Sometimes you just need a bit of mindless fun; so when I picked up Rage 2, that’s what I was hoping for. The game received a lot of criticism back when it was released in 2011, which is initially why I hesitated to buy it at full price. A couple years later, left with a wanting desire to switch off any part of my cognitive thinking after work, I decided to pick up the game during a Steam sale. I was not disappointed with what I found.
If you approach the game with the presumption that you will dive into the lives of the protagonist and form a deep connection with their story, then you will be disappointed. The game introduces you to the Rangers, a group dedicated to patrolling the wasteland and eliminating the Authority. Right off the bat, the game exposes you to the villain of the wasteland, Dr Martin Cross, the leader of the Authority. You encounter Cross almost immediately, and he soon dispatches of Ranger Erwina Prowley, who raised you, Walker, since you were a child. Now, given this backstory, the player would naturally want to feel devastated at the loss of Prowley; but, no effective emotion is formed by the death of Prowley, due to the fact that the player has no attachment to her whatsoever. Couple this with the fact that just moments later, we witness the death of an unknown Ranger, proceed to scavenge the suit off of his cold lifeless corpse, and laugh off his death—making the sudden shift in emotion from being devastated to light-hearted feel ludicrous. The game’s dialogue is cheesy, and I can’t say it is well written or encourages immersion, but I don’t think that was the developer’s intention anyway.
Once the world opens up to you—that is when you start getting upgrades and unlocking abilities—this is where the game shines. If you want nothing more than to cause chaos and mayhem, and simply blow stuff up, then this will satisfy. The game provides a substantial map, with many markers outlining locations where you can complete various objectives to earn cash and other rewards. I found myself travelling between main objectives and just completing these side objectives on the way, but soon found myself becoming addicted to being a completionist—trying to 100% every location on the map. This was time-consuming in reality; but, as I was enjoying it, it didn’t feel cumbersome. I also found that eventually I had an abundance of Feltrite and was able to upgrade a lot of weapons all at once. Because I chose to play the game on Nightmare difficulty, I think it felt really balanced, considering I was constantly upgrading due to my exploration, and for any difficult missions it just meant taking a tactical approach to encounters.
What made the exploration fun is essentially the gameplay. The game was developed by Avalanche but was overlooked by Id Software, the makers of hit title Doom Eternal, so I would expect nothing less than awesome and satisfying gun-play, and they surely deliver on that. Every shot feels impactful and, when you head-shot enemies and they die, a satisfying splat can be heard with a skull hit-marker appearing to indicate they have been laid to waste. There a various guns to choose from, but the shotgun was the most enjoyable to me, especially after upgrading it—this was largely in part due to the fact that enemies standing next to a ledge would be flung off with one scoped-in shot. “Overdrive” and your special abilities are an essential part of combat also, ensuring that the gun play is also broken up with melee abilities like “Shatter”—where you basically rampage straight towards an enemy and punch them into a thousand pieces with the might of a single fist. There are a couple of abilities to choose from, all upgradeable of course.
The game offers up many vehicles for you to traverse the wasteland—this is a large focus within the series, and you need to drive around as there are not many fast travel points besides the major locations. The driving felt disappointing to say the least. Even with a large array of different vehicles, all upgradeable in various ways, the driving itself felt slippery at best. Any vehicle I entered made me feel like I was never full in control. There is a lot of room for improvement with the driving controls, especially in a game where this type of travel is required; even more so, a game that encourages you to partake in races as part of its activities. The sloppy driving controls made me want to avoid any races, and I basically only used the vehicles to cross the landscape to save time.
I got about twenty hours of entertainment out of Rage 2, and I would say I enjoyed playing it for the most part. Entering into the game, I did not expect narrative depth, and this meant that I wasn’t let down. For some mindless fun, it definitely hit the nail on the head. It is somewhat a bit of a cross between Far Cry New Dawn in its gameplay and neon-amongst-the-wasteland aesthetic, with the vibe of Mad Max to contrast in terms of its open, grimy, dusty environment. It doesn’t offer much in terms of innovation for a first-person open-world shooter, but it’s worth picking up if you want solid core gameplay with a lot of fun interspersed in-between.