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Reviews Xbox One

Rage 2 Review: Plans for the World


Rage 2 Review

  • Available: Xbox One/PS4/PC
  • Played on: Xbox One

Introduction

In any game, the introduction is an opportunity to set the theme or tone of the entire experience. In Red Dead Redemption 2, the initial three hours highlight the slow methodical gameplay by restricting our movement in the midst of a thick snowstorm. In Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice we are set on a quest to become stronger after falling in battle. And in Rage 2 the entire game is accidentally foreshadowed by the first line of dialogue. General Cross, leader of the Authority and the games main villain, muses “We had such plans for the world”.

Avalanche Studios surely had greater plans for the world of Rage 2, plans that use their years of experience from crafting Just Cause’s and Mad Max’s sandboxes. And perhaps these plans would have made Rage 2’s post-apocalyptic world a significantly different place. A place that wouldn’t feel lifeless. A place with an abundance of interesting activities. A place that was much smaller, more contained and ultimately more interesting. Because as it stands the world of Rage 2 is, well, a bit bland.

Plans for the World

Firstly, the map in Rage 2 was clearly designed using a “bigger is better” approach. There are six massive regions to explore, with each representing a different biome. In the south, arid deserts of the Dune Sea and Twisting Canyons are found whereas further north heavily vegetated lands sprawl outwards from the swampy Sekreto Wetlands and the vast jungles of the Wilds. Immediately it’s glaringly obvious that these are sterotypical video game zones. And even more so when witnessing a flourishing bamboo plantation next to a bone-dry desert.

But rest assured this is not a natural phenomenon. Skyscraper sized EcoPod satellites were sent into space many years ago to terraform the planet. Now they have crashed back down to Earth allowing the cycle of life to start once again (developer loopholes!) These mammoth and impressive structures can be seen from miles away like lighthouses on the horizon. Every time one came into view I stopped for a moment to admire their grandure. But this moment quickly faded and like with each biome their visual flair is unfortunately as far as their depth goes.

Rage 2 Review EcoPod Sekreto Wetlands
A fallen EcoPod in the Sekreto Wetlands region. Pretty impressive, right?

The large size of the map creates a lot of problems for Rage 2 because to fully populate it would take an almost Red Dead Redemption 2 amount of work. But in the developers defence some elements have been added to a certain degree. Traders roam the plains in mini-vans, vehicles and enemies are on the road to fight, there are multiple settlements to scavenge and more creatively, meteorites smash into the Earth’s surface creating random opportunities to harvest resources. But due to the sheer scale of Rage 2’s gargantuan world, so much more is needed. For example unique flora, additional landmarks other than EcoPods and potentially wild animals to create realistic ecosystems would breathe much needed life into the game.

However, there are some diamonds in the rough with the inclusion of Trade Towns. Here, bright neon signs cut through the droll of the wasteland and inject some much needed life into the world.  The towns contain shops, NPCs to interact with and job boards to collect bounties from. But unfortunately they are too few and far between.

Rage 2 Review Entrance to Gunbarrel Trading Town
The entrane to the Trading Town of Gunbarrel

Addictive and Sensational Combat

While the open world has some visible flaws, the vehicle combat, abilities and gunplay are close to flawless. Huge swathes of care and attention has been funneled towards the feeling of each weapon (which is not surprising considering creators of Doom (2016), id Software, are co-developers). This care extends to the abilities and vehicle combat too with car chases of a blockbuster spectacle, bombastic enough to give Mad Max a run for his money.

But out of all three, the gunplay immediately secures its place as star of the show. As soon as you pull the trigger, the sound design, weight of each weapon and haptic feedback (which is so strong you’d be forgiven thinking you were firing a real weapon) all combine to produce something exceptional. The moment you pull the trigger you know you’re in for a good time.

On top of this there are six unique and creatively designed weapons to play with, such as the Firestorm Revolver. As you fire each shot an explosive incendiary round imbeds in your enemy. Then, with a click of your fingers the round sparks to life, igniting anybody unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. And also the colossal sized charged pulse cannon which becomes more powerful as it overheats. In order to cool the gun you pull down on the left trigger and open its vents, sending steam spewing violently outwards. It’s a careful, and at time chaotic, balancing act between overheating for more power and cooling down.

Every one of these six weapons are like the best Exotics from Destiny and each can be upgraded to make them even more powerful (think Exotic Catalysts on steroids).

Cyber Crusher Battle
Fighting a Cyber Crusher with the charged pulse cannon – arguably the most powerful weapon in the game.

