There’s hardly a feeling more satisfying than using Rage 2’s vortex ability to suck in an enemy phalanx, and then finishing it off with a grenade. Or, perhaps, massacring waves of mutants with the best combat shotgun gaming has to offer.
It’s not surprising that combat would be Rage 2’s greatest takeaway when you consider that it was co-developed by Doom (2016)’s id Software in conjunction with Avalanche Studios. Unfortunately, Rage 2’s combat system doesn’t nearly make up for its shortcomings and misdeeds as an open-world game.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, players assume the role of either a male or female Walker, the last ranger, a super soldier that can utilitize the story’s ambiguous pre-apocalypse tech known as Nanotrites. When the General Martin Cross, leader of the game’s primary enemy faction – the Authority – slays Walker’s adoptive provider, the story is set in motion: Walker must defeat Cross and prevent him from creating the clones that give him life eternal. This is as deep as the story will get.
Along the way, Walker will gain new abilities and weapons to aid on her (I played as a woman) mission. It’s these abilities that make Walker a badass super soldier. She can blast armored enemies with the shatter ability, create barriers to shield herself from enemy fire, and go into a superstate known as overload to enhance her arsenal.
It won’t take long to see the issues in Rage 2’s narrative. First and foremost, there is almost no characterization. What little glimpses we do get into a character’s motivations feel forced or trite. Characters will die, but there will be no grief from the player because the game failed to make us care. Other characters will, but their tears for the deceased will be those of a crocodile.
Thankfully, if you’re only playing Rage 2 for its story, you’ll only have lost about 5 to 10 hours. But delving outside of the story and combat mastery won’t net you any real benefit either. You’ll spend hours upon hours doing the same few side quests and fighting the same few factions. Essentially, every side quest will ask you travel to this location to kill this group and collect this thing. Some missions will even drop the killing step, which is a shame because that’s all you’ll ever look forward to. That may be a bit reductive, but not too much.
This wouldn’t be a problem either if Rage 2’s world wasn’t so boring. Between side missions, you may find the occasional enemy skirmish or vehicle race, but you’ll never find anything worth going off the beaten path.
Even the game’s other features aren’t worth delving into. You can go to the derby and race or go to the Mutant Bash arena and kill the same mutants you can kill anywhere else. The prizes at these events can also be obtained anywhere else, save for a few weapon skins.
And while the combat may be have been the best experience to garner from Rage 2, it does have a few kinks to work out. Not all weapons are created equal in Rage 2, and it’s unfortunate that the more creative weapons are also the most lackluster. Hitting enemies with the Grav-Dart launcher to later send them flying across the battlefield was always a hoot, but it never felt practical when the combat shotgun and assault rifle offered better crowd control. The same can be said for the Firestorm revolver, a weapon with which you could peg enemies with incendiary rounds to later ignite in a great ball of fire.
Still, to say my time with Rage 2 was entirely dreadful would be a lie. The game had a charm that alleviated some of the tedium I felt when playing. I enjoyed its punk neon aesthetic, a nice departure from the boring washed out colors typical of the post-apocalyptic genre. Elevator music will sometimes drown out the mayhem when entering an elevator, only to abruptly cut back when the doors have opened. While cliché, these moments always elicited a quick giggle.
Rage 2 wasn’t a cohesive experience. Running into the fray always garnered a bit of glee, but it was awkward to follow that up with anything else the game had to offer. If Rage 2 was a linear first-person shooter, it would be a much better game even at the expense of appearing as a Doom clone – though I think the combat offers enough differences to differentiate the gameplay.