Back in 2015 (I can't believe it's been that long), Avalanche put out an excellent but flawed open world game, Mad Max. Its driving combat mechanics and style were on point for the universe, but its repetitive nature and weak on-foot action dragged it down. Fast forward four years and a partnership with Bethesda and id Software bring us the sequel to 2011's own flawed FPS - Rage. In short, Rage 2 is the perfect melding of what made the original Rage great, and what made Mad Max worth playing. It's loud, and it's brash, it's over the top and just plain fun to play.
Rage 2 is a sequel, but if you never played the original or don't remember much, don't worry. Rage 2 isn't a game that's so layered with the narrative you need a companion app to keep up. I mean, there's plenty of content to read up on as you find data pads throughout the wasteland, but the story is bad guy wants to take over the world - you're the good guy. Stop him.
That's about all you need to know. After an attack from the big bad takes down your entire home base, and your adoptive mother, you must venture out into the massive (it is big) open world and bring something called Project Dagger to fruition or die trying. As the last ranger of your line, you're a man or a woman known as Walker (insert Texas Ranger joke here, or Chuck Norris, or both). You've got to go out, find your maternal figure's old friends, and convince them to help you take down the maniacal and fascist Authority.
Take a look at 10 minutes of gameplay!
Like many open world action games, Rage 2 is chock-a-block full of things to do, and in my 15 hours so far, none of it has been annoying. That's not to say it can't be repetitive - bandit bases are often very similar to one another, and things like Authority Sentries are usually identical to take down, just in a different location. That's a problem with the genre, in and of itself. The devs want to or feel obligated to cram the big spaces full of so much stuff that some of it seems to blend.
The trick is keeping it fun through the gameplay, and that's one thing Rage 2 nails. The combination of id's FPS expertise and Avalanche's open-world destruction and driving prowess make for a fantastically hyperactive action game. I played the PC edition, and I can attest that the controls are complicated, but not unwieldy. Like all driving games, it's just not meant for mouse and keyboard, but it's passable, even if steering felt much better on my Astro controller.
Shooting is a damned dream with the mouse though, as Rage 2 feels more like the recent Doom reboot than anything. Pre-order folks even get the BFG as a weapon, though its ammo is limited and expensive to purchase. Still, seeing the gun in Rage 2 should tell you just how worried about "being serious" this game is. It's gory, gibs are frequent, and the humor is somewhere between Borderlands and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus.
Where Rage 2 stumbles is the controls of the game's many powers and combos - at least on the PC. The controller makes pulling off tons of dashes, pushes, jumps, and wingstick tosses a dream. But the keyboard controls are just a little more convoluted, and your hands wind up having to be Cirque du Soleil level contortionists to pull off some of the moves. Players who like shooters on controllers will be happy, whereas the PC playing folks should feel prepared to remap actions as much as needed.
Other complaints are of the physics variety - you'll obtain a metric ton of cars as you play Rage 2, but not all of them drive well. In particular, the fast but poorly-handling motorcycles are a real letdown. Not only do they drive like they're constantly sputtering through pudding, but they react so randomly it's hard to recommend ever trying to drive them. I hit a rock, a small stone, in the middle of the road and my bike rocketed 300 feet into the air. It was hilarious, but also frustrating since it was just before the place I needed to drive.
If you're a completionist, Rage 2 has dozens of these things called Arks to track down and open up. They're essentially crash-landed ships that contain technology only the Rangers can open. You go in, you kill the bad guys around it, and you get some sweet new powers or weapons in return. You don't have to do them, and in fact, it's clear you could beat Rage without doing most of its side activities, but where would the fun be in that?
As you play, you'll uncover lots of additional stuff to do from Mutant Bash TV (which is exactly as it sounds) to a series of high-speed races and loads of side missions with their own rewards to boot. What's more, is that there are some real RPG-lite character-building bits to Rage 2. You're not going to have to worry about min-maxing your stats, and there's no armor or weapons like an Action RPG to collect, but your character can unlock and level up almost all their skills, guns, and cars.
Rage 2 has been an immense improvement over its predecessor. And as someone who loved Avalanche's Mad Max, I can say it's very clear that id and Avalanche work well to create mayhem only they're capable of mastering. We may never get a sequel to Mad Max, but with Rage 2, we don't need it. It may not be perfect, but Rage 2 is a whole lot of fun, and I expect we'll be seeing more in this series for years to come. Or so I hope.
FINAL SCORE: 8.3/10
- Tons of stuff to do
- Great shooting, great driving
- A metric ton of RPG-like progression
- Runs like a dream
- Buggy physics
- Side missions are repetitive