Rage 2 Review: Hey, the Shooting Is Fun!

by David Sanchez July 8, 2019 @ 7:38 am

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

Rage 2 is a fun game. No, it’s a really fun game. I enjoyed it a lot. That is until I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong — I had a blast playing through the game, but there were those moments in between that were just — how do I put this eloquently? — kinda “blah.” Unfortunately, there were too many of those moments, especially later in the game, and they stuck out too much to be ignored. All that said, though, Rage 2 is a great deal of fun, and you should probably play it if you like first-person shooters.

Kind of In Your Face, But Not Too In Your Face

What a difference a year makes. When I previewed Rage 2 at E3 2018, I praised the in-your-face style and over-the-top antics that were presented in both the debut trailer and hands-on demo. The game was going to be faster, louder, more explosive, and more colorful than