It’s fair to say that the post-apocalyptic genre has been done to death over the last decade, ranging from third-person adventures such as The Last of Us, to grand open-worlds such as Fallout 3 and Far Cry: New Dawn. Much in same way zombies were shoehorned into almost every title last gen, the post-apocalyptic open-world setting seems to be the current “in” thing, and it’s starting to get tiresome, monotonous and frankly, downright lazy. Rage 2 sadly epitomises everything that’s stale about the gaming market today, and while it’s by no means a bad game, it’s just one that should have released years ago, if at all.
Set 30 years after the events of Rage, you take control of Walker, the last of a band of Rangers, who sets out across a world left ravaged after asteroid 99942 Apophis struck the Earth. During your journey, you’ll come across new allies and old friends as you work together to take down the Authority, a band of nono-infused villains who have declared themselves the Earth’s new military power.
Sadly, the story is perhaps the weakest element in Rage 2, to the point that it may as well have never even existed. Coming in at around 10 hours, it’s extremely short, especially for an open-world FPS, but I actually found this quite refreshing. Too many developers and publishers today release titles with elongated 60-100 hour stories (I’m looking at you Days Gone and Red Dead Redemption 2) that could have been condensed into half that, so the length here was a nice breath of fresh air. I’m also glad that it came in at around 10 hours because it was truly awful. Most missions were nothing more than go here, shoot some bandits, collect item and return. It says a lot that you could skip cut-scenes and it wouldn’t hurt the narrative. Characters are poorly developed, while Walker is the frustratingly-clichéd American Hollywood hero.
The lack of a deep, interesting story means you’ll be looking at the open-world for enjoyment, but sadly there’s nothing new or exciting here. Spread across the wasteland are the standard bandit dens, side-missions, bandit convoys and other extras that have been done to death in every open-world. If you’ve ever played Fallout, Mad Max, Far Cry or even the likes of Spiderman or Grand Theft Auto, nothing here is revolutionary or even slightly unique; remove the slick layer of pink paint spread across everything, and underneath is nothing more than your standard open-world environment, except, unlike some of its closest rivals, the world here is dull and void of anything; don’t expect to be uncovering something new around every corner like in Skyrim!
Perhaps I’m being a little bit harsh, but, like zombies before it, the post-apocalyptic setting is starting to feel like a cancer in the gaming market, and one that needs to be left to die. If Rage 2 had released closer to its prequel a decade ago the world may have felt mesmerising, but in today’s market, it feels void of any creative inspiration sadly.
Traversing the open world is also a lacklustre experience as the vehicles handle terribly, made worse by a shoddy, overly-sensitive camera. Your standard vehicle - the Phoenix - can be upgraded with new weapons and armour during your journey, but sadly nothing can help its terrible cornering circle, nor its infuriating AI voice every time you enter or leave the vehicle. You can also commandeer and return bandit vehicles, but again, despite a fairly wide selection, none are particularly enjoyable to drive. Considering the amount of time Bethesda placed on vehicle combat during the pre-release marketing, it’s so, so poor, and like much here, nothing particularly new or inspiring.
Visually, Rage 2 is also pretty weak in comparison to some of its closest competitors. Despite a bright, and genuinely impressive colour palette, the game looks out of date. Character models look like something you’d find in a launch PS4 title, while the landscape is visually dull. Brown sand dunes make way to brown mountain ranges, which in turn lead to brown plains. The northern swamp is a nice change of pace, but even this is annoyingly dull after a few hours, while the lack of a torch means dark locations stay annoying hidden. Nevertheless, some of the more futuristic environments are impressive for a time, thanks to some excellent lighting, but even these get tiresome quickly. The game also suffers from screen tearing at times, poor frame-rate drops and worse, horizon popping. I haven’t played a game where the horizon pops in as you get closer in years, which again, reinforces the view that is a game which should have released years ago!
Like many open-world juggernauts before it, Rage 2’s variation of enemy types is poor. From the start you’ll come across bandits and Authority soldiers, with the occasional boss thrown in, and by the end of game I was still killing the same enemies with the same weak points and play styles. I was also annoyed that Bethesda and Avalanche Studios included enemies with cleft lips and palates and deemed them ‘mutants’. It’s just not needed and something that should be stamped out of the industry now!
Nevertheless, where Rage 2 shines is it’s excellent gun combat. Guns feel powerful and responsive, and when you complete side missions and other activities dotted around the map you’re rewarded with points that be used to upgrade them, alongside other exciting abilities. In addition to guns, you can also take advantage of a series of nano-trite abilities, all of which are a brilliant and encourage you to mix up your play style. Wingsticks return from the previous title, and are again as satisfying to use as they were a decade ago. There’s also an overdrive mode, where you’re damage and health regeneration are improved dramatically for a short period. On some of the easier difficulties this made bosses a cakewalk, but is vital on the harder modes.
I may have come across a little harsh on Rage 2, but it’s by no means a bad game. The combat is excellent, and for a couple of hours the wasteland does offer up a significant amount of enjoyment. Sadly though, Rage 2’s main issue is that it doesn’t offer anything I haven’t already experienced ten times over this generation. Its world is dull and barren, the vehicles are boring, and its story is laughably bad, but the worst part is that it is just lacking any sort of creativity. It’s like the developers looked at the post-apocalyptic market and cherry picked elements from each game, which ultimately leaves Rage 2 feeling like a title that is devoid of any strategy, and one that should have been released years ago.
- Playstation 4
- Xbox One