Rage 2 is a game filled with adrenaline-pumping highs and yawn-inducing lows.
Set many years after the events of the original Rage, it presents itself as something zanier. And to a large degree, it is. But it’s also tonally a little inconsistent. Wasting no time in in setting things up for your great adventure, Rage 2 initially gives the impression that it’s going to be an enjoyably off-the-wall shooter, but then mires you with boring dialogue. And many of its characters seem all too serious. It would have been better if it had leant more on the crazy.
Rage 2‘s main problem, however, is that its open world feels wasted. You get a vast apocalyptic wasteland to explore, and as you drive around there are some brilliant touches that give you the impression that it was once lived in. There’s a nice variety to the map, too, allowing you to drive from sandy dunes, to a boggy swamp and even a lush forest in one playing session. But it’s not a world you can feasibly explore on foot. And there’s not much point, anyway.
Spread across the map are enemy-controlled locations that ask you to do a number of things to “complete” them. You might have to kill everyone there, for example, destroy a sentry turret, or venture underground and take down a hulking giant called a Crusher. The tasks are repetitive, but the game’s combat – which I’ll get to later – makes them fun overall. What’s not fun, however, is also having to scour each location for storage containers, data pads and Ark Chests. Only by finding them all will a location be considered “completed”. And you’ll also need the contents of storage containers and Ark Chests to make the game fun.
As you can imagine, then, much time is spent wandering around locations after you’ve killed all enemies. The lids of storage containers are bright pink in colour, which should make them easy to find, but they’re often hidden in darkness or placed somewhere that’s a bit awkward to get to. Thankfully, you can eventually unlock an ability that lets you know how close you are containers, data pads and Ark Chests, taking some of the tedium out of finding them, but it can still be a bore.
Also a bore is the fact that between these locations, there’s not really anything to do. You might encounter an enemy or two, but it’s not worth getting out of your vehicle to deal with them. You just drive from one location to another, enjoying the scenery as you go. Even the odd convoy you encounter while driving around fails to provide entertainment; you quickly learn that it’s not worth trying to take them on until you’ve seriously upgraded your trusty Phoenix.
Basically, Rage 2‘s open world feels kind of pointless, but you need to engage in it to make the game’s highlight shine brightest: its delectable combat. Heading straight through the game’s game story missions as soon as you can likely won’t take you more than about 10 hours, but in doing so you’ll witness the game’s final anticlimactic scenes with only a small amount of your possible arsenal and abilities available. And trust me, you want to unlock them all.
Without any additional abilities or weapons unlocked, Rage 2 is essentially a colourful DOOM. Your shotgun will be your best friend, and you’ll love introducing it to your enemies’ faces. It’s fun for a while, but you’ll yearn for something to spice the action up. And that can be achieved if you scour Rage 2‘s open world for Arks; mysterious structures that house new abilities and weapons to aid you on your journey.
Plunder all these Arks and you’ll be able to jump in the air and pound the ground with force, turn enemies to mush with a powerful blast of energy, and run at insane speeds for a short period of time. And there are other abilities, too, which can all be upgraded to make them more helpful or destructive. When all of your abilities are maxed out, you’re pretty much a superhero, able to swiftly move from enemy to enemy and take them down without breaking a sweat.
On the weapons front, even once you’ve unlocked them all you’re likely to find yourself using the shotgun a lot – it is perhaps the best shotgun ever committed to a videogame. It’s just so meaty and satisfying to use. You will use other weapons in certain circumstances though, and they all have something unique to offer. Most of them have alternate fire modes, too, as well as unique effects while using them during Overdrive – your special powered-up state that requires a meter to be charged.
When combined, your pool of weapons and abilities make Rage 2‘s combat some of the most enjoyable you can engage in. Honestly, you won’t care so much that the open world is dull, you’ll find that it provides just enough time for your adrenaline levels to drop before you happen upon another location where you can slaughter everything in sight in style once again. Rage 2 is effectively carried by its combat – it’s just that good.
Unlocking all weapons and abilities before finishing the game will pad out its length to around 20 hours, though you’re plonked back into the open world afterwards if you want to explore some more and clear out additional locations. And you might just do that simply because of how much fun it is to make your enemies explode. You’re never particularly blown away by Rage 2, yet it’s hard to tear yourself away from it once it has you in its grasp. Even the game’s sketchy visuals and occasional bugginess don’t drag it down too much.
Rage 2 isn’t the biggest game in the world. Nor is it the prettiest, or the most polished. Once you’ve explored its tame open world enough to open up your combat options however, it doesn’t really matter. In the heat of battle, the only thing you’ll be experiencing while playing Rage 2 is sheer joy. And it’s good enough to make all the boring bits in between feel worthwhile. It’s not perfect, but it shows that id’s brilliant brand of combat can be enhanced and implanted into an open world. Hopefully the open world will be better next time though, so the experience is more consistent.