ally who’s extremely selfish and sarcastic. While a character like that may not sound like the best person to have on your side, it makes for more interesting interactions; I’d much rather have a cast of eccentric underdogs than a band of super serious good guys
By the end of the game’s campaign I felt like I had barely made a chip in the wasteland’s corruption. Sure, I had eliminated one major threat, but a seemingly infinite number of gangs, monsters, and secret organizations were still looming over the horizon. There’s also the issue of Walker not experiencing any sort of personal growth or grand realization, as they’re practically the same person they were at the beginning, except with a lot more guns and superpowers.
The flaws in Rage 2’s story may have detracted from my overall enjoyment with the game but it’s important to note that gameplay is the real focus here. If you’re hoping for a rich narrative and well written characters, you should look elsewhere.
Creating fast-paced first-person shooters is id Software’s bread and butter. Watching Walker execute bandits and mutated monsters was extremely satisfying in a way that reminded me of 2016’s Doom. Identifying and taking out targets with both weapons and abilities has a certain crunch to it, which is intensified by enemy body parts that rip off and the subsequent bursts of blood that follow.
Still, it took me a while to get used to Rage 2’s combat since I have been conditioned by other shooters to hide behind cover and take out enemies from a distance. Instead, the game expects you to be fighting up close and personal while constantly moving. This is emphasized by the fact that enemies drop healing items when killed and a majority of weapons are designed for close-range.
Speaking of which, I found both the weapons and special abilities, called “Nanotrites” were usually hit or miss. I most enjoyed the shotgun, which has very generous spread and whose shells can be converted into a concentrated single-slug when aiming down sights. For the abilities, my favorite was “Slam”, which has you launching a few feet into the air before slamming down to the ground and causing an AoE shockwave that sent enemies flying.
While Rage 2 greatly delivers on combat, it falls short when it comes to traversal, namely driving. Don’t get me wrong, the driving is completely serviceable for an open-world game, it’s just not fun. Vehicles never seem to go fast enough, even when behind the wheel of the nimble “Chazcar”, which is primarily used for in-game races. Handling is also terrible, especially when driving off-road to take a shortcut.
For a game that was developed in conjunction with Avalanche, the studio behind the 2015 Mad Max game, I expected the driving and vehicle customization options to be much better. About halfway through the game I had fully upgraded “Phoenix”, which is the stock vehicle you’re given at the start. It was at this point that I accepted the driving sucked and shifted my efforts towards using fast-travel and traveling by foot as much as possible.
The Final Verdict
Rage 2 may be one of the most “okay” games I’ve ever played. It was neither remarkable nor completely awful, falling somewhere in the middle. Its combat stands out for providing a delightful power fantasy where you can summon a black hole and blow up a guy’s head all in the same breath.
While I’d like to have seen more attention paid towards developing a more interesting story, I can appreciate allocating resources to make combat feel refined and satisfying as possible. However, there’s no room for poor driving mechanics in an open-world game where travelling by vehicle is practically a necessity. If there’s ever a Rage 3, I’d prefer the option to just hitchhike between locations.
What We Loved
- Satisfying combat
- Bright and colorful open-world
- Diverse environments
- Well-designed enemy camps
- Great UI design
What We Didn’t Like
- Empty open-world
- Slow and cumbersome menus
- Forgettable story
- Bland protagonist
- Terrible driving mechanics