Releasing during the Fall of 2011, the first Rage was an unremarkable game which only seemed to disappoint those that played it at the time. Coming out to massive hype, aided in large part by its advanced graphics, and the fact that it was the first new id Software IP in a long while; Rage largely fell flat due to a mediocre story, an atrocious ending, and gameplay missions within an open world that couldn’t properly sustain hours of fun.
As the years passed, any inklings of a sequel died away, making it a surprise last year when Rage 2 was introduced to the world. Published once again by Bethesda, gamers hoped and maybe even expected a good experience given the track record of the publisher breathing new life into fading series. Be it Doom, Prey, or Wolfenstein, there’s no doubt they’ve done well at reinvigorating the past. So one year since its reveal, is this yet another game Bethesda can gloat about as they try to move past their abysmal release of Fallout 76, or like the first Rage, is this sequel also forgettable?
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Avalanche Studios / id Software
Platforms: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC (Steam/Bethesda.net)
Release Date: May 14th, 2019
Marketed as a zany over-the-top experience full of humor and an anything goes approach to gameplay, Rage 2 is shockingly reigned in. Not once did I laugh during a single cutscene as the writing is well below mediocre, and the characters flat and boring. Even the gameplay seemed to lack the goofy charm that early hands-on previews made it seem was available in abundance. Although, that doesn’t mean the combat is necessarily boring.
Shooting in this game, of which there is a ton of it, feels great, and some of the guns are a blast, both literally and figuratively. The shotgun is especially awesome as it has an ability where looking down the sights makes the barrel flare outwards, and it shoots a solid slug that will send enemies flying. I had a lot of fun blasting my foes with the weapon.
Other enjoyable guns are a gravity defying dart gun, the Firestorm Revolver loaded with user-activated incendiary rounds, and a homing rocket launcher that packs an explosively gory punch. The first of those weapons was especially fun as seeing enemies whip around in unpredictable and chaotic motions doesn’t get old. In that sense it reminded me of when I’d attach a rocket booster to an enemy in Just Cause 4.
Adding an extra dimension of delightful entertainment into the combat are Nanotrite abilities. These are a power-up of sorts that let you pull off fantastical feats. There’s Shatter, allowing you to unleash a strong kinetic blast that sends enemies flying. Vortex throws down a gravitational singularity that sucks in nearby enemies and launches them outward. And Slam, which sees the player jump upwards only to slam down into the ground with a devastating punch that propels enemies outward with its ensuing shockwave.
All the abilities can be combined at will, allowing for creativity when dispatching baddies. Adding a level of progress into the game are upgrades that let you strengthen their various effects.
Speaking of upgrades, there’s a TON to unlock. Besides the Nanotrite abilities, you can enhance your main vehicle, weapons, and something called Projects. These allow you to do things like carry more ammo, sprint faster, craft items for less (because yes, what open world game doesn’t have crafting these days), and track chests and collectibles, just to name a few.
It’s a good thing too that combat is so versatile, because otherwise this game would become a chore much quicker than it already does. Some may disagree with this sentiment, but Rage 2 is a prime example of a title held back by having a massive open world.
Throughout the map are countless bases and objectives to be done, but the game almost immediately falls into a lazy and repetitive design. There’s the standard bandit camps to clear out, exploration areas to find loot within, races, overused authority sentries that play out the exact same, mutant nests to destroy eggs in, roadblocks to clear, and a handful of other activities scattered about.
Each area also has a collection of data pads and chests to find; an activity that became annoyingly tedious as you wander around aimlessly looking for them. You do eventually get an upgrade that makes the process a bit easier, but you still need to follow a signal strength bar, so yeah, tedious sums up it well.
Also, DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE ATROCIOUS METEORITE MINING.
Most of those activities aren’t bad on their own, but with only a startlingly few campaign missions, the majority of the game is just clearing out the open world as if it’s some massive checklist. And by the time I cleared the hundredth or so area that played out like all the other areas before it, I was long past bored.
It’s also worth adding that for this review I made sure to experience everything I could. Similar to previous reviews, I completed almost every objective on the map, and even obtained the platinum trophy. The experience came in at around maybe 50 hours or so, but much more than half of that felt like a tiresome grind.
Not helping things is that the game is just poorly paced. Based off the marketing you might have thought this was a balls-to-the-wall action game with little room for breathing, but there is a ton of downtime. Mostly due to just how much driving you need to do. Driving that takes place in an uninspiring map with little in the way of life, so it’s long periods of a dull open world trek.
I can’t help but feel a smaller map with more campaign missions inside specific areas would have done this game wonders. Similar to Doom 2016, a linear action experience would have packed much more of a punch than what we got here.
The driving is also very clunky and it never feels good. There is an assortment of vehicles to choose from, but sadly only one of them can be upgraded, so I relied mostly on that. Except for in the end game when I used my flying machine to get around a bit easier.
On the story end of things, it’s almost entirely negligible. The plot is bad, the characters are mostly awful and poorly written, and on top of being not well voice acted, the big baddie is incredibly disappointing. If it wasn’t for the review I’d have started skipping cutscenes before I even hit the midpoint; something I expect many gamers to do as there is a lot of needless exposition.
Campaign missions are also a bit of a letdown because there aren’t very many of them and what’s there isn’t overly exciting. Made worse due to multiple instances where they reused the same mini-boss, and it always played out the same. Speaking of bosses, there’s two encounters that could be considered bona fide boss fights, and not only are they too easy, but mechanically they feel incredibly dated.
Making the later missions worse is that they take place in drab and boring metal hallways and rooms. For a game marketed on its color, having the final missions take place in the most cliche of metallic video game environments was a step in the wrong direction.
The metallic hallways are even more of a shame because this isn’t a bad looking game. It’s not on par with other experiences of this generation, but it holds its own well enough. There’s even a few good lighting effects, most notably the rising or setting sun.
Like many current gen games there is also a photo mode and every photo in this review was taken using that. It lacks options and settings, but it works well enough.
On the technical end of things, Rage 2 is very hit or miss. Within 20 minutes of playing on my first night, it completely froze, requiring a reboot. There was also some crazy drops in FPS, especially as the screen filled up with explosions, bad guys, and flying bullets. At one point the sound also broke down requiring yet another reboot. Though, and take this however you will, it’s one of the first games this year to not crash one of my two PS4 Pros to a blue screen, so there’s that, I guess.
During my few days of play there was a certain point where I fell into the lull of the open world tasks and had a decent enough time chipping away at the objectives on the map. I threw on a podcast and just zoned out as I killed wave upon wave of bad guys. It killed time, I had some fun, and at the end of the day it was an okay experience. Maybe not something I’d recommend you rush out to buy this moment as there’s much better games in existence, but if you absolutely need something new, this one isn’t a total waste, either. It’s just a somewhat disappointing game as the potential for something even greater is there.
Rage 2 is competent with highly enjoyable gunplay and abilities, but it’s held back due to questionably regurgitative open world design, and a story that is somehow even more forgettable than the first. Nothing in this game is exceedingly terrible, it’s just exhaustingly ‘meh’.
Going into release I was actually pretty hyped for this game. An over-the-top shooter with goofy weapons and powers sounded like something right up my alley, but what we got is yet another forgettable entry in the Rage franchise. It does nothing to warrant being brought back from the dead, so I have to ask Bethesda, why bother? Maybe some things are best left in the past.
Rage 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy purchased by Niche staff. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.