Rage 2 is not the smartest, most subtle, or inventive video game I’ve ever played. What the post apocalyptic shooter is, is violent, dumb, and easily the most fun I’ve with a single-player FPS in years.
The first and most important thing you need to know about Avalanche Studio’s latest title since 2015’s excellent Mad Max is that the shooting feels good. Really, really good. This comes as no surprise, given DOOM studio Id Software took on a supervisory role to handle the FPS mechanics, and it shows – Rage 2 feels just as satisfying to control as the 2016 DOOM reboot did.
You’ll glide through arenas full of enemies, combining a pleasingly vast arsenal of massive weapons, grenades, and various others tools of destruction in an orchestra of gunfire, blood, and chaos.
Headshots result in a pleasingly grim splatter of scarlet as a red skull appears briefly on your cursor to confirm your skill, opponents crumple under your fists when you go for melee attacks, and there’s a wonderful crouching slide that can later be upgraded to plow through enemies that is just… well it’s majestic, is what it is.
The game encourages you to dive into the mayhem rather than hide behind cover thanks to a canny system in which health and loot drops from enemies disappear after a few seconds, ensuring you’ll want to stay on the move and in the thick of it for your best shot at staying alive.
There is no doubt in my mind that Rage 2 is an incredible FPS that has DOOM’s sublime DNA all over it, and if it were set entirely in a series of intricately designed levels in the way that Id Software’s 2016 shooter was, then we could’ve been looking at a serious game of the year contender.
Unfortunately, the tight action and satisfying gunplay that make Rage 2 such a joy to play is often let down by an open world that is, more often than not, just kind of dull.
You do come across some genuinely fascinating – and gorgeous – sights. There are ramshackle towns bathed in neon light and assembled with scrap metal, dark foreboding wetlands, and vast stretches of mountainous desert, but none of this ever feels like anything more than padding between the sections where you get to actually go and shoot stuff. These areas look great, but there’s little substance to any of them.
This isn’t helped by massively generic post-apocalyptic story in which you play as a soldier (male or female) on a mission to take down an aspiring dominant race known as The Authority who want something or other… I dunno, I tuned out from the plot to be honest.
But here’s the thing; I don’t care that the story isn’t exactly up there with The Last of Us, and I don’t care that the open world is essentially a dull slab on which to throw up a bunch of generic open world tasks for players to do in between story missions, because Rage 2 is just too much fun for me to give a toss about anything beyond shooting bandits in their stupid bandit faces.
So much of this game is mindless, but it’s the best kind of mindless. I happily sank hours into driving between points of interest just to see what they had in store for me, full well knowing that every single one would basically just have some enemies for me to shoot.
Okay, so there is some variation between the waypoints. There are bandit camps where you’re tasked with simply shooting every damn thing that moves, fuel stations where you need to blow up supplies and then shoot every damn thing that moves, and giant robotic sentries you need to take out before they shoot every damn thing that moves.
Most interesting of all however, are the fallout shelter style vaults hidden throughout the world that offer access to various new weapons and abilities to play with. Within the first you hours, you’ll have found a double jump, a dash that lets you evade oncoming attacks, and a force push that shatters armour and sends enemies flying through the air like ragdolls.
These abilities, along with your weapons, vehicles, combat skills, health, and more can be upgraded via an almost overwhelming number of skill trees. In fact, pretty much everything in the game can be upgraded and customised as you progress through the 10-15 hour campaign.
You’ll often stumble across areas where the enemies are a little too much to handle, so the game does encourage you to explore a little bit and complete various tasks to earn more currency and net further upgrades.
If the shooting clicks for you like it did for me, and it will because it’s fantastic, then you absolutely won’t mind tootling between points of interest to shoot more things and improve your gear so you can go shoot even more things.
However, the aforementioned dullness of the open world and some fairly lame driving will eventually take its toll and cause you to lose interest in the game, though mileage will vary based on how into the gunplay you are. Personally, I can’t get enough of it, so I’m not yet quite sick of the open world busywork.
As it stands, Rage 2 is really good. Hell, it’s often great, but it never really transcends the limitations of the uninspired open world its set in to become much more than that.
I see that as a genuine shame, because I reckon Avalanche Studios were clearly on the cusp of something really, truly special. Hopefully Rage 2 does well enough sales-wise so that Rage 3 can deliver on the promise of this one, given how marked an improvement it is on its 2011 predecessor.
Minor quibbles aside, if you’re looking for a game that lets you turn off your brain and enjoy some fast, fluid FPS action, Rage 2 is the game for you. It really is just a good dose of mindless fun, and lord knows we all need a bit of that from time to time.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.