Between Far Cry New Dawn, Anthem, and Days Gone, no one would fault you for not wanting to play yet another open world, post-apocalyptic / damaged world shooter like Rage 2 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC). Which is too bad since this sequel to the 2011 cult classic is not only on par with some of those games — and far better than others — but it also has some unique aspects as well.
In Rage 2,
the world we know is long gone, crushed under the weight of a meteor strike that turned the planet into a giant desert populated by mutants, freaks, and off-road driving enthusiasts. But unlike the hero of the first game, you were born into this world, bred into it, and now have to clean up the mess he left behind when he destroyed a domineering group known as the The Authority. Doubly so after they return, kill your Aunt, and wipe your hometown off the map. But it’ll be okay, vengeance will be mine! Er, yours.
Or, to put it a different way, Rage 2 is basically Far Cry: Fury Road.
It should come as no surprise that Rage 2 shares many of the same tenets as those aforementioned shooters. Set in an open world you can explore freely, you have to go on missions, run errands, get into random shootouts, and then look around for the ammo, supplies, and crafting resources needed to, well, complete your missions, errands, and so on.
But Rage 2 starts to distinguish itself from similar games almost immediately, albeit in small ways. Take getting around. While there are some abandoned vehicles you can commandeer, Rage 2 strongly encourages you to use and maintain your own ride, since it’s upgradable, has multiple weapon options, and can be fixed by the side of the road if you concentrate really, really hard. But unlike your motorcycle in Days Gone, your vehicle can be summoned if you lose track of it. You also have a couple different options in the type of car you drive.
Rage 2 also encourages you to drive everywhere by making the roads lousy with bandits. Not only will they run you over, but their vehicles also have weapons, and even with your armor, you won’t last long against a Gatling gun. Though, on the flipside, having a gun that’s mounted, as opposed to in your hand, makes it easier to steer and shoot at the same time here than in some other games we could mention.
In a similar vein, your upgradable skills and rechargeable attacks in Rage 2 are also slightly different than those in other games. Thanks to your armor, you can activate a moment of ‘roid rage-like adrenaline rush that’s along the lines of getting the Berserk power-up in Doom, just without the invincibility. But you also have nanobots in your blood that give you powers that are Jedi-esque. And, well, Mario-esque. Shatter is essentially Force push from any number of Star Wars games, while Grav-Jump is a double jump.
These nanobot skills in Rage 2…
can also be combined with other attacks in ways that recall the sadistic shooter Bulletstorm. For instance, one nanobot skill gifts you with grenades that suck in anything not nailed down. And if those things happen to be both bad guys and a can of gasoline, well, you know.
Your enemies in Rage 2 are also slightly different than those you’ve fought before. Well, unless you played the first game. Be they mutants or just fellow survivors, enemy combatants can be erratic, acrobatic, and unpredictable. But unlike the freakers in Days Gone and the religious zealots in Far Cry New Dawn, they’re more focused and determined. Some are also heavily armored — and I don’t just mean the bosses — while still others can briefly turn invisible. All of which can make gunfights rather frantic.
There are even times when Rage 2 drops you in an arena and forces you to take on all-comers like a round of “Horde” in Gears Of War 4. Though, for people not into such survival modes, you only have to do it once; follow-up visits are strictly optional.
Aiding you in these battles are a good mix of weapons, the most unique of which is the Wingstick, a boomerang that’s had its blades sharpened, and thus may not always return to you. Granted, it’s not as effective, or as much fun, as Far Cry New Dawn‘s Saw Launcher — a crossbow that shoots ricocheting circular saw blades, and would be 2019’s Video Game Weapon Of The Year if such a prize were offered — but it is handy in tight spaces.
Rage 2 even makes slight changes to how some common guns work. When using the regular pistol or the assault rifle, pulling the right trigger makes you look down the barrel, as it does in most modern shooters. But with some guns, this also enables a weapon’s secondary fire mode. The shotgun, for instance, combines three bullets into one for a more powerful shot.
The problem is that if, like me, you play a lot of shooters, your natural instinct will be to use iron sights all the time. Which means doing the special shot even when you don’t need to. Hence why I kept running out of shotgun ammo.
this is more a minor inconvenience than a serious issue. But it’s not the only one that plagues Rage 2.
For starters, Rage 2 requires you to be staring right at something to trigger the button prompt needed to pick it up. The same is also true when you want to smash open specially marked boxes that are lying on the ground. So much so that it’s easier to just shoot them and be done with it. You also can’t always pick up multiple items at the same time, even when they’re right next to each other, which makes this feel a bit dated.
Rage 2 also makes the same mistake as Days Gone, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, and the Batman Arkham games by giving you the ability to scan an area for enemies, but not have those enemies stay highlighted. Though it’s actually even less handy since it only highlights enemies, not ammo, resources, or other helpful items.
Rage 2 also has an issue so common that I just cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant game review: the type is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the menus.
Now, some people may also be bothered by Rage 2‘s overall aesthetic and tone, one that’s neon punk cartoony in a rather Sunset Overdrive kind of way. Half the characters look like they’re wearing low-rent fat suits that were designed by whoever made the one for David Lee Roth’s “Goin’ Crazy” video, and the rest look like, well, okay, they look like the denizens of every video game set in a Mad Max-ian world, but with more flare and hot pink highlights. And don’t get me started on the cheesy sound effects that pop up whenever you complete a task or upgrade a weapon.
But, in a way,
it’s this cartoonish and loose feel that makes Rage 2 work so well. Sure, it still mines the territory as Days Gone, and Anthem, and Far Cry New Dawn — and will be replicated once again when Borderlands 3 comes out September 13 — but by having erratic enemies, unique ways of taking them down, and a bit of an over-the-top style and feel, Rage 2 manages to distinguish itself from the herd. Which is why, if you chosse to skip this, you have only yourself to blame.