Every now and again a publisher announces a game which literally nobody was expecting, or in this case, it was Walmart who made the unofficial announcement just before E3 2018?! RAGE 2 seemingly came out of nowhere, the original game came out in 2011 to strong reviews, but it was a game which many people forgot about due to it having solid combat wrapped within a slightly dull and poorly written story. This time, Bethesda was sure you’d take notice of this surprising sequel by placing Andrew W.K. on stage at their conference as he reminded us all that we should “Get ready to die“.
Set within the same world we ventured through within the original, how much has changed and what new mechanics can we hope to play around with as we mindlessly slaughter anything that looks at us funny? Let’s take a look as we Party Hard in this new terraformed land we once called home…
Just like the original RAGE, RAGE 2 isn’t going to win any award for its narrative – sorry guys! Although, that’s not why we play the game, so thankfully the main focus has been placed elsewhere. Briefly, the game is set thirty years after the events of the first game (no prior knowledge required). The world is still a wasteland after a vast amount of humans had mutated when an asteroid had hit Earth many years prior. Thankfully, in the last thirty years, humankind has developed a way of terraforming the land into various biomes in an effort to help them survive. So, no longer are we restricted to deserts, we now have jungles and less-sandy locations.
This brought about the rise of traders who acquire and sell goods throughout the land, as well as bandits which are comprised of the mutants, rebels, the ‘Authority’ and other foul creatures. These nasty pieces of work are constantly attacking the various regions in an effort to reclaim all of the resources for themselves and once again become the dominant ‘species’ on the planet. As such, a group of people form a faction known as the ‘Rangers’, no, not the Power Rangers… Although, They are kind of similar as they have their own Nanotrite enhanced power suit, a bunch of enhanced weaponry, and a selection of abilities they can use to overcome these horrific home invaders!
Walker, our male/female (your preference) protagonist isn’t a Ranger initially, but they assume the role when the opportunity falls in their lap… Following a genocide of all other Rangers, you set out to reap revenge on those who wiped out all of the people you cared about and those you looked up to. With the help of three characters from the original RAGE, you must complete the plan your predecessor was trying to put into motion and take down the son of a bitch in charge as well, as all of his ugly underlings!
Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!
In my opening paragraph, I described the original RAGE as “having solid combat wrapped within a slightly dull and poorly written story” – it seems history repeats itself as I didn’t really care much for the story as the actual gameplay is the star of the show, you can tell the most work went into refining that aspect of the game. If I was to describe the actual gameplay to you, I’d say it’s as if Avalanche’s Mad Max game had dirty post-apocalyptic sex with id Software’s DOOM reboot and then pooped out a baby ‘thing’. Which obviously makes sense as the game was developed by Avalanche Studios with creative support from id Software.
The combat is about as satisfying as you can get, each weapon has a unique feel as well as nice weighty attacks which really pulls you into the immersion. However, the downside to the combat is that there isn’t a lot of weapons for you to acquire and most of them require you to go off the beaten path and search for certain chests in order to add them to your arsenal. There’s nothing more fun than fighting a hoard of enemies whilst swapping between your rifle with erratic feedback, the powerful-at-close-range shotgun, the ‘make them go boom’ rocket launcher, or simply slice off their head with a Wingstick!
But technically, you could progress through the game utilising one or two of the weapons and totally disregard finding new weapons and special abilities, but where’s the fun in that!?!
Speaking of special abilities, just like the weapons, these are found as you explore the world. I’ve only got a few, despite completing the game, and these were found mainly whilst completing the ‘story requirements’. However, they are so cool! The first one I got hold of was the ability to become a Jedi. Well, not quite, but it’s very similar. Simply hold L1 and push Square to perform a ‘Force Push’, thrusting enemies far away from me at very fast speeds – these usually end with the enemies breaking their backs on walls, falling off cliffs to their doom, or “blasting off agaaaaaaain!”
My second ability was the Mario Bros Smash. Again, not quite but shush! You can do it stationary, whilst jumping, or falling from a great height – You perform a downward thrust into the ground with your fist as everyone around you gets thrown back in shock. It’s not as powerful as Super Fist Thrust, but it does the job when you’re surrounded by clingy creatures who won’t leave you alone!
