RAGE has certainly had a curious legacy. Releasing in 2011, the original RAGE was an interesting and fun-enough shooter set in a Mad Max style, post-apocalyptic wasteland. The game brought about some good ideas but it always felt slightly out of place, slightly unfinished, slightly wrong. With that in mind, RAGE 2 had the opportunity to redefine that legacy and set the franchise on a new course. Did it succeed? Maybe…
RAGE 2 takes place in a lawless society overrun by mutations, hostile gangs and a tyrannical force known as the Authority. You play as the last of the Rangers, a highly trained and technologically boosted group of soldiers who were almost entirely wiped out by the Authority. Your journey will put you on a path to take down this tyrannical force whilst exploring the open-world wasteland and engaging in vehicular combat and first-person shooting.
Narratively RAGE 2 falls short and it’s a real shame. The overall plot stinks of B-grade science fiction and it’s a story that has been told time and time again. The narrative is paced fairly badly, especially early on, which created moments where the mood of the story-telling was disjointed from my mood as a player. The game starts off with some key character deaths that drive the protagonist’s motivation for the rest of the game. Although at no point were those characters who died given a time to shine and make an impact on the player. So whilst the protagonist may care, I absolutely did not.
The world that RAGE 2 takes place in is also fairly unimaginative. The development collaboration of Id Software and Avalanche Studios clearly contains a boat-load of talent, but world-building and lore does not appear to be one of those talents. I’ve completed the game and even I couldn’t tell you much about the world of RAGE 2 without first doing research. Characters, whilst visually striking, don’t have a lot of depth either. So you end up running around a world that feels very surface level and it’s hard to fall in love with anybody or anything that occupies it.
Thankfully the game is also brimming with positives, but I can’t stress enough how lacklustre some of the aforementioned elements are. RAGE 2 may be a fun game to play, but it is soulless when analysed through a strictly narrative, character and world lens.
Where RAGE 2 manages to stand out is certainly in the gunplay. The game throws you into a hostile world and gives you some great tools you can use to blow your foes to smithereens. A plethora of guns are at your disposal, with more being unlocked as you explore the wasteland and uncover ‘Arks’ containing new and fun tools. Each weapon feels unique, powerful and captivating. Id Software are truly the masters of first-person shooting and this may be their best work yet. Enemy encounters are designed to encourage constant movement and there are skills you can unlock that further support that ethos. The sound design and visual effects were top notch, allowing you to feel the impact of your bullets, hear the crunch of a well-aimed headshot, and even hear as your gun begun running low on ammo.
Sections of vehicular combat were also fun but certainly not up to the insane standards of the first-person shooting. Nevertheless, vehicular combat made for a fun change of pace and mostly existed as optional, open-world content.
Exploring the game’s open-world was also pretty satisfying. Many similar games suffer from repeating or dull content that ends up turning into a chore. However RAGE 2 offered up some unique and exciting content that never got old. Races, convoys, monster dens, Authority sentries, Ranger echos, meteorites, Arks, road blocks and more were littered around the wasteland. I never got tired of heading to the next point of interest to see what it offered because there was always something decently captivating to see and do.
On top of this you were constantly scrounging for supplies to craft gear and support items, as well as upgrading your weapons, vehicles and abilities. There is actually a decent amount of content packed into this package, although certainly don’t expect a behemoth 50 hour+ style open-world RPG, because RAGE 2 isn’t that.
“Some of the most fun I had with RAGE 2 came after I unlocked the ‘Icarus’ hovercraft”
Some of the most fun I had with RAGE 2 came after I unlocked the ‘Icarus’ hovercraft. Flying around in what is essentially a small, piloted drone was a blast and injected me with a whole new batch of the energy I needed to continue exploring and just having fun. The hovercraft allowed me to exploit certain areas that were clearly designed to be explored on foot, although I love that the game allowed me to do this. After all, RAGE 2 isn’t trying to take itself too seriously which works to its benefit.
Seeing the world from a new, hovercraft-facilitated perspective allowed me to appreciate some of the world design. This may not be a world full of deep lore and fascinating history, nor is it a graphical powerhouse that will rival the most gorgeous games in existence. But RAGE 2 never forgets that players are suppose to have fun. And the open wasteland full of muties, bandits and ludicrous pink decor is exactly that – a playground for fun.
For all of its faults, RAGE 2 still turned out to be an enjoyable experience for me. The opening scenes were certainly rough and didn’t help to set the tone of the game. Although once you ignore the unimaginative narrative and begin conquering the wasteland, you’ll find some genuinely enjoyable mechanics and gunplay. RAGE 2 can feel soulless at times, no doubt, but what will bring you back time and time again is the sheer stupidity and jubilance that comes with exploring the world and massacring the hostile inhabitants within.