Bethesda’s Rage series gets a soft reboot in a game that’s way more colorful, exciting, and fun. Rage 2 isn’t perfect, but it’s a vast improvement.
Not that the original Rage wasn’t popular, but it wasn’t the smash that fans might’ve expected from iD Software. Focusing on a world that was reeling and in the midst of a post-apocalypse, Rage was all dirt, stone, and Mad Max style. And by that, I’m talking about pre-Fury Road Mad Max.
The story revolved around the impact of asteroid Apophis. That is a very real thing FYI, and an asteroid that’ll be swinging back our way some time in the 2020’s.
Not that it didn’t have a personality, but Rage definitely bought into its gimmick. As it turned out, that gimmick wasn’t as massively popular with fans as publisher Bethesda had hoped. Enter Rage 2 though, and you’ve got the exact opposite.
And yes, it’s quite good.
Rage’s world is set at this point. There isn’t much to reveal in terms of that setting, except that it’s a world that’s very much on the upswing. Kind of. The natural world of Rage 2’s Earth is definitely returning with plants and trees dotting the landscape.
Along with that are small cities. A few of these are scattered around Rage 2’s map. Each has a definite feel to it, though they’re all more or less the same in terms of what’s in them. From a thematic angle though, civilization (such as it is) is just as resurgent as the flora.
This is the world that main character Walker enters into. The freshly commissioned (and last) Ranger, Walker is experiencing the world outside of the city of Vineland for the first time in the adventure. There’s a heck of a task in front of the peace-keeper too.
Basically a tech-heavy, Borg-like cult called The Authority has returned. Thought snuffed out in a series of wars, The Authority is even more twisted by the time of Rage 2, and looking to dominate the Wasteland.
Walker’s job is, of course, to stop ’em.
If you like iD Software’s brand of fast action and intense gunplay, you’re going to dig what Rage 2 has to throw at you. Though this is an open-world game (please stifle the groan for now) it plays like Doom (2016), just minus the focus on melee.
While the aforementioned masterpiece gives you the option of dispatching baddies through close-quarters combat, as well as through firepower, Rage 2 goes a different route.
This particular title adds in full-on comic book styled superpowers. So yeah, you can open up on villains with your rifle and shotgun (which is awesome), you can also fly straight up in the air and do a ground-quaking superhero ground-punch.
These supplemental moves can pack a punch, or save you from danger. Mostly, they’re easy to pull off too. While my First Impressions article about Rage 2 saw me having a little trouble pulling them off simply, I quickly got the hang of them afterwards. I can tell you that they really liven up the action well.
While I still relied on my guns, being able to add in special moves felt awesome. And when used all together, all of the above made me feel like a incredible badass.
Then you can add Overdrive to that mix. That is exactly what it sounds like, and triggers your super-suit’s time-limited special effects. Taken with the standard arsenal’s primary and secondary attacks, Overdrive gives you a third option. It’s time limited, but usually pretty freaking great. Just as an example, the shotgun basically becomes the spread gun from Contra.
Then there’s the driving
I’m sure by now you’ve heard that Rage 2 is kind/sorta two games. That’s honestly both true and not-so true.
The driving in Rage 2 is robust, there’s no doubt about that. You can upgrade your ride just as you can upgrade your weapons and super powers. But it’s not quite enough to make the game feel disjointed. Vehicles feel like a means to an end, which of course is getting you to your destination.
Yes, there are world events that you can only engage in while driving, but there aren’t that many of them. And you can also make an afternoon of driving around and discovering things and getting into fights too, but you certainly don’t have to.
Instead the driving is just kind of there. And it’s surprisingly fun too. Though that might actually be because it’s not an all-encompassing thing. Oh, and yes, there are fast-travel points too, though you’ll still likely have to do some driving after you get to one.
While I love the gameplay, the audio visual presentation of Rage 2 is a little hit and miss. It’s not bad, but there are issues that I can’t really ignore for this review. They just pop up too much.
Speaking of which, while the graphics are overall very good, the open world of the game does have issues. Mainly that’s due to pop-in. It’s not every where, but it does happen. While in missions (on foot) you don’t get very much of this, but when driving there are definite pop-in of textures. Again, it’s not all the time, but it does happen.
Also, and this time while on foot, the shadows can look odd. They’ll sometimes move in a staggered fashion, seeming stop-motiony in effect. It’s very weird when you come across this anomaly, and it definitely makes you stop for a moment.
Finally, NPC animations are excessively canned. Non-player characters move in a very set number of motions, and they do so over and over… and over again. It makes conversations seem dull and like they’re happening in a Fallout game circa 2005.
Other than that though, the graphics are terrific. I know that might trigger a laugh after crapping on things as I did, but Rage 2 does look good, really good at times. In particular, the lighting effects are flat-out gorgeous. Some of the vistas in the game are jaw-dropping and more than one person passing by while I was playing commented on that.
Likewise, the voice-over work is terrific here. Almost all of the characters are voiced well, which definitely adds to the atmosphere. I still wish iD and Arkane would have made true cinematics for some of the cut-scenes, instead of just viewing them through the game interface, but what can you do. The points still get across.
So what does all of that equal? I really dig Rage 2, that’s what. Yes, there are issues at play here, though most all of them have to do with little graphical issues and personal taste. But even so, I have no problem recommending Rage 2 to any action or FPS fan.
A review copy was supplied to BrutalGamer by Bethesda
Release date: May 14th, 2019
Platform(s): Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC
Published by: Bethesda
Developed by: Arkane Studios, iD Software