May 14, 2019

RAGE 2 Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $59.99
We Recommend: $47.99
  • Developer: id Software, Avalanche Studios
  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Genre: Action
  • Released: May 14, 2019
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
  • Reviewed: Windows

RAGE 2 is the result of tandem development from id Software and Avalanche Studios, bringing together DOOM and Just Cause who then had a baby. And oh baby, RAGE 2 is a better sequel than what RAGE was asking for. It also excels and expands on what made that game work, and there’s so much more fun to be had. Everything you do in the game involves speed, violence, and momentum. There’s an inherent kinetic activity to RAGE 2 that always keeps up the pace, even when just cruising around in the open wasteland. RAGE 2 does not disappoint.

RAGE 2 acknowledges and serves as a direct follow-up to the events of RAGE. It’ll even fill you in for those who don’t remember or haven’t played the original. The game picks up a few decades after RAGE abruptly and disappointingly finished. As it goes, an asteroid known as Apophis struck Earth and caused an environmental apocalypse, and the events of RAGE happened where society rebuilt, but with gangs ruling the roost. Fast forward to the future where RAGE 2 begins, and you’ve become the last Ranger (think Marines) left in the area of Vineland. This is an all-out attack by General Cross, who was absent from the original RAGE, but certainly makes his and the Authority’s presence known here.

You play as Walker, and you get to choose between a male or female version of them. It should be noted, that despite RAGE 2 being an open-world game, the campaign takes about 8 hours to complete, and add another dozen hours to finish off everything in the world. This is a smaller scale game, but still with lots of things to do and see in the American southwest. The game offers up four difficulties to choose from, and playing on Normal has felt somewhat easy. There are missions that are rated by the number of skulls, and the higher end of those proved to be more difficult than other elements of the game. You can change the difficulty at any time if things are too easy or hard for you.

RAGE 2 is a shooter, first and foremost. There are tutorials aplenty to teach you the differences in the weapons, and abilities. Like a classic FPS, you’re able to hold all of the weapons that the game has. There’s no need to be picky and choosy. But first you have to find a majority of the eight weapons you can hold. This is done by searching for ARKs, which were surfaced at the end of RAGE, which housed people and also contain weapons, abilities, and upgrade materials. Each weapon has an alt-fire, and the highly praised wingsticks return. You can also upgrade weapons, and each weapon level has a choice you must make, similar to 2016’s DOOM. Upgrades use Feltrite, a glowing blue resource that drops from enemies and found in the world in random places. Feltrite has a dual-purpose of not only being a currency, but also lets you regain health.

There are abilities in RAGE 2, with what is essentially a force push, a ground pound, a vortex bomb, and a digital shield to protect yourself from incoming attacks. A standout ability is the return of the defibrillator mechanic. It’s really nothing special, but it allows you to get back up after you die in a shootout, and is simply a quick-time event, but it feels good to get it right and back into the fight. You also can use your powers to highlight enemies, find ARKs and other things in the open-world, and repair your vehicle out of the gate. I’m not sure if this is considered an ability, but if you kill enemies in quick succession via a kill combo, you’ll build up your overdrive. Once filled, you can let loose in a berserk-style mode that boosts output damage, and you recharge health quickly. It’s no risk, all reward, even if it is short-lived. In all combat situations, you’re encouraged to experiment with your powers, and you’ll find that it comes natural, to include utilizing your weapons in different ways as well.

As you work through the activities of the game, you’ll earn experience in your alliance with one of three individuals. They have skill trees around combat, engineering, and more. Depending on how you play, you might earn experience which serves as trust without having met them yet. The ties with the original game continue as you must befriend these individuals, who most are from the original game, or descends thereof. They hold the keys to Project Dagger, a means to end the Authority once and for all.