Okay, I’m going to be straight with you here – I had no idea what I was doing with the RAGE 2 story until I was about two hours into the game (which is bad as I finished the story in just under five and a half hours). The way it works is, after the traumatic events you go through in the opening part of the game, you’re tasked with seeking out three people from the original RAGE, Antonin Kvasir, Loosum Hagar and John Marshall. Once you’ve found these, and cleared their initial ‘getting them to trust you’ mission, that’s it. All markers for their story are removed off the map and there’s no explanation of what you have to do. I completed all three of these and then sat there wondering what I had to do next – I don’t know if I skipped a help-bubble or if the game just doesn’t tell you?
Basically, the map is made up of around a hundred question marks, as you approach them (no fast travel, you have to walk/drive everywhere with no mini-map!) they will reveal themselves as one of three different types of event. These are colour coordinated and each type relates to one of the three people you met. All you do is work your way through each type, raising the cumulative experience for that faction up to level 5, then the NPC will invite you back to their place. This then triggers the second, and final, story event for that person.
Once you’ve done all three final missions, you’ll have a new toy which you need to take to a secret base (which is handily marked on the map for you). You enter the base, progress through a fun, and slightly tricky, mission, then take part in the final battle. Bobs your Uncle, RAGE 2 story is over. Now, I didn’t play this game for its story, I was here for the awesome and satisfying combat, along with the really fun vehicles with tight controls. The story was a secondary thing for me. Even though I saw the credits in under 330 minutes, I’ve barely touched the majority of the side missions, so I know I’ve still got hours worth of enjoyment left as I explore and uncover everything the game has to offer.
If you’ve not played Mad Max, and you have PS Plus, then you should have downloaded it when it was given to us for free. If not, go and buy it – it’s a great underrated single player game with great driving mechanics and a bunch of hidden side events for you to uncover and complete to progress the story (wait, that sounds familiar…). Why am I bringing this up? Because Avalanche Studios has done it again with their vehicle mechanics, they all feel different, yet control great. Just like in games such as Mad Max, and even GTA, you can ‘claim’ any car you hijack by bringing it back to any town – this way you can summon them for a tiny fee whilst you’re out and about. I stuck with the default car for most of the game, but there are some pretty nifty bandit cars which are much faster, albeit with no weapons.
Now, this is where we have my first major problem with the game (I know right, this far and only just getting to a major issue!). There’s a vehicle you gain access to towards the end of RAGE 2, a mini-plane which looks about the same size as a comical UFO you’d expect Marvin the Martian to fly. This allows you to shoot up in the sky and zip around the map really quickly! Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Wow, you can traverse really quickly and get to a place within seconds which would usually take you a few minutes of fumbling around flicking back and forth between your map”. Well, no…
You see, if you fly over any high structures, such as mountains or even hills which you usually can’t drive up, the game presents you with a “you are out of bounds” message. If you’re not quick and get back within the limits, it will reload you where you sat in the mini-plane – which in my case was always miles away. As you can’t tell what is and isn’t classed as ‘out of bounds’ until it’s almost too late – this vehicle is practically useless in its execution. This was my biggest disappointment as the map is too big and travel on the ground is too slow, so the absent of fast travel was fixed with the plane yet destroyed with the stupid boundaries which aren’t actually ‘boundaries’.
This leads me nicely to the actual map itself. I’ve seen snippets of other peoples reviews out there on the internet and there is one thing I saw that everyone was complaining about – they said RAGE 2 has great combat, yet it’s in an empty world… It’s a post-apocalyptic world, what do they expect? A fairground in every region with a massive crowd of people cheering on some mudwrestling women as they fight over the last unopened can of peaches? I didn’t have an issue with the lack of life in the world – mainly because there is no lack, there are tonnes of side-events and people riding around in cars which you can interact and slaughter. However, the sheer size of the world was what got to me.
As I previously mentioned, the mini-plane would be great, but it doesn’t work so I’m going to ignore that, so moving on foot or with wheels takes a very long time. A fast travel option to warp to various points on the map, like the four main towns, would be a welcomed addition, but there isn’t an option to do that. Also, I mentioned above about flicking back and forth with the map – as far as I could see, there’s no mini-map in RAGE 2. You can go to the map and set a waypoint, this will put neon pink guidelines on the road (until it decides to turn them off without reason), as well as look at the top of the screen for a compass – but there’s no actual minimap, so I got lost a few times.
