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 looked 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.
Like any open-world game, Rage 2 has a main quest and a bunch of side-missions, though I really wouldn’t call them missions as I would activities. Where other open-world games have stories attached to their side-quests, the stories in this game are “kill everyone at this enemy outpost.” If there’s one thing Rage 2 doesn’t have any shortage of, it’s enemy outposts, making up most of the game’s side-activities. There are others like taking down Authority Sentry Guns and Enemy Convoys, but you will be spending most of your time killing every goon in a designated area. This would be a much bigger problem if the combat in the game wasn’t so damn good. You’ll have the Nanotrite abilities at your disposal as well as an arsenal of guns ranging from the assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, and others! The game encourages you to shift between these abilities and weapons as often as possible, but I found myself sticking to a select few more than others. I love using a combination of the assault rifle, Shatter, and Slam personally. There is also some car combat thrown in there, though it doesn’t take up a whole lot of the game. There’s a race track where you can compete against CPUs and enemy convoys that you can destroy with your vehicle’s onboard weapons. Other than that, car combat is rarely used outside of those activities.
Despite how great the combat gameplay is, almost everything else about Rage 2 is rather dull. The story, for example, is incredibly short and doesn’t have a great payoff. When it does end, you’re thrown back to the Wasteland to continue the rest of the side-missions. I would advise practically avoiding the story until you’ve completed most of the side-missions. The main campaign only consists of you talking to three different characters, each with three or four different missions. You’re better off doing one story mission every 2 or 3 hours, because it only took me 7 to complete the story along with some other side-quests.
Just because the story is short though doesn’t mean it’s bad, right? 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 uninteresting. 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, the characters in Rage 2 serve the same purpose as Rage 1, telling you what to do and where to go. It helps that the protagonist isn’t silent this time around, but if you’re expecting an engaging story-based experience, you’re going to have a rough time. However, if you’re expecting a fun, off-the-rails shooting experience, that’s exactly what you’re getting.
Despite how utterly shallow the story and world are, Rage 2 vastly succeeds in its gameplay, and I mean VASTLY. When I beat the main story, I was underwhelmed by how unrewarding and short it was. And yet, I’m already thinking about playing it again, because it’s so fun! The combination of gunplay and Nanotrite abilities make every play session and battle feel unique. Open-world RPG fans might not be as impressed by Rage 2, but First-Person shooter fans may find that it was made just for them.