RAGE 2‘s map is sizable, often giving the impression is not large. It has 6 regions, lots of roads to drive on and question marks to fill in. There is fast travel, but it is only available out of missions. So there’s some restrictions, similar to The Witcher 3 in how it can be used, but it’s necessary for some of the distances you have to go. Though it’s clear they want you to drive around to encounter more elements of the game. Being able to revisit the first game’s locations like Wellsprings offers a weird sense of nostalgia. You’ll drive around the open-world again here, where car combat more dynamic, there’s roam traders you can flag down, and you can steal vehicles and turn them in for points.

As you progress through the main missions, you’ll quickly learn there aren’t enough of them as you reach the end in the time it takes to complete a full shift at work. The main missions will take you to the underground again, like the first. But it does good at making you be outdoors or above ground more than not. There’s a lot of diverse locations to go to, and while the main quests are borderline fetchy, you are still doing a bunch of different actions along the way that help it along. And while you may not be here for the story, it’s far better than RAGE‘s. The game’s shortness is exacerbated by the tedium in side missions, which are mostly fine but aren’t all winners.

This is an open world that begs to be explored, and must be. There’s plenty of side activities to take part in: such as bounties, impromptu racing, uncovering question marks, finding arks, clearing out bandit dens, and more. Bounties offer bosses to fight, and each has a unique way of defeating them, but appear too often. There are trade towns you can head to, where you can offload your junk for cash and take on quests. The bandit dens are fun to cleanse, but a lot of them are cookie cutter layouts that make them feel all too familiar, and question if you’ve done a particular one or not due to their similar look and feel. On the road, there will be road chokers which must be opened and the whole area emptied so there’s free passage, and these are the more fun activities that don’t feel repetitive. Mutant Bash TV also makes a return, allowing you to earn special currency for demolition derby or survival shooting galleries.

RAGE 2 is weird at times. The voice acting isn’t that great, there’s no Andrew W.K. music, it gets around having to bring John Goodman back by moving time forward, but it has pausable cutscenes. If you have an affinity for RAGE, that is rewarded, but you’re fine if you’ve never played it. The game also has some style that’s never fully realized. Each new character you meet, the game overlays a bio sheet giving you everything you need to know as part of their introduction, which is kind of a Borderlands thing. In RAGE, you felt underpowered, and in RAGE 2, you feel overpowered – which is almost a swing in the wrong direction.

There’s no multiplayer or coop to be found here. I wouldn’t think multiplayer would be long-lasting, but like Borderlands too, I can see this being fun with a friend. As it stand now, I can see where my Steam friends are in their game by seeing a banner of their name floating around, which is neat but could be a bit more. RAGE 2‘s save system is pretty smart, and welcome. If you’re in a mission, you’ll come back in at your last checkpoint. If you’re out of mission, you’ll be sent to the nearest safe area.

PC Specs of Review System:

– Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
– Intel Core i7 6700k @ 4.2Ghz (Turbo)
– NZXT Kraken X61 106.1 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
– G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
– EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FTW 8GB GDDR5X
– Seagate 2TB Barracuda SSD SATA III 6Gb/s Internal SSD Drive

I’m using NVIDIA’s RAGE 2 “Game Ready” drivers, and playing in 1440p, I’m getting over 60fps on Ultra settings, and near 90fps on High settings. It was very present in the marketing, but the game is bright and vivid in every aspect. There’s tons of pink and chromatic aberration to be found, and neon lights up cities at a distance. Avalanche Studio’s Apex engine has never looked better here.

RAGE 2 is doused in neon, bright colors, and blood. This post-apocalyptic punk-wave world is an absolute blast thanks to the co-development of id Software and Avalanche Studios blending styles and ideas. I wish there were more main missions as they are often the most exciting part of the game,  but this is a game where you make your own fun. It has a better and satisfying ending over the previous, and has a fully-realized open-world with things to do that doesn’t ever waste your time. RAGE 2 has been worth the wait. When combat is in full swing, its kinetic energy and momentum is the most stupid fun you can have.

A pre-release Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes