NOTE: The following represents a review in progress. All opinions are subject to change upon further progression of the game.
It’s been 8 years since id Software’s post-apocalyptic RPG shooter Rage released, and it seemed like Bethesda had long forgotten about the franchise until the sequel was announced last year, with Avalanche Studios set to co-develop. After id Software greatly impressed me with DOOM (2016), I was really looking forward to another fast-paced and intense shooter from them. Thankfully, that is exactly what I got, but more on that later.
You’re probably wondering if you need to play the first Rage in order to play Rage 2. Long story short: you don’t. The sequel is set long after the events of the first game, so all you really need to know is that an asteroid hit the earth over a hundred years ago and wiped out most of the population. Since then, society has been slowly been returning to its former glory, but an organization called The Authority wants to conquer all.
You play as a Ranger named Walker, whose home of Vineland was destroyed by The Authority. Now he wants to take his newly-acquired Ranger armor and hit The Authority hard. Rangers are equipped with Nanotrite abilities that basically give them superhuman powers. You can blast foes with Shatter, suck them up in a zero-gravity Vortex, and unleash a superhero landing with Slam. Combining these powers will result in some wicked combos and fill up your Overdrive meter faster. When you go into Overdrive, all your guns and abilities become enhanced. Think of it as a “get out of jail free card,” only it lasts about 5-7 seconds in the beginning. Before I played, I was worried that the Nanotrite abilities in Rage 2 would be hard to keep track of and make combat not feel as smooth as it is in other id Software games like DOOM (2016). Fortunately, the game has been very helpful in familiarizing me with these abilities, so much so that I always look forward to taking on more thugs and mutants. It certainly helps that you have to unlock them one at a time by finding Arks throughout the open-world Wasteland.
While the combat is extremely good and only gets better when I unlock more guns and abilities, I can’t help but worry about what the open-world will offer me as I continue to explore it. So far I have encountered more bandit camps than any other side-activity. Bandit camps are very simple: kill everyone and loot their stashes if you have the time. I’ve also found areas devoid of enemies with only stashes of money and feltrite crystals, the latter of which you use to upgrade your Nanotrite abilities. Other side-activities include but are not limited to destroying Authority Sentries, destroying mutant hatching pods, finding dead rangers, and gathering feltrite crystals off of meteors. What worries me is that if the map continues to be filled with these same activities, it would grow quite repetitive. However, in the case of bandit camps, the combat and level design of these bases help make liberating them all the more fun. That said, will it continue to be fun 10 hours from now? 20? I still have plenty more powers and weapons to unlock, so I will know for sure in the coming days.
Now then, what is there to say about the story, setting, and overall aesthetic of Rage 2? Well it’s certainly more colorful than the first Rage, albeit with a slight emphasis on the color purple. Slight. Anyhow, one of the major problems with the first game was that it felt dull. Characters were only there to provide exposition and tell the player what to do and where to go. If I could pinpoint one thing wrong with the story and setting of Rage, it was that it lacked personality. Rage 2 doesn’t lack any personality. Maybe it has a little too much, even? Some parts of the story play things straight as an arrow, while other parts go a little too off the rails as if it’s trying to show off just how “funny” and “outrageous” it can be. It feels way too much like an apology for how serious the first game was. That said, if I had to choose between dull seriousness and colorful playfulness, I would choose the latter. A balance of both would be preferred though.
There is a lot more I have left to do in Rage 2, such as car combat and unlocking the rest of the weapons and Arks. Within these next few days, I will see just how much the open-world’s activities hold up throughout the rest of the game while also hoping the story becomes more engaging. I can say with great confidence though that the ground combat feels incredible, and I can’t wait to fight more bandits and mutants in the Wasteland!