When it was first revealed that we would be getting a sequel to 2010’s RAGE, many of us didn’t know what to think. A common response was “why?” RAGE 2 was developed by Avalanche Studios (in conjunction with id Software) and is an open-world first person shooter, with an apocalyptic setting — Think Mad Max or Borderlands. In much of the game’s marketing, RAGE 2 was depicted as a wacky, punk-inspired game, giving things a bit more color than its predecessor.
So how does RAGE 2 stack up against the original? Fairly well, although it doesn’t do a ton to break the formula set in 2010, which is ultimately okay. On the surface, it plays like a safe sequel that definitely feels modern in a lot of aspects, but outdated in others. You might be captivated by its visuals, which are sort of realistic, but have been stylized to give it a sense of identity all its own.
Most of your time in RAGE 2 is spent shooting enemies, collecting resources, and traveling throughout the open world. That’s a very basic way of explaining things but it should give you a sense for what you’ll be doing throughout your playthrough. If you’re familiar with Ubisoft open-world checklist games like Assassin’s Creed, Watchdogs, or Far Cry, you’ll feel right at home with RAGE 2. To those who don’t know, “checklist” games are ones with a ton of objectives scattered around the map that give you a little check upon their completion. This is one of the game’s shining points because even after several hours hours of playing, I still felt immense satisfaction after clearing out an area on the map.
RAGE 2 Review – Open World Slog
The only problem is that traveling to these objectives is a chore and it goes against the entire premise of a fun open-world game. Maybe it’s just that open-world games aren’t as novel as they once were, but the fact remains that RAGE 2’s world is bland and uninspired. Every time I’d finish an objective, I would be met with a mixed emotions: satisfaction, because I just had a blast with the moment-to-moment gameplay, but dreading the trek back through the open world.
To get around, there are a number of vehicles to drive, from motorcycles, to buggies, and even bigger ones that almost look like tanks. Generally speaking, controlling these vehicles ranges from awful to just all right, at best. It’s quite alarming how badly they control and when everything in the world is so spaced out, it becomes a chore to get around. There is a fast travel option, but you can only use it to go to certain locations, so it only helps a little. It’s a major problem that getting around feels so bad, because you spend a large chunk of time doing it.
The game would probably be more effective if the map were smaller or if the vehicles worked more efficiently.
RAGE 2 Review – Like Doom But Not as Good
Once you finally get to your objective, RAGE 2 is a blast to play. The shooting is gratifying and the weapons themselves all have some weight, giving them a more grounded feel. And there is such a smart balance when it comes to the damage you deal to enemies versus the damage they do to you. It’s done in such a way that always feels fair and challenging, which kept me on my toes throughout my playthrough.
The various missions found across the map are a ton of fun. They aren’t anything that will blow you away, but there’s enough variety that keeps things fresh. You’ll find missions that require you take out all the enemies at a base, collecting hidden items, killing bosses, completing races, and more. And you gain rewards for completing them, so it’s easy to feel motivated to finish them all.
RAGE 2 definitely feels strongest when you’re working on an objective or in a close quarters situation. It almost makes me wonder if the game would be better if the open world was scrapped entirely. There’s a beauty to simplicity, and RAGE 2 shines brightest when it focuses on what it does best: allowing you to run through close-to-medium range areas mowing down enemies. It also helps that the way you move is fast and fluid, giving you non-stop action while you blast through enemies. It’s like Doom, only slightly worse.
And to bolster the fantastic gunplay are a number of additional perks called Nanotrites. These essentially turn your character into a superhero, giving you various abilities. These are things like the Slam move that allows you to smash into the ground for a massive AoE attack, or a blast move that you can use to attack enemies from afar. When you combine these Nanotrite attacks with using firearms, it makes for even more dynamic gameplay.
That’s the thing about RAGE 2. It’s got a ton of glaring flaws that might turn you off, but the combat is so solid that it almost balances things out, because the highs of overcoming a shootout are enough to justify a purchase, even if the open world traversal isn’t the best.
RAGE 2 Review – Clunk Clunk Clunk
But sadly, there are more issues that you should be aware of: Behind the scenes, you’ll be juggling lots of upgrades and resource materials to craft items. These are mechanics you might be used to, but they’re set up in such a way that comes across as cluttered and disorganized. Firstly, there are various materials you have to use in order to upgrade weapons, vehicles, Nanotrites, gadgets, and augmentations, all of which are buried behind clunky menus. There’s also some serious slowdown when navigating these menus, which brings the fun to a crawl.
It’s as if these complicated systems were implemented to add padding to the game—to give it more density—but it backfires and works against you a great deal. I spent the first half of my time with RAGE 2 just trying to figure out how to get certain upgrade materials and which ones went with which items. Again, there’s a beauty to simplicity.
Outside of the clunky menus, however, RAGE 2 does excel elsewhere. There’s this silly and almost self-aware air about it that helps make it unique. For example, the art direction helps some of the characters look like borderline caricatures. And some of the writing between the AI in the game’s towns actually made me laugh. There are also some elements of the story that really work, like the section that requires you to plant a bug on one of the characters in order to spy on him. When you combine that with the splashes of neon colors painted in some areas in the world, RAGE 2 starts to come out of its shell.
Looking at it from a technical perspective, I didn’t run into any frame-rate issues, but there were moments in which textures would load in halfway, or seemingly not at all. Even though the art style sort of covers this up, it’s still noticeable and breaks the immersion. In fact, losing immersion is a prominent downfall of RAGE 2. When you’re having fun with clearing out an enemy camp, in the back of your mind, you know you’ll have to journey across the game’s empty land. When you’re earning rewards for completing objectives, you know you have to navigate the clunky menus and try to decipher the hieroglyphics of which upgrade items go to what.
RAGE 2 Review – Falling Short
After finishing the main story, my initial reaction was “That’s it?” It took maybe seven hours to complete the main campaign. Now, length doesn’t necessarily equal a great game, but I imagine some will feel burned when it comes to bang for your buck. There’s a lot to do outside the story mode, but at most, it might take you 25 hours to do everything the game has to offer.
As for the main campaign, it’s compelling at times and there were some interesting characters, but I kept coming back to rolling my eyes every time the game sent me across the map to do something. It’s a lot of “press the button and kill the bad guys” moments, which works fine, but when most of the rest of the game feels uninspired, these mission objectives stick out.
And there’s a lot of recycling in the campaign, aside from just the mission objectives. For example, the game throws the same exact mini-boss at you several times. At first, it’s an interesting fight that requires you to do a little bit more than just shoot it in the face. But after the fourth time, it makes you wonder where all that Bethesda money went to.
RAGE 2 is a culmination of many gameplay tropes we’ve seen year after year. That isn’t inherently negative, but when it doesn’t do many of them particularly well, it makes you just want to go play better games. Traveling across the map is a slog, the menus are slow and clunky, and there were significant texture issues that broke the immersion for me.
That being said, the act of combat and using all of your superhuman abilities is fun enough that I’d still recommend picking this game up at some point. But with that in mind, I couldn’t help but thinking so much about Doom while playing and it made me excited for Doom Eternal.
It’s probably not a good thing that my mind kept wandering to other games that do everything this game does, but better.
RAGE 2 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.