Is Doom + Mad Max a success?
The initial pitch for Rage 2 seems like a can't miss proposition. Take the guns from 2016's Doom and merge them with the open world and driving of Mad Max. The end result should be something worth celebrating, but there's a third wrinkle. It turns out that we all forgot about Rage, but the developers sure didn't. This is a sequel that cares about its origins a bit too much, leading to a game that flirts with greatness while all manner of narrative flaws holds it back. What should have been an over the top thrill ride is just something purely mediocre.
Tell me if you've heard this one before. You play as Walker, a soldier in training who yearns for something more. Said something comes in the form of General Cross, a bald man with scars on his face and a giant mechanical body. He kills your mentor with a glowing blade and you escape, vowing revenge on the evil empire that has wronged you. The rest of the narrative is no less derivative, and there are barely any standout characters throughout the adventure. You'd think that a game marketed with such over the top energy would be a bit more original, but everything in Rage's world is expected and predictable.
Raging at Rage 2's World
On top of that, everyone in Rage 2 is chatty to the point of frustration. Whether you're taking on a mission or just going into a store, characters will spout pages of dialogue at you. Of course, said chatter doesn't keep playing when you walk away, meaning you have to stand still and listen to overlong speeches about generic nonsense if you care at all about Rage 2's narrative. There isn't a single memorable side character in the entire wasteland, even among the few who get fancy cutscene introductions. Everything cribs from better works, and you'll struggle to care about anyone's pedestrian struggles.
This gets even more frustrating in the main story, which makes you trek to the four corners of the map and watch boring cutscenes. When you combine that with limited fast travel and a rather empty open world, it leads to a lot of downtime in what should be a high-octane undertaking. Rage 2 seems to want you to explore outposts and other unmarked locations, but there's no drive to do it. The only thing you'll find is five more flavors of upgrade juice, which isn't particularly exciting in a game that's already rather easy for anyone familiar with shooters. There are also race events, including the one forced upon you in the story. These are about as exciting as any other race events in any other open world game.
Storming the Goons in Rage 2
A good chunk of your missions will have you storming bases and taking out everyone, which is good considering just how fun it is to shoot in Rage 2. In fact, the shooting is so good that it almost saves the whole package. While the shotgun's stopping power arguably outshines the rest of the arsenal, each weapon has its place if you're looking for variety. There are creative ideas here, like the revolver that shoots exploding bullets and the shotgun's alt-fire slug that sends goons flying. There are probably too few weapons, especially since you have to go out of your way to find them in the open world. Still, shooting never got boring and that kept me going throughout my playthrough.
While in the open world, you also have to seek out your powers. These include a boosted dash, a double jump, and several forceful slams that integrate into combat to make things even more interesting. The most important of these abilities is Overdrive, a super mode that heals you when activated and boosts all your weapons. That, combined with the healing properties of a crystal currency that most enemies drop, gives Rage 2 the same driving forward momentum that Doom has. You don't want to hang back and cower under cover, you're always moving forward, always seeking out new victims. It remains an intoxicating gameplay loop. I wish more shooters made today took advantage of those ideals.
Everybody Has a Price in Rage 2
Speaking of currencies, Rage 2's biggest gameplay issue is its love for that concept. There are seemingly dozens of different tokens and baubles you can earn, each one with a very specific use in upgrading your characters. Tokens can buy specific weapons skins once you grind them out of a horde-style minigame. Weapon chips and power augments come from rare chests scattered around strongholds. Vehicle parts blast off of convoys you encounter in the open world. Then there are the crystals you need to spend in order to unlock other tiers of upgrades. For those playing at home, that's a currency to unlock the ability to spend a different currency. It's exhausting.
If you just want to play through Rage 2's story, you're looking at eight missions that will take you 10-15 hours at most. If you want to fill out all of the various upgrade trees and find every power, you're going to triple that length. After spending my time in this wasteland, I'm not sure why anyone would want to do that. Some upgrades require multiple currencies, and you never seem to have an overwhelming amount of anything. It's just an endless loop of grinding out mission types to hopefully get the one MacGuffin out of twenty you need for the power you want.
Tipping the Scales in Rage 2
For example, there are straight up in-game dollars that you can spend on twelve different things, all to the detriment of your other upgrade paths. Do you want to get more ridiculously expensive ammo for your Deluxe Edition exclusive BFG? Do you want to unlock the poorly defined crafting system to get more health vials? Perhaps you want to buy ammo for your upgradable car's machine guns, even though every other car in the game has infinite ammo?
This is all done with one currency. By contrast, adding five more points to your health requires visiting a specific "Cyber Doctor" and spending various amounts of three other currencies. Said other currencies can also be spent to extend your Overdrive meter, and I got enough currency in a single playthrough to buy maybe two of those upgrades without going out of my way. If I sound like a madman describing these systems, that's only because I feel like one as I rack my brain thinking about this overly complex nonsense.
It all leads up to a game where every positive points the player towards something encumbering. The amazing feel of the shooting leads to a reward of a single weapon chip to maybe boost your assault rifle's accuracy by 5%. Combating the one cool mini-boss just gives you a "neural interface" upgrade whatsit and more points towards leveling up one of the three faction leaders. Said faction leaders are a whole other system that just gates story progress behind you accomplishing side missions, although the requirements are so lax that I wonder why they're even there in the first place.
Rage 2 Review | Final Thoughts
Despite all the confounding systems and boring story bits getting in the way of the action, Rage 2 has one more thing going for it. This is a gorgeous game, especially in 4K on Xbox One X. The lighting tech and neon glow shine in a way that I've not seen in games before. The Overdrive weapon effects are the only thing here that sell the game's over the top nature, and they're beautiful to take in. The surrounding tech is nothing to scoff at either, with terrain and trees that realistically shatter to your will. It's a testament to just how far graphics and physics have come, even if it's usually at the expense of game design.
At the end of the day, there's fun to be had in Rage 2, but the experience overall is decidedly offputting. The story goes nowhere, the open world is barren and uninteresting, and even the top-tier shooting is gameplay without real purpose. It's less rage-inducing and more headache-inducing, a poor showing that just muddies the waters in a year that also includes Doom: Eternal. Do yourself a favor and wait for iD's main event, this curtain jerker ain't got what it takes.
TechRaptor reviewed Rage 2 on Xbox One X with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam and Bethesda.net.
- Hard Hitting Arsenal
- Stunning 4K Graphics
- Doom-Level Shotgun
- Disposable Story
- Down to Earth Characters
- Endless Currencies
- Banal Open World Design