The original Rage, whilst a very technically impressive game, was a little too shallow in the gameplay department to make a lasting impression, which is why the announcement of Rage 2 surprised a lot of people, but would this sequel bring enough new to revitalise the series?
The story of Rage 2 is quite a simple one, you play as Walker, male or female it matters not, because soon as you make the decision, the other one is killed in a violent way, as the Authority makes their presence know again. After your home of Vineland is laid to waste, with you being one of the survivors, Walker sets out to meet three people who can help take down the Authority, the information being provided by hologram. Once out in the Wasteland, you can head to the objectives and meet the three folks, or you can ignore them and just explore, but meeting the three is important, more on that in a bit, but each of the towns that they live in, are hubs of activity, with new people to meet, information to discover and more.
The three folks, Loosum, Kvasir and Marshall all have little stories about what they were up to, before the arrival of Walker, but they quickly drop them, in order to assist with the Daggar project that Walker is on his quest to complete. In order to help though, they need some assistance with some task that relates to something that impacts their town or location, this can be clearing out a sewer of mutants or taking down a man who is attempting to kill the mayor, so they can take their place. The missions can start off pretty easy, but soon expand to be ones that require a bit of an investment, the result being though, that you can unlock new abilities and upgrades from them.
Each of the upgrade trees that you unlock offer a range of gameplay enhancements, those you unlock from Marshall are more combat focused, whereas the ones from Kvasir, allow for more exploration based. You are free to pick and choose as you want, if you decide you have chosen wrong, there is a doctor who can reset them for you. Obtaining the necessary points in order to purchase these options, is done by clearing out goon strongholds, taking down mutant nests, exploring Arks and more. With the three factions of the resistance, there is always something to see and do, the more of them you complete the more points you earn, Arks are the best way to level up for Kvasir, but they also have the added bonus of unlocking abilities for Walker and the occasional piece of kickass weaponry.
The abilities can also be levelled up, but they also require a different currency to do so, the result being more exploration and combat, but it is ok, as you can use the abilities to help you out, becoming a real wasteland superhero. Running into a combat situation is easy enough, the best thing is that I was able usually stay ahead of things, with the abilities, when surrounded by enemies, jumping into the air and using Slam, sends Walker smacking into the ground and sending nearby enemies flying. Combining the skills and weapons is what makes you almost unstoppable, except of course when you enter Arks or Strongholds that have a very high danger rating. There is a problem though, with all the exploration and quests.
That is that Walker has no way to say no, if you happen to pass by a stronghold, or Authority tower, it is added to your map, which is not so bad, but when you add in the fact that all story missions are always on the compass at the top of the screen, it makes the game feel like everything is important. Sure the icons for main missions are different from the rest, being bright orange, compared to the simple white of the others, but the fact is that they are always where, even if you are going into another area, to look for something or just get lost, the icon is always visible, showing what you are not doing. Navigating the world though, is thankfully quite simple, as the game highlights the directions, if you select the location you want of course. Outside of that, there are subtle changes to the colours when you enter different regions, the Torn Plains are brighter than Twisting Canyons, but no matter where you go the game looks a treat.
Each of towns that you can visit, even the one out in the desert is rife with things to see and do, neon signs and those made from more recycled materials are everywhere, helping guide you to vendors and locations. The characters that inhabit them are less of a spectacle, but are still easy to identify, the enemies though are a little bit of a mess by comparison, with there being multiple factions and enemy types, one might expect there to be more variety, but sadly not. The ones you will see, especially early on are the Goon Squad, a group of baddies that love mohawks and colour and for some reason, playing baseball with hand grenades, they will almost always be easy to spot, thanks to their colour scheme, but the Authority and the Immortal Shroud are harder to separate, especially from a distance. Taking the enemies and applying them to the world, should be an easy thing, but there are not enough of them to fill it, the world seems almost devoid of anything to do, that is not a fixed location on the map, not counting the roaming convoys.
When you first start exploring the world, it is fun to try and discover things, but once you have, there is little incentive to continue to do so, as nothing really happens. Almost around every corner, there are a few baddies just hanging out at the side of the road, but that is it, and unless you want to engage in combat with them, they pose no threat to you as you barrel past them. The one exception to this, is when some folks start to chase you down, which is easy enough to deal with and by now you might be thinking that this is not so bad, there are towns to explore still, but that is where you would be wrong. None of the towns have things you can just do for the sake of doing, there are people to talk with, but most of the time those are just filler, the shop keepers don’t have a lot to say, and what they say, they tend to repeat at each visit. You can of course take part in Mutant Bash TV, if you want to earn some cool prizes, or take part in the CharCar Derby, run by local businessman Chaz Morass, but the latter is only worth doing as part of the story as the cars, whilst great in regular driving and combat, suck at racing, and MBTV is just more shooting, but with prizes.
There is a major issue with Rage 2 though and that is the audio, now each part on their own is fine, the voice work is top notch and while you can’t control what Walker says, each line is delivered with enough snark to prove funny, even in some of the more tenser situations. The music as well is delightfully appropriate, now whilst I would never listen to the music on its own, it is a testament to just how well it works in the setting the game is providing, no the issue with the audio comes from a pesky bug that appears way to often to be ok. Without any combination of effects to trigger it, the audio bug will constantly loop sounds, without you doing anything, the first time I had it happen, the sound in question was the mini gun wind up sound on the Phoenix, which again, would not be so bad, but even when I left the car and went underground, it still occurred. The only way to stop it, was by resetting the game, but then it would happen again, I had it happen from the engine noise of the Icarus, shell casing from the assault rifle landing on the ground and more, each time I had to quit the game, or play muted, which seriously sucked.
Rage 2 is a game that is exceptionally fun to play, it nails the balance of superpowers and gunplay, like few games have ever done before and while the world is nothing to special, it does have a lot to discover, just the once though. The audio bug is something that is hard to overlook especially as it would trigger randomly, resulting in a complete stop of play, to reset the game and start again, if they can patch that out, it would make the game easier to enjoy in long sessions, but for now, it is a problem that hurts the overall experience.
Review code provided by Bethesda