At the time of writing this review, I have done almost everything there is to do in Rage 2. I’ve beaten every story mission, cleared every outpost and completed just about everything in the game that has to do with combat. Because the combat in this game is phenomenal.
That’s how I’m going to start this review, talking about the gameplay. id Software has proven yet again with Rage 2 that they reign supreme when it comes to first-person shooters, and a review covering a game with combat developed by them needs to have this feature front and centre before anything else
So as mentioned above, the combat in this game is some of the best I’ve ever seen, and it has both a weight and fluidity to it that is often times missing from other open world titles. It’s much more faster than the combat in the original Rage, and the game actually incentivizes players to keep on the move in order to be as effective at killing as possible.
There are two primary factors that encourage movement: A very fragile health bar and a resource that recovers health. Your character cannot take a lot of damage in this game, and staying in one spot for too long is almost always a death sentence. You have to keep on the move at all times to keep the enemies guessing.
And when you do take damage, you can quickly recover lost health by picking up the Feltrite, an unstable resource that disappears after a short while, that most enemies in this game drop upon death. Picking this up in time requires you to constantly push into enemy lines and get as close to your foes as possible, and this in turn not only provides you with a constant source of heath, but also creates some of the best action packed moments in the game.
Now the game doesn’t actually force you to play it fast and frantic like this if you don’t want to. You can always take your time with it and make use of the Health Infusion consumable to recover lost health instead, but Feltrite is much more plentiful, and this way of playing is just a whole lot more fun.
Now obviously there is no combat in an id Software game without a diverse range of firearms, and luckily each and every weapon in your arsenal in Rage 2 feels appropriately powerful. There are of course the three basic weapons that you get while playing the story: The Sidewinder Pistol, Ranger Assault Rifle and the Combat Shotgun, and then there are the more over-the-top Sci-Fi weapons that you have to find in the world: The Firestorm Revolver, Grav-Dart Launcher, Smart Rocket Launcher, Charged Pulse Cannon and the Hyper-Cannon.
Every one of these weapons is incredibly fun to use and some of them even have alternative modes of fire. The Firestorm Revolver for example allows players to shoot incendiary slugs at enemies with the primary fire, and then detonate them with the alternative fire, effectively burning off their armor. And the Combat Shotgun allows you to fire default spread shots with the primary fire, but then aiming down sights fires a singular slug with massive knockback. Similarly, the Smart Rocket Launcher fires regular rockets with the primary fire but aiming down sights allows you to lock onto enemies and fire off a barrage of multiple smaller missiles.
There is also a ninth weapon that is only available to players who purchase either the Deluxe or Collector’s edition of the game, and it’s the BFG-9000. Why such an iconic weapon was made an exclusive for special editions is beyond me, but players who only have the base game can find some solace in the fact that it’s so strong that it basically breaks the game, and I personally opted not to use it after unknowingly one-shotting a boss with it during the first couple of hours with the game.
There’s also the matter of the Grav-Dart Launcher, which basically allows you to shoot enemies with it and then tether them to surfaces or send them flying into space. It’s really fun to use when you only have to deal with 2 or 3 enemies, but it’s not really practical in encounters with more than those numbers.
Players also have access to a number of different Nanotrite Abilities that are both movement and combat oriented. There are the Dash, Rush and Grav-Jump movement abilities that do exactly what they sound like, and then there are the combat focused abilities like the Shatter, which is a kinetic blast, and Slam, which is a ground pound. Players also have access to a shield with the Barrier ability, and a tiny singularity that pulls enemies towards it with the Vortex ability.
The most powerful skill in your repertoire however is the Overdrive ability which, upon building up your kill multiplier, sends your character into a berserk state when activated. When this is active all of your attacks do more damage, you recover health and even your weapons start to function differently. It’s incredibly powerful, and players who play fast and dangerous get the most use out of it.
The other big combat system in the game is the vehicular combat, and it’s really not as good as the regular gunplay. There are encounters out in the world where you have to take down a convoy or something of that nature that allow you to participate in vehicular combat, but it’s just not all that fun.