The combat excels even further due to the addition of Nanotrite Abilities which link into your Ranger suit and like with the weapons, there are upgrades aplenty. For example the slam ability (think supercharged ground pound) can be upgraded to pull enemies inwards. This results in multiple enemies flailing around helplessly beneath you, unknowingly seconds away from being pulverised (sorry guys!) Abilities can be combined to increase their effectiveness further. Vortex, if timed perfectly, can launch you into the air to great height. Then when following up with a slam the higher impact causes even more carnage. Figuring out ability and weapon combinations created some seriously fun moments.

Mad Max: Fury Rage…(2)

To break up the gunplay there are also opportunities for vehicle combat. Your main vehicle is the Phoenix, which is essentially a mini Batmobile which again, can be upgraded. There’s new cruise missiles, twin automatic 20mm cannons and my favourite, the hellfire mortar. You might decide to sneakily park the Phoenix near an enemy bandit camp and decide to fire a volley of mortar rounds into the main compound, only after saying under your breath “nice camp you’ve got there, shame if someone was to mortar it” (as one example of many). Mainly though, vehicle combat is used for Convoy bosses who oppressively roam the Wasteland.

Each convoy comprises an entourage of multiple vehicles ranging from small motorcycles to full scale tanks. If you have seen Mad Max: Fury Road, it is exactly like Mad Max: Fury Road. Each boss is a battle of endurance which requires fully stocked ammo, some nimble driving and perfectly aimed cruise missiles (they lock on thankfully). Driving to keep the vehicle on course, aiming each weapon, trying to ram other vehicles off the road and dodging incoming projectiles was always engaging. Taking down these giant bosses feels like your climbing up the post-apocalyptic food chain. But unfortunately as with all apex predators, when the Phoenix is fully upgraded you become untouchable. The appeal of these bosses wears thin and you start to feel like One Punch Man.

Rage 2 Review Rage 2 Convoy Boss
Taking down a Convoy Boss in the Wilds region using the Batmobile, I mean Phoenix. Very fun initially, wears thin in the End Game.

The driving mechanics mostly function as intended, but occasionally you may find yourself wrestling against the overly wide turning circles, especially on motorcycles. When travelling, it’s much easier to use the drone-like hovercraft, Icarus, which has definitely been influenced by the Gyrocoptor from the original Just Cause. Soaring over the barren Wasteland was oddly cathartic and allowed for a brief respite from the corrupted world below.

Activities Everywhere

For a game with average vehicle controls you end up travelling between the, quite frankly, absurd amount of activities present. After a short time these activities become extremely repetitive with most involving endlessly shooting something. And while the combat is fun, the appeal of clearing out another bandit camp or mutant nest gets old fast.

They are more bosses to take down which make up two types; the robotic obelisks, Authority Sentries, and the mutated giants, Crushers. Sentries feel incredibly rushed as they simply sit there for the entire fight with moves that are repetitive and easy to dodge.

Crushers on the other hand are more interesting and varied. They reside in the labyrinthine sewer system which must be descended for a shot at taking them down. Here, you are treated to one of the games excellent linear sections which wouldn’t feel out of place in Doom, and even Metro: Exodus for that matter. Although each Crusher has the same move set, they are at least unique in visual presentation. For example one wears make shift face and chest plate armour which deflect any incoming bullets while another, named Sackhead, wears a sack on his head (yes, really).

Considering how much care was given to the combat it’s frustrating the same wasn’t applied to the activities, which all feel like a list to tick off. Although I found the story and activities enjoyable at first, the reasons to keep playing quickly disappear once you’ve finished the main story. For me, anyway.

Smeggo the Vile Crusher Nest
In the heart of a Crusher Nest. The visual presentation definitely gives off a Hellscape-Doom feel.

Rage 2 Review – Final Thoughts

With all things considered, this could be a promising start for Rage 2. Avalanche Studios and id Software have created strong gameplay mechanics on which future DLC can be built on. The open world is in need of some more care and attention and there must be new and compelling activities added to keep us engaged. I’m sure there are more plans for this world, plans which hopefully elevate the game to greatness, a place which it is so close to currently, thanks to exceptional combat alone.

But I’m not entirely convinced the developers were trying to create a rich open world here. In a recent interview with IGN, Tim Willits, Studio Director at id Software said the following: “If somebody asks their friend what they thought of Rage 2 and they said “You know what, it was fun” Then I’ll be happy”. Well, I can safely say that I did have fun. I had a lot of fun, even if it was slightly short lived. Add more content to the world and I’d jump back in in a heartbeat. Even if only to pull the trigger on these incredible weapons for one more time.


Related Post: Rage 2 was number 10 on my top 10 games I played in 2019 list!

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