Score: 9/10 | OPEN-WORLD | FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER | EXPLOSIVE MAYHEM
“RAGE 2 has taken the best elements of first-person shooting from Doom and the open-world exploration and vehicular mayhem from Mad Max and created an all-out guns-blazing explosive sequel to RAGE.”
RAGE 2 is an open-world first-person shooter developed jointly by Avalanche Studios and id Software and published by Bethesda Softworks for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. RAGE 2 is a sequel to id Software’s RAGE released in 2011, and the collaboration between first-person shooter pioneers id, with open-world legends Avalanche, has spawned a game featuring the best of both genres. If you want a quick recap of RAGE, you can read my review here.
First revealed in an unfortunate leak by Walmart Canada in May 2018, RAGE 2 blasted its way onto the stage at E3 2018 with a high-intensity performance from Andrew W.K and his song ‘Ready to Die’. The promotional material since then has showcased the intensity and balls-out mayhem and fun depicted in the game and stylised with fluoro colours throughout. It really set itself as a complete upgrade of the linear dark and gritty first game which kept my hype-meter high in anticipation, and I’m pleased to say I’ve been loving playing since its release on May 14, 2019.
RAGE 2 is set 30 years after the events of the original RAGE. Over this time, the scorched and fragile landscapes from the first game have evolved with some areas still as barren as ever, whilst others feature overgrown jungles and swamps. The best thing? You can go wherever you want to, primarily by land but also by air, and this is one of the major drawcards for me. When I was playing the original RAGE, I wanted to explore more of the land but was funnelled from quest to quest with limited range. In RAGE 2, anything you can see, you can reach, and any vehicle you find, you can drive. It also helps that the game looks absolutely stunning with some of the best outdoor scenes I’ve seen in a game. I’m often stopping to take a screenshot and utilise the game’s photo mode to capture each different landscape and at different times of the day/night cycle. Graphically it’s up there with Witcher 3 and RAGE 2 runs smooth as hell, even on my 2013-specced PC and a GTX1060.
Before you do anything in the game, you need to choose whether you play as a male or female character who will be named Walker. After that selection and grab your weapons, you are thrust face-first into action as a mutant burst into the room and subsequently gets its head blown off by a character called Lily. Lily is a sister-figure who you have grown up with, under the tough-as-nails guidance of Lily’s mother, Erwina Prowley. If you remember the first RAGE game, the Authority were led by Martin Cross, an ark survivor himself who tried to turn all remaining survivors into Authority soldiers or killed anyone that resisted. He is back as General Cross now and commands supermutants to lay waste to your home of Vineland.
The Rangers of Vineland are super soldiers using nanotrites (superpowered abilities) that you are familiar with from the first game. One of the rangers is killed brutally right in front of you and you put on his armour to protect yourself. Little did you know he was the last ranger in existence, and by wearing the armour and slaying the remaining mutants in this area, you become the last living ranger in this world. This realisation is short lived as Erwina is captured by General Cross and killed before he escapes. Your mission now is to take down the Authority and kill General Cross. To do this, you will need to find various arks spread around the world in order to find more Nanotrite technology to enhance your skills enough and find new weapons to take on the General and his army.
This first sequence was explosive and action-packed, and whilst it was good fun, it felt like I was playing Doom or Quake on rails rather than the slower-paced original RAGE. This quickly introduced the main characters and the story, but it just felt different. It turned me off at first, but once you get through this sequence and the story is explained to you, you are then given your first vehicle and the free-roam world becomes open to you, which is what I was waiting for. The vehicle you start with is called the Phoenix and is fitted with ‘Safe Mode’ technology which means you can repair it in the field. The Phoenix is the only vehicle that can be repaired this way and has an AI that gives you advice as you travel. This AI is voiced by the amazing Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman! Other vehicles are harder to handle than the Phoenix, which became my primary choice after trying a few others.
I started driving around and this is where I felt more at home with game, being able to progress at my own pace. As I was taking in the stunning views around me (the first game locked you into a forward-facing view only in vehicles), I saw an asteroid streak across the sky and smash into the ground just over the next hill. Once there I looked through the smoking crater and found the Doom BFG-9000 gun which is a pre-order item from the Deluxe Edition! What a cool way to give the player this kind of item as opposed to just having it appear in your inventory or via in-game mail like other games.
The story has you locating three main characters who will give you quests to unlock abilities and technology that will help you take down General Cross. These are all major characters from the original RAGE, now older and wiser – John Marshall, Antonin Kvasir and Loosum Hagar. I set a waypoint to John Marshall’s town of Gunbarrel and started driving but then saw a big jump ramp off to the left. I remembered there were achievements attached to jumps in RAGE, so drove to it and blasted off it. Remember those times in your youth when you are on your BMX bike and get halfway up a ramp when it’s too late to bail, to then come to realisation that you cooked it and the landing is going to hurt? Yeah, I didn’t see it before hitting the ramp, but it was a huge ravine I was jumping across and I hoped I had enough speed to land on the other side.
Thankfully I made it and landed hard, but the car was on fire. I jumped out and ran away from the flames, straight into a pile of goons who started lobbing grenades and shooting at me. I turned to run; a grenade blasted near me which also ignited an explosive barrel. This blew up killing some goons who came from behind my car, so I took cover and then fired off some headshots to finish off the goons that were left. The battle music was still playing, and I heard some yells from a ledge above me. I found an elevator and activated it to head up to the next level. The battle music stopped, and soothing elevator music played which made me laugh. I reached the upper level, the elevator doors opened and then boom, the battle music was back on and I was back into the action blasting muties with legs and heads flying everywhere. Now this is the kind of hectic mayhem that I was looking for from RAGE 2!