It involves you driving after enemies in your vehicle, locking on, and then firing your vehicle-mounted weapons, Machineguns, Mortars, Rockets, etc. at them until they blow up. There is a bit of a variety in the fact that some stronger shielded enemies must initially be attacked with rockets to bring their defenses down, but it’s mostly the same thing over and over again.
Actually driving in general, which is necessary to traverse the map, is just okay. It isn’t anything special, but it gets the job done. I actually felt that vehicles handled pretty awkwardly when they had to turn around corners really quickly in races.
And while players do have access to quite a few different vehicles in the game, I actually never opted to drive anything other than the trusty Phoenix we get at the start of the game. It’s the only vehicle that can be upgraded, has the best weapon attachments, and it controls the best out of all the cars in the game. The only other vehicle you’ll want to use is the Icarus Hovercraft that lets you fly over the map, but you don’t unlock that until a bit into the game.
And speaking of unlocks, there are a lot of upgrades available for the player in Rage 2. There are vehicle upgrades, weapon upgrades, ability upgrades, and even 4 different project trees that add minor improvements to the gameplay.
You need Feltrite, and other unique components to upgrade all of these things, and you get them from completing activities around the game world or finding them in Ark Chests. So for example, in order to upgrade the Phoenix, you need Auto Parts and these can be found either by taking down convoys, winning races, or just finding them in Ark Chests. Similarly, you need Nanotrite Boosters to upgrade abilities, and Weapon Core Mods to upgrade weapons.
And while the map of the game isn’t exactly as massive as some maps we’ve seen in other recent games, it has a lot of locations to visit and find these components in. There are many enemy outposts, mutant lairs, and settlements to find.
There are also Arks hidden all over the map, and these are where players find the weapons and abilities that they can make use of over the course of the game. Most of these are not part of the main story, and so it is entirely possible for players to complete the game without finding some of these weapons.
But other than these set locations, the map is really really bland. Like I understand that this is supposed to be a post-apocalyptic setting, but that doesn’t mean that world has to be devoid of any personality. There are actually multiple different locations in the world that are so bland, that even after 30 hours with the game I could not tell them apart from one another.
Even while driving, you mostly just stick to the road and never actually explore out of your way all that much. Firstly because there isn’t really anything to explore out in the world apart from the designated locations, and secondly because the vehicles don’t perform all that well off-road. It’s almost like this was a design choice by the developers that’s meant to discourage curiosity.
I heard somewhere online that Rage 2 was basically a corridor shooter where the levels were separated by long instances of driving, and I kind of have to agree with that point.
Now I’m a sucker for a good narrative in a video game, and Rage 2 does not have that. It follows our protagonist Walker, who can either be a man or a woman, on their quest to take down the futuristic militant faction known as the Authority before they can carry out their objective of massacring all unmutated humans and establishing themselves as the rulers of the wasteland.
I was actually genuinely surprised at the start to learn that this plot was a direct continuation of the events of the original Rage, and was instantly engaged. But soon after both my attention and interest in it started to wane. The Big Bad villain was bland, the ally characters you meet are bland and just about everything about the writing is average. There are some really interesting encounters in the game, but they are buried underneath the weight of all of the other un-interesting ones.
I’m not really disappointed though, mostly because I never actually jumped into the game expecting a good story. And chances are that if you’ve been looking forward to this game, then neither were you. Would a good story have been appreciated? Absolutely. Does a lack of it take away from my experience of the game? Absolutely not.
In conclusion, Rage 2 has a phenomenal combat system that will keep you hooked even into a second or third playthrough, because this was crafted by the best of the best. It’s addicting, and I have no doubt that I’ll jump back into the game as soon as I’m done with this review.
The world and story on the other hand needed a lot of work. And while the story can more or less be excused, the bland world cannot. The vehicular combat could also have used some work. It’s not terrible, but when we take into account just how good the regular combat is, it fails to leave it’s mark.
Rage 2 is out now on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC. It was developed by Avalanche Studios in conjunction with id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks. This review covers the Xbox One version of the game.
The review copy was provided by the publisher.
Rage 2 Review
While I cannot hide my disappointment with the things it does wrong, Rage 2 is nonetheless a brilliant first-person shooter. There’s an addicting quality to its combat that we’ve seen before in games like DOOM, and it’s going to keep drawing players back for more, again and again.