Also, as a side rant – the item tracking ability frustrated me. As there’s no mini-map, you can unlock a tool that looks like a wifi logo at the top of the screen. When you get close to certain things, such as chests or data logs, the bar goes up – kind of like ‘hot or cold’, the game children play. This helps you find all the hidden collectables and helpful stashes of items. However, if you’re in an indoor location, such as the sewers, you could be under it and it’ll light up without clearly letting you know you’re not on the same level as it. Technically it works, but I just didn’t like HOW it worked.
Trees full of skills
RAGE 2 has gone a bit overboard with its skill trees if you ask me, and you did as you’re reading my review. There are various currencies you can collect in-game, well, resources. The ‘money’ can be used to unlock most of the upgrades to things like your weapons, adding more stability, longer distances, more power, or different modes to your toys. You can also pay to upgrade each of your cars through various levels, again it’ll increase damage, armour, speed or abilities. Finally, there are your standard skill trees for each of the factions (yeah, another three of them), these have their own themes such as a skill tree based on exploration and discovery, or one based on your offensive abilities and power.
The annoying thing is, although all of these require credits (currency), you also need a certain amount of another material, such as a weapon or vehicle upgrade point. Otherwise, you can’t upgrade them. These aren’t easy to come by either, as I have tonnes of cash yet I can’t upgrade anything until I go back and begin to raid all the camps and events for the hidden item caches. On a side note, you can buy these credits (in-game money, not the tokens) with real money via DLC on the respective storefronts. My advice – don’t. You won’t need to as long as you enjoy playing the game. You’ll have plenty without ever running out.
I’m all for a game with RPG-style skill trees as it adds depth and replayability, as well as exploration and adventure as you try and unlock everything. But, when you can finish the game without unlocking the majority of the abilities on offer… do we need them all? Sure, they are fun, but it’s the ‘Assassin’s Creed syndrome’ all over again. You tend to unlock the best and coolest abilities/weapons/costumes (in the case of AC) after you’ve completed the main story and no longer require them.
I don’t even recall seeing a New Game Plus mode – which would have been a great addition. Let me now replay the story in the hardest difficulty with all my unlocked abilities and I’ll agree that all these skill trees are useful.
RAGE 2 looks bloody brilliant. It has great use of motion blur and chromatic aberration (both of which can be toggled on/off) as well as a fantastic use of Depth of Field. As you’re aiming with your gun, the gun becomes blurred whilst you focus on the enemy within your sight, with further enemies also becoming slightly blurred as they would in real life. The motion blur works alongside your melee as you thrust your weapon into your foes face, as we did in DOOM, creating a sense of speed and force which is far beyond real life. This is all held together with nice and clear textures, sharp shadows, beautiful lighting, a full day-night cycle, and realistic texture materials.
The main technical achievement/drawback within RAGE 2 lies within its resolution and framerates. The base Xbox One is 900p, the base PS4 is 1080p and both the X and Pro are also 1080p. However, the base consoles are 30fps, with the Xbox One dipping slightly here and there, and the mid-gen updated consoles are both an almost locked 60fps (bar a few dips in populated areas on the Pro). Visually, all of them look the same, apart from a few enhancements on the more powerful systems, but the extra 30fps enhanced the game beyond anything you’d imagine. The original RAGE was 60fps on last gen consoles, it’s how the game is meant to be played. However, if you only have a base console, it’s still a great game, but it’s best on the PS4 Pro, Xbox One X or PC.
Soundwise, I’m disappointed. Not because of the game soundtrack, as that’s great – it perfectly suits the situation with its subtle tones that become more dramatic as the action begins. What I’m disappointed in is that there’s no Andrew W.K music within the game – not even in the credits (which I watched the entirety of). However, RUKUS, the creature with a slice up his face which some people took offence at as they thought it was mocking people with a cleft lip (it wasn’t), is actually ‘voiced’ by Andrew W.K. himself. So, none of his music but they still had him within the game.