This gunplay felt a lot like 2016’s Doom by id, and the open-world exploration and vehicular combat felt like 2015’s Mad Max by Avalanche, so the cohesion between the two studios was ticking all my boxes. As you unlock better weapons and better nanotrites (abilities), you can start to level them up and enhance the abilities. Visiting an ark will inject you with the nanotrite, then you’ll be able to practice the nanotrite in a special tutorial area before being able to use it in the real world. Nanotrites such as dash, grav-jump and defibrillation unlock early which get more useful as you progress. Later nanotrites like shatter, slam and vortex allow you to have some crazy fun combat.
Shooting mutants as you drive past or blowing up cars and motorbikes felt so satisfying. I did notice however, if I was on foot in the middle of a road, vehicles would shoot at me as they drove past, but they wouldn’t stop or chase me like in the original game. It was only if I managed to smash into them or block/disrupt their drive path that they hung around and kept shooting at me. Whilst this may seem like the AI vehicles are less aggressive than the first game, at least they left me alone to keep doing what I was doing. I remember it being annoying having to fight the bandit vehicles every time you went past them in RAGE. Vehicles aren’t just for blowing sh*t up, you can race friendly vehicles by beeping your horn near them and there’s the ChazCar Derby which comes into play further into Loosam’s questline, as does MutantBash TV.
I spotted a convoy icon on the map which is a group of cars protecting a larger lead vehicle called an Annihilator. Some support cars had shields and others were unshielded cars and motorbikes which were easily picked off. This convoy led me halfway across the huge world-map as I slowly took down each vehicle and occasionally the lead truck would reveal weak spots. I didn’t have many weapon upgrades at that point, so it took me a few attempts to take down this convoy, but all throughout these thrilling chases it reminded me of scenes from Mad Max: Fury Road and I had the biggest smile on my face. Later on you can unlock the ability to show convoys on the map no matter which region they’re in.
Having now travelled halfway around the game world, I had a heap of waypoints unlocked that were fuel stations, roadblocks, houses, Authority sentries, cave entrances and outposts, and a heap of question marked locations. You don’t know what the question marks are until you go back and explore that location, or unlock them by reading a datapad or from an npc offering a side quest. It therefore pays to search each location you visit for pink-cased datapads that give off a yellow glow at night-time. Each location has a list of supply crates and/or datapads that you need to find, and some are very well hidden. There were a few times where I was pulling my hair out to find the last chest but the OCD in me just had to find them!
I was eager to visit the town of Wellspring as this featured heavily in the first game; however I was constantly distracted by things to do on the map and this is a great thing. The unvisited waypoints kept piling up as I found more and more as I searched. Once at Wellspring and after a battle sequence, we meet the Mayor of Wellspring, Loosum Hagar, daughter of Dan Hagar who we met in the original RAGE. Inside her office are some framed pictures of Dan, the original dune buggy vehicle and the old version of Wellspring. As I walked around the streets, I also stumbled upon a crazy NPC named Wimothy Tillits which is paying homage to id studio’s director Timothy Willits. I love these kinds of easter eggs and nods to the original game.
After playing for nearly 20 hours, I have only covered half of the game map. I am having way too much fun clearing outposts, doing side quests, finding ark locations to unlock new abilities and weapons, and unlocking vehicles. The gameplay loop can get repetitive here, but that’s when I go and do some derby races or MutantBash TV, or go find more things to discover in other regions. I highly recommend unlocking the Icarus vehicle which is a single seat gyrocopter as this gives you complete freedom to explore wherever you want. You unlock the Icarus once you raise Kvasir’s level to 7. The Icarus keeps you elevated above the terrain automatically, so you don’t have to worry too much about avoiding cliff faces and buildings. I did manage to almost get it stuck trying to get out of a cave. I got it in fine, but the camera angles made it difficult to rise out of that same hole.
Aside from a couple of these camera angle issues on some vehicles, sometimes the NPC voices would cutting out during conversations at random times (turn subtitles on so you don’t miss anything), and I did come up against an outpost that I couldn’t progress because it had a locked door. I spent about 30-45 minutes trying to grav-jump and glitch my way up to the next floor but ultimately it was because there is a quest from Korvis that takes you to that location and he gives you codes to unlock the doors. Aside from these problems, I didn’t come across any other bugs and the game ran surprisingly smooth. If only other open-world games like this could run so well with as much action happening on the screen. I cannot get enough of the visuals of the various regions as well as taking numerous screenshots of the environments during the day and night cycles. I particularly love the look of the moon that appears to have had a huge meteor streak through it.
Bethesda has outlined a 2019 content calendar with events, community challenges, new vehicles, additional enemies, new cheats and two expansions. At the time of writing this article, players have already collectively completed the first community challenge, so we’ll all be receiving a new pistol skin. There are skins you can purchase in the in-game store, however you can also unlock them through gameplay by spending coins or other items at certain locations. For example, if you complete enough MutantBash TV matches, you can unlock a unique skin for your weapons. You can also purchase gold skins from Gunbarrel for coins. Without spoiling too much, there is a post-credits scene that hints there’s going to either be some great DLC to continue the story, or could it mean a possible RAGE 3? Only time will tell!
Overall, I gave the game a 9/10. RAGE 2 has taken the best elements of first-person shooting from Doom and the open-world exploration and vehicular mayhem from Mad Max and created an all-out guns-blazing explosive sequel to RAGE. The main story quests are fantastic but could be rushed in several hours if you’re not interested in exploration. However, the open-world exploration is what we wanted from the original. RAGE 2 has so much to do in each region and so many baddies to use your plethora of weapons and abilities, you just have to go out and find those arks.
This review utilised a Steam game key provided for review purposes with 20 hours of gameplay. RAGE 2 is rated MA15+ for Strong Violence and is available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.