Okay, we’re seeing the post-apocalyptic setting a bit too often now. Remember when World War II games were everywhere and gamers got a little tired of them? Well, history is repeating itself for sure. That being said, there are some corkers set after the end of the world, and Avalanche Studios’ sequel to the underrated Rage is, unfortunately, not one of them. Rage 2 comes 8 years after its predecessor and, although it’s an action-packed romp full of good moments and wacky personalities, I can’t help but think that this is a missed opportunity.
Rage 2 takes place 30 years after the first game on Earth after it has been hit by an asteroid, leaving mankind sparse and fending for itself. Factions and settlements are formed with a new power claiming rule over them all called The Authority. Technology has advanced to the point where humans can be augmented with machines, with a fearsome head honcho of The Authority being more machine than man. You take the role of Walker, the last surviving ranger of an opposing militia, who takes up arms against The Authority, taking down bandits and mutants along the way. Walker is soon kitted out with a special suit that can be injected with nano technology, giving him superhuman powers and abilities; this is where Rage 2 shines brightest, but the story is far too short. If you played the story missions and nothing else, you could see the credits roll in around 5-6 hours, but that is magnified if you take on hostile settlements and other activities strewn across the wastelands.
To survive the wasteland, you have to be able to take on the nasties that litter it, and this is where Rage 2 comes into its own. The gameplay is fast, visceral and brutal, comparable to the recent remake of Doom, another Bethesda highlight. The weapons at your disposal are the standard pistol and assault rifle at first, but your arsenal is enhanced by discovering Arks, vessels that house upgrades for rangers, which can include powerful new weapons and abilities. These range from bomb firing revolvers and rocket launchers to the Dash ability, which zips you in any direction of your choosing to dodge projectiles or incoming attacks, and the Slam ability, which launches you in the air to hit the ground and cause a shockwave that sends enemies flying. It’s these abilities and special weapons that make Rage 2 a blast to play and encourage you to explore rather than get the story over with as quickly as possible. Other awesome abilities include Vortex, which is a thrown projectile that sucks in anything or anyone around it before exploding and launching it all in the air. What’s funny about Vortex is that it can be caught and picked up by any enemy you throw it at as they mistake it for a grenade. Then there is Shatter, a force push ability that strips away armor and turns lesser enemies into mush when splattered against a wall.
The map is full of locations to discover, although this is where Rage 2 falls apart. The activities available, aside from story missions, are only essential for upgrading your abilities or weapons using nanotrites, shards of special material that can be used as an energy source. These activities include clearing out bandit settlements and fuel depots and looting special chests identified by their pink lids and Ark chests which give you special items used for augmenting yourself via the Cyber Doc in any friendly town. These activities are completely optional as there are no side missions or tasks provided by townspeople or Walker’s friends. It’s a complete missed opportunity and makes the world feel empty. So too do the types of activities and locations on offer. Arks are futuristic structures that need to be cleared of enemies first before looting what’s inside, enemy settlements are all identical, varying only in size and roadblocks, and fuel depots are reasons to continue the action.
To get around, you have access to Phoenix, your first vehicle. This thing is armed with gun turrets but can be upgraded with missiles and defensive upgrades to make it your Magnum Opus. Unfortunately, it handles terribly. It is slow and sluggish, which makes the vehicular combat a chore. Spinning the camera to aim means you can’t see the road ahead, causing more damage to your vehicle than actually getting shot at. Luckily, you do automatically aim at enemies ahead of you, but if they get beside or behind you, you’re in trouble. The Phoenix doesn’t explode when it’s destroyed, which means you can use your suit’s powers to repair it whenever it is needed. The same can’t be said for the many other vehicles you can commandeer and take to a nearby town to claim as your own. Claimed vehicles can be delivered at a cost and have different weapons and attributes but can be destroyed, which means death, and they can’t be upgraded. These vehicles range from motorcycles and dune buggy-type vehicles to monster trucks, nuke-firing tanks and even flying hovercrafts.
Rage 2 has awesome combat, it’s exciting, brutal and with Ark upgrades, it’s impossible to critique. It’s everything else that’s the problem here. A vast open world that feels empty, a short-lived story, no side missions or meaningful subplots means Rage 2’s excitement dwindles to boredom fairly quickly. It’s a shame considering how good and different its predecessor was.
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 14th May 2019
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC