More Mad Max than Doom, Rage 2 is well made, but doesn’t have a lasting impact.
Developer – Avalanche Software/ Id Software
Publisher – Bethesda
Release Date – May 14, 2019
Platforms – PlayStation 4, Xbox One [Review Copy], PC
Rage 2 is a curious game. The original Rage was an incredibly hyped release that was backed by a legacy of greatness. Then it came and went, and despite it not being a complete disaster like some people made it out to be, it quickly became a punchline. Rage is known more for the ill fated term mega-textures, far more than as a game with any real identity.
A sequel to Rage seemed improbable. Then one Wal-Mart leak and an E3 announcement later it was thrust onto the scene. Bright neon colors, a huge wasteland and vehicular spectacle is what Rage 2 was promising, but does it deliver on that?
That’s a hard question to answer, because on it’s surface Rage 2 is a well made, open world shooter. Development is being led by Avalanche Software (Just Cause, Mad Max) with id (Doom) assisting in development.
Now on paper this seemed like “dream game” material. The open world chaos and vehicular destruction from Just Cause and Mad Max, the refined, intense first person shooting action and speed from Id, what could possibly go wrong?
In all honestly, nothing really did go wrong, but Rage 2 isn’t more than the sum of its parts, its literally just the sum of its parts.
Despite the pedigree behind the scenes, the game itself feels washed down. A simple, more plain version of each side when they’re at their peak. The open world, while massive, is very bland. Vehicle physics are varied, but never fun, exciting or dangerous. The shooting, while competent, is also missing an edge. A certain level of in your face brutality that Doom really excelled in is completely gone.
I’ve seen many people compare this game to Borderlands, but in all respects it really does feel like Rage. Despite the different developers, and a very different approach to story, it feels like a direct sequel. Most of the same problems that plagued that game are back here in full force.
The gameplay systems are one area where it does feel a bit bigger than it’s predecessor. New abilities can be discovered in upgrade stations known as Arks strewn around the open world. The same goes with Ark weapons and vehicles and my recommendation is to hunt them down immediately. A handful of abilities and weapons will be doled out through the main story, but a majority of them are just out there, waiting to be discovered.
These weapons and abilities can really add a lot of dynamic moments to the combat. Ejecting out my car and doing a double jump ground pound to gib some enemies, then wing sticking three more with one skillful toss while shotgunning people across a room always felt good and was fun to pull off. When I used the abilities an mixed it up, the action can hit some high notes. Unlike Doom however, it never felt necessary to really mix it up. The basic starter weapons are so effective, and the AI of the enemies so poor, that standing still and blasting enemies from long range that boredom became the primary motivation for using the full toolset.
The open world suffers from this as well. Despite being technically proficient and running at a rock solid frame-rate, the open world just doesn’t offer anything of note. It’s the most bare bones of checklist open world design that harkens back to the climb a tower and take an outpost mentality of an old Far Cry game. Within an hour or two you will have seen and done every activity possible in the world, and then you’ll have to repeat that over and over again for another 15 hours. It gets old, very quickly.
The vehicles that take you from place to place don’t fare any better, and that was very disappointing. Mad Max, for all of its problems, really nailed the physics and weight of the cars. Destruction was satisfying, and car upgrades an combat were thrilling and could lead to dynamic situations in an otherwise drab open world. None of that carries over to Rage 2. Only one vehicle can receive upgrades an they are mostly new weapons.
You don’t feel invested in the car combat, and whenever it arises its so throwaway and hollow that even when you’re going full speed and destroying convoys the excitement is never there. Hell, even if you’re walking down a road, enemy cars will drive past you and take pot shots…but they never pull up and try to attack you. The game never feels like it’s out to get you, and the passive mentality of any enemy in the open world almost makes it feel like an apocalyptic theme ride.
Rage 2 is such a hard game to describe, but overall it just feels like it’s missing an edge. Despite the attempts at stylized neon colors and glitched out menu’s none of the game carries that attitude. The main character, a male or female of your choice named Walker is painfully bland. All attempts at being “cool” are awful. Not in the awful, B movie type of way but just bad. It’s not exciting, the story is merely o.k and never offends, but doesn’t ever create moments. Despite completing the game I cant really recall any character names, or set pieces that lasted in my mind for any moment after they finished.
On the flip side, despite my problems Rage 2 is technically well made. It’s not buggy, it looks and performs incredibly well and all of the pieces that make it up are sound. None of it stands out and personally I was a bit let down because both studios have reached much greater peaks than what Rage 2 brings.
For what it’s worth, Rage 2 is a bit of a step up from the original and is well made. If you’re itching for an open world game to dig into for a dozen hours or so, you could do much worse than this game, the problem is you can also do much better.