I had a soft spot for the first Rage and in particular the wingsticks. A homing three-bladed throwing weapon of death that got me out of many a tight spot. The original was let down badly by pacing and a lack of a drive to pull you through the hub worlds. Rage 2 seems the same at first glance but after continued play, the developers may have been better ignoring any criticisms of the first game and putting more activities in. At the minute Rage 2 swings from the fantastic to the frustrating and mundane.
Let’s begin with the fantastic, the graphics, in particular, the lighting are exceptional on the high-end consoles. Enemy flares are all in garish neon colours and they really light up dark areas. Sometimes you actually just stop and look like a neon pink flare fizzes and crackles in an enemy camp. The rest of the visuals are equally striking bar a few NPC quest givers that look to have tongues too big for their mouths. One in the first hub looked like Jar-Jar Binks as he was telling a story of his trading post that had been overrun with bandits.
The other selling point here is the gunplay. It takes the combat from Doom and removes the executions. It is sharp twitchy and addictive. You can go into a room and literally paint the walls red with the enemies, especially if you click into overdrive mode. Built up with consecutive kills, it does what it says on the tin and puts everything into overdrive, recharging your health and making the guns superpowered.
Then we have a huge skill tree with a number of genuinely useful skills. The usual ones like, extra health, resistance to damage and double jump are there but also varying stages of a hot potato for enemy grenades. The first lets you time it and bop it back at an enemy when it is in mid-air, the next lets you send it back when it is on the ground with a swing of your rifle butt. The third sends it directly at the thrower. You can imagine what happens when this is used in close-quarters.
Honestly of the whole game was you, your weapons and abilities and the enemies then we would be looking at a seriously good game. If you sense a but coming you are as subtle as the story.
The bad in Rage 2 is similar to the bad in the recent Days Gone and to a lesser extent Spiderman. There just isn’t much fun in the open world. It seems to be a big sandy wasteland that you need to seek out any enjoyment in. The problem comes from the lack of enemies. With the driving developed by Avalanche of Mad Max and Just Cause fame, I was expecting every journey into the wasteland to be a playground of destruction. In Rage 2 there is the potential for all this but it never seems to happen. In Mad Max you could see heavily armoured convoys in the distance. The enemies would see you and immediately take off after you like the Warboys they were. In Rage 2, you need to drive places to seek them out. Too often am I driving along looking at the pretty sunset when I realise that I’ve gone past a small pocket of enemies who just seemed to wave their arms at me then forget. They should have been laying traps, they should have been hopping onto the wide range of vehicles and beginning a maniacal chase after me. Unfortunately unless story based, none of this happens. I desperately wanted this even to feel like Red Faction Guerrilla when the enemy Authority figures are involved. On the road, it just feels empty until you get to the next outpost or hub town.
It is exactly the problems that have plagued these games since Horizon Zero Dawn. The world needs to have a constant stimulus to make it worth exploring. HZD had hunting and crafting. Red Dead has its own and even more random events. Spiderman had the traversal but fell down in the repetitive nature of its random activities. Days Gone, for all its faults actually feels like a more populated post-apocalyptic world thanks to the random attacks. A few of those wouldn’t go amiss here. Instead, you drive about looking for trouble. The difficulty finding this is only matched by the difficulty of finding ‘storage containers’. These pink lidded boxes are the main collectable in individual bandit camps. Like Assassins Creed, there is a bonus for finding every collectable in a location. You’d think a pink lidded box would be easy to spot but unfortunately, they are hidden in the stupidest places and you can spend minutes looking for every one of them instead of trying to find more fun activity. This simple decision really grates with me. I can see the point of making some of the skill points unlocks hard to find, but the simple check off ones? It really ruins the flow when you just want to get back into the excellent combat.
A road map of DLC offers some hope that there will be more varied content in the wasteland and I really hope there is because the building blocks for a great game are all here. It’s just a shame you never get to use them all in an enjoyable flow and are forced to keep coming out of your zone.
Despite this, there is enough in Rage 2 to recommend if you are in the mood for a fun shooter. It’s just a crying shame that there hasn’t been a game that accurately gives you the feeling of Mad Max Fury Road or beyond Thunderdome. They all look the part but when you get down to it they fail in their execution. This should have been the mix of Mad Max Driving and Doom Shooting, unfortunately, something went wrong in the splicing.