I can pretty much say Rage 2 is getting at the top ranking of my best games ever played. The game developers didn’t just borrowed features from other first-person shooters; They searched for the entire game’s history, good games, bad games, games that were nearly forgotten, they tried to just make the best shooter game. From Dark Sector to Gears of War, Borderlands and Overdrive.
All this mixture to fit in one game, Rage 2 has made me really stay there for a long time. I could just list the game’s fails and its bizarre menus and upgrade structure, but as I talk about it and play, I want to play more and more.
Rage 2 is a game that exists as an unoriginal game, but it is great executed, its ideas together are amazing and you can just barely describe it as an open-world game.
You can play different characters, but I chose to be a Walker, who can be a man or a woman, depending on the choices you make at the beginning of the game. The best described intro gave Polygon, I find it perfect to start my review:
In this protracted intro, Walker puts on the armor of a fallen Ranger to become the most powerful soldier fighting against an authoritarian force called, what else, the Authority.
As a Walker, you can travel across the small open-world map searching for Arks (huge techno-chambers from before the apocalypse), that unlock new abilities and weapons, which you can use then to kill mutants and bandits who make the world unsafe for anyone without a gun.
After the whole intro mission, you must talk to some characters throughout the map and help them save the world from the Authority. Once you do theses favors, the whole game is basically over. Rage 2’s prologue is, in fact, the whole game.
You must not think of this as a bad thing; the setup and the lines of the story are so well driven and a thin excuse to justify your powers and the setup of weapons you obtain to directly be sent off to the open world. The whole game I could just kill mutants, obtain weapons and collect different currencies or upgrade my soldier to become the best, god-like character. As for the upgrades, you can upgrade every weapon, vehicle, ability and secondary item like grenades or health packs using one of the game’s many tech trees, and also you can modify them again using the second series of menus, hidden behind the first.
While I can win just about every battle using the machine gun and shotgun I’m given in the game’s first hour, the rest of my tactical options are enjoyable enough that it’s worth fussing over each upgrade path to turn into a super-soldier who can stampede over everyone in his path. While I can use a combination of button presses to dodge in any direction, I never need to use this tactic while playing Rage 2 on Normal difficulty mode.
I don’t even have to worry when the game gives me super weapons and partially restores my health to defeat even the difficultest of the bosses without breaking a sweat?
There aren’t levels of missions etc. and there are very few missions to play. In Rage 2 you complete challenges. You just have to accept it, go to the specified location, kill the people there, take the currencies and items from the various crates and upgrade everything you have to grow in power. Rage 2 is hardly an open-world game, but upgrades and weapons are only given on a specific location and trying to explore these locations by driving all the way to them can often be a complete failure. Cliffs and bottomless pits make sure I’m rarely able to paint outside the lines.
The game’s marketing may try to push the idea that this is a punk-rock, neon-splattered celebration of rebellion, but the systems of Rage 2 don’t allow for much creativity outside of selecting the order in which I visit each area. The game’s structure suggests a linear, relatively short Doom-style single-player game that is only cosplaying as an open world title.
So why can’t I get the game out of my head?
There are abilities which I can use to fling enemies backward and slam them into walls or each other. There is also an ability that lets me make enemies float in the air, pull other items toward them as if by the gravitational force of a very small black hole. I can also turn myself into a grenade and slam into the ground, reducing everyone around me to a bloody smear. If I upgrade my abilities to a certain level, I can leap high into the air until I can basically climb up the face of a high cliff just by spamming the jump button.
You can unlock new vehicles or just find ones in the map and turn them into a hell machine if you want to and have the right parts and currencies. I personally also bought an intel that tells me exactly where to go to unlock each power and ability.
Except all of those above, you can just completely ignore them and just use the main weapons and go on a death row throughout the game. There is no punishment for doing a thing like that, nor is there a reward for getting creative with your killing. The game gives you a ton of tactical options that sometimes I get confused on what to choose and what weapons I have in my disposal.
It’s like being handed a gigantic box of tools of all shapes and sizes before being asked to replace a lightbulb. Sure, I can always build a step stool by hand before knocking the lightbulb out of the socket with a hammer, use a potato to remove the now-broken pieces of glass from the light fixture, knit a glove to keep my hand safe while I install the new lightbulb, and screw that bulb in using a custom attachment on a power drill so it goes in with a single pump of the trigger … but why wouldn’t I just stand on my tiptoes, unscrew the old bulb, and put the new one in?
If the fastest way to kill an enemy in Rage 2 is just a rocket to the head, why not do that every time? The short answer is because that’s not as fun, and Rage 2 is a ridiculously fun game once I understand how to approach its otherwise rote design. Which is to say, the best way to have fun in this world is to create my own.
Each weapons looks, feels, and sounds perfect, even before I upgrade and modify them. Using the shotgun’s secondary attack to send mutants flying through the air is fun in the first hour of the game, and it remains fun by hour 10. Sure, it’s not always effective, but it lends itself to experimentation. Can I complete an entire area by knocking enemies off high ledges, sending them to their doom below? I can certainly try!
It’s a testament to the quality of the game’s combat that it’s able to redeem so many of the game’s less inspired choices. The worst parts of Rage 2 aren’t tedious or distracting. They’re merely competent. That’s fine, considering the best parts of Rage 2 are damn near transcendent.
The first Rage was so aggressively bland that it was forgotten almost as soon as it was released and now, for some reason, there is a sequel. After playing both games I have very little understanding about what makes a Rage title special, or why they exist at all, but if a series this redundant has to exist, at least the shooting itself is loud and violent and playful enough to help me forget the by-the-numbers nature of everything around it.
Rage 2 is enjoyable as long as I make the effort to do very simple things in the silliest ways possible, and game’s many systems reward this style of play more by their quality than by any extrinsic payoff. There is creativity and joy hidden here. You just have to find it beneath the pile of ideas pulled from a thousand other games.
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