On a side note, there are cheats you can unlock within RAGE 2 – these all disable trophies so I didn’t use any of them. However, there are two which don’t – enabling commentary of your game. Tim Kitzrow, from NBA Jam, can comment on your adventures, alternatively, Danny Dyer can. Yeah, the video that came out around April Fools was real – Danny will constantly call you a “muppet” as you slaughter the mutants. There’s one downside, the lines they have are very limited, so you’ll begin to hear repeats very soon and they don’t shut up. As such, I only used it for around twenty minutes, but it was a fun experience.
Every other character is voiced great – I didn’t have any issues with any accents, recording quality or misreading of the subtitled lines. Although, there is one thing I found immersion affecting…
Good old Bethesda bugs!
Although only published by Bethesda, it wouldn’t be part of the family if there wasn’t a bunch of bugs – despite the list of around 50 QA testers within the credits. As you can see above, I returned to a place I’d already been in, as I was lost and unsure what to do to progress the story, and I noticed these floating wheels. Turns out, certain doors will remain open after you’ve opened them, but the wheels will return to their origin point upon reloading, meaning you have to duck and breathe in so you can squeeze past them!
I had an issue in the various towns as every now and again, I’d see a marker in front of me indicating I can talk to someone, but nobody is there. I realised that people were turning translucent without any explanation! Was the radiation turning them all invisible like the invisible man? Were they shrinking really tiny like Rick Moranis in “Honey We Shrunk Ourselves”? Or is it just another case of the Bethesda curse? Who knows…
The aforementioned mini-plane, not only because of the stupid ‘out-of-bounds’ for flying over a hill, but it would occasionally spawn upside down. Thus, once you sat in it, you’re happily sat there with your face in the ground, unable to re-orientate it as the upthrust would push you further into the dirt – like a Walker sandwich. A simple bash or two with another car does the job, but I don’t think that was the intention of the developers…
You know how I said the Furious Fisting action can knock your enemies flying, well sometimes it went a little too far. I saw two people thrust themselves into the wall so hard, they pinged off into space – quite literally like Team Rocket. This one was a funny bug though, like the Giants in Skyrim.
There were a few others but only two impacted on my progression – both related to lifts. First, a lift wouldn’t come to me, despite being called whilst I was on the top floor. You can’t jump down and do a double jump just before you hit the ground – as you can in most games to not get damaged – as you die long before you touch the ground. So, I had to close and reload the save file in order to bring the lift back up to me. I also got stuck immediately in the post-game as the lift didn’t appear, so I was stuck in a room with two lovely ladies. A reload later and it put me outside and finally free! The point here is, if you encounter a bug that blocks progression – save and reload.
Despite the story and method of progression being a bit naff, RAGE 2 is one of the most satisfying FPS games I’ve played in a long time. With its multitude of skill trees, funded by both cash and secondary pick-ups, there’s a lot to try and unlock which will enhance your experience as you mercilessly cut off the heads and spill the guts of your foes. The vehicles are heavy and control perfectly, with the exception of the one which would have made my life so much easier, and the combination of weapons and abilities keeps the action diverse and interesting from beginning to end.
My main complaint about RAGE 2 is that it’s a little too big for its own good. A more compressed map and fewer skill trees may have made it a more refined experience, but at least there’s plenty to do and see in this post-apocalyptic world. I can’t wait for the DLC expansions to arrive for the game as It’ll give me a reason to play on, post-completing the game, and gear myself up for the upcoming content. RAGE 2 isn’t a narrative-focused adventure, it’s a superb shooter encased within a beautiful world which is held together by a loose narrative.
- - Mindless combat which feels very satisfying and heavy
- - Very good car physics which changes based on your vehicle
- - Graphically very pretty and runs incredibly smooth on the enhanced consoles at 60fps
- - Lots and lots to upgrade via the various skill trees and unlocks
- - Great for short burst gaming, just wandering around the wastes and getting into fights
- - The main narrative is short, I finished it in just under five and a half hours
- - The game feels 'too big' with it's multitude of skill trees and size of the map
- - No music from Andrew W.K is present, although he does voice a character
- - It's initially a bit confusing as you try to work out what to do in order to progress the story