Open-world. First-person shooter. Post-apocalyptic. Utter these words to anyone, and a large handful of games come to mind. I know if someone said those words to me, the first few games I would think of are Fallout 4, Metro: Exodus, Borderlands: take out the “post-apocalyptic” part and insert any other location, we would have a long list. Open-world games have become quite common, which is not necessarily a bad thing depending on who you’re asking. If you’re asking me, I love them but many do fall short of being unique enough to continue playing or to even bat an eye at.

In the case of Rage 2, the sequel to the id Software game from nearly a decade ago, it is yet another open-world, first-person shooter, post-apocalyptic game. But unlike many other games in this pseudo-genre Rage 2 is an absolute diamond when it comes to moment-to-moment game play and thrilling combat. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other aspects of the game where the game falters.

So the question is, can one incredible strong aspect of a game outweigh and strengthen some not-so-great aspects? The short answer, yes. The long answer? It’s a bit more complicated. Rage 2 is a mixed bag, but for some odd reason, I can’t stop playing it.

The Last of the Rangers

During the entire marketing campaign for Rage 2 (which has been quite hilarious), has always promoted the game as a guns blazing action adventure with some minor nods to the story. This is even more evident when you actually start playing the game. Rage 2, is definitely not winning any awards for writing, world-building and its characters are defiantly not going to be remembered years from now.

The game begins at the Vineland Rangers compound where your character Walker (which can be either male or female), awakens to an attack by the big bad of the Rage series, The Authority. Led by a very generic villain, General Cross, players will find themselves fighting back against an army of cyber-mutants which kicks off the games narrative. I want to stress the word “narrative” here because honestly through my entire play-through, I found myself losing focus on the story and getting lost in the world and the gameplay.

The first ride out of Vineland Rangers HQ.

Rage 2 is very straight forward, almost to a fault. There aren’t many twists and turns that surprise you, there is a noticeable lack of character development and I honestly couldn’t find myself caring much about the conflict against The Authority. There are some really fun and hilarious moments, but they are far to sparse for a game that delves itself into the realms of the ridiculous. There were moments where the game tried far too hard to make us care for characters, who seem to barely care for us.

Speaking of characters, every time we’re introduced to a major character, it begins in a very artificial manner. Each character is shown off in a Suicide Squad-esque introduction that looks like a dossier for a character. It breaks the pacing of the scene, and makes the entire experience feel a bit cringe.

Returning Dr. Kvasir is still..really weird.

To progress through the story, the player has to do missions between the three main faction leaders to build up to launching the end-game operation against the Authority. It may sound like a lot, but the story is actually quite short for an open-world game. I can appreciate that since many open-world games, the campaign starts to drag especially if it’s not good to begin with.

Work with the three leaders to take down General Cross.

I think I’ve written more in this section about the story, than the actual games plot itself. These are harsh words, but the games campaign is nothing to feel excited about. No, that excitement instead is reserved to some of the tightest gun-play in a shooter in years.

Apocalyptic Warfare

When it comes to first-person shooters in an open-world, I have usually been a forgiving. The Far Cry games by Ubisoft control great, but the weapons sometimes have a noticeable lack of heft and punch which creates some dull moments in combat. Even Metro: Exodus which I praised for its gameplay in my review, the movement can sometimes feel a bit clunky. Enter Rage 2, a game that feels like the developers at Avalanche and id Software tossed Doom guy into this apocalyptic world.

If you’ve played the recent DOOM by id Software, Rage 2 will feel very similar, in the best way ever. Avalanche really put a lot of effort into making the game feel like an absolute treat to play. The movement is fluid, the combat scenarios are frantic and rewarding and while the A.I. is not amazing, it is enough to keep you on your toes on any difficulty. In fact, I had to roll the difficulty back from hard so I could finish this review in time. When the game begins, the combat is a bit slower forcing you to consider your options before diving into a fight. But, as the game progresses, you start modifying your character and the game play opens up in exciting ways.

There are two pillars to Rage 2, the first being its deceptively phenomenal weapons. You start the game with a basic pistol and rifle, like any other shooter in the past decade, and from there on you get more access to weapons. At first glance the weapons are standard, but then you gain access to deep upgrade trees unique to each gun which change the weapons behavior, but also alternate fire modes. The burst pistol when aiming down the sights become a stronger, single fire weapon; your standard meaty id Software shotguns when aiming down turns into a long-range focused round. Each weapon has a unique trait which makes the gameplay feel fresh, and with the overdrive ability (where players basically become Doom guy at that point) adds an additional change to the way weapons behave.

Weapon behaviors change as you modify them.

Rage 2 also takes a page out of fellow Bethesda game Dishonoured’s book, with unique powers that change the way you handle any situation. Nanontrite abilities are left over technology from before the world ended, that augment the Rangers skill-sets. Some of these abilities include Dash which allows players to dodge attacks, Slam, where players can jump into the air and cause a shock wave that blasts enemies away and my personal favorite, Vortex which is basically a tiny black hole you can throw at enemies to lift them up right before the vortex explodes. Combining that with weapons like the ridiculous gravity dart which you can shoot enemies with, and then point at any direction to send them flying, creates a healthy set of combos you can pull off.

Some abilities are okay, and some are just fantastic.

Rage 2 is a phenomenal shooter with a host of toys and abilities to play around with. These skill sets will be needed as you venture into the open-world to complete the various missions and activities, some of which are exciting, but others not so much.

Odd Jobs

Rage 2‘s cookie cutter campaign, is accompanied by some pretty fun missions that start to feel all too familiar after some time. The campaign missions itself have some fun moments, like running around in Mutant Bash TV fighting off Abadon mutants. While it was fun doing that mission, it’s nothing to be excited about. One mission however was quite a standout experience, bringing down an Ecopod. Without spoiling much, the mission featured an exciting premise, great combat scenarios and a fun final boss to face. I wish there were a lot more missions like this one, because Rage 2 is at its best when giving players ridiculous missions with exciting scenarios.

The best mission in the game hands-down.

Unfortunately, Rage 2 also has various missions that are simply awful. One example is completing a race to become popular enough to enter a club. The mission would be fine, if the driving was perfect but it’s simply not. It’s designed for thrilling vehicle combat, but racing? Not so much. Rage 2 missions range from fun to uninspired, but never awful thankfully. The side-activities however are a bit more mixed in their quality.

Rage 2’s world is…also weird.

Within the sprawling world of Rage 2, there are a host of activities to do including clearing out Bandit Dens which can be quite fun, Ark hunts that are necessary to developing your arsenal and….mining asteroids which just plain sucks. There are other activities like clearing roadblocks, but they fall into the standard open-world activity structure. These activities can be fun thanks to the amazing combat, but after some time the feeling of deja vu sets in and the drive to do these activities goes away. Rage 2 missions and activities are not bad, I just wish they did more to take advantage of the open world.

Wasteland Adventures

Rage 2, unlike its predecessor, features a massive open-world where you drive around shooting at bad guys, taking missions, visiting various hub towns and more. The world crafted by Avalanche and id Software is beautiful, but can sometimes feel a bit empty. For me, the trademark of a phenomenal open-world is the dynamic nature of an ever moving space. Take Metro: Exodus for example; it’s open-world(s) are tiny in comparison, but are packed with interesting elements and encounters that stops you in your track, and invites you to explore. In Rage 2, except for a few random skirmishes on the road and the various map markers, nothing really ever made me stop and get out of my car to explore. The world is beautifully designed, but it never feels dynamic.

A big map, lots of activities, but its missing a dynamic element.

Random skirmishes are never worth stopping for.

In fact, the most dynamic thing I found out about the open-world were the random merchants traveling around that you would honk your horn at to refill on ammo and sell loot. Small touches like that make a world feel alive, but apart from that, the open-world feels like a missed opportunity which is a shame since it looks stunning.

The most dynamic aspect of this game, this guy.

Rage 2 is not the greatest looking game this generation, but there are moments where the game is truly stunning, especially on PC. Just take a look at some of these scenic shots through my adventures.

The game also features various towns which serve as hub worlds to restock on equipment and ammo, and pick up some side-missions and location information. Except for Wellspring (which was a prominent location in the first game), the towns feel underwhelming and turn into glorified gas stations to pick stuff up and drive away. There was very little incentive to stick around. While the open-world is not perfect, getting around it can be a fun time through the games fun vehicle combat.

A return to Wellspring.

Road Rage

Rage 2‘s other gameplay strength is its fun, exhilarating yet imperfect vehicle combat. Right at the beginning of the game, you’re given access to your default vehicle the Phoenix, which starts off useful but can be upgraded to a machine that would make even Batman jealous. Rage 2’s entire marketing campaign was about freedom and being able to drive any car, which is true. Except the issue is a fully upgraded Phoenix essentially wipes the floor with any other vehicle in the game, even the pre-order DLC monster truck I received.

Convoy battles are a lot of fun.

The Phoenix has a multitude of upgrades like weapons, a pulse wave to knock out shields, an ejector seat and more, I only wish we had ways to augment the look of the car. Not to say that the Phoenix is ugly in any way, in fact, its a beautiful car, I just I had the option to change the colors, tires, and add some touches to make the car feel like mine.

They may get repetitive, but the car combat makes up for it.

When driving in the open world, there aren’t that many opportunities to get into vehicle combat save for one really good one, convoys. It’s a little disappointing that vehicle combat is at its best for one activity, but when convoy missions get going, they prove to be an exciting experience. Sometimes this experience can feel a bit bogged down by the vehicle controls: they’re not bad, but can sometimes be a bit annoying, especially the camera if you crash into a ditch. Rage 2 has great vehicle combat, I just wish the open-world gave us more dynamic opportunities to take advantage of it.

Overall

Rage 2 is not a perfect game, and it’s not going to win any awards for narrative or world building. But what this game achieves is becoming an antidote to open-world games where the gameplay is far from exemplary: a game where you feel empowered to enjoy yourself with a toy chest filled with exciting weapons, abilities, and upgrades. For the future, Avalanche and id Software have to develop a more dynamic and interesting world that pushes players to explore, than simply drive through chasing after the next mission. As for the story, this is one of the rare scenarios where I would be okay if the narrative took a back seat. Sometimes with open-world games you just want a fun sandbox to run around in, and to truly become a wasteland superhero.

This review was based on a PC experience: Intel® Core™ i70-8700K CPU @ 3.70GHz, 16 GB Ram and Nvidia GTX 1080TI.

Rage 2 Review
The Good
  • Fantastic, thrilling combat that is filled with depth and excitement
  • Fun vehicle combat in a large playground
  • Visually impressive in moments
The Bad
  • Dull story and uninteresting characters
  • Open-world can sometimes feel empty
  • Lack of mission variety
7.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
9.9

About The Author

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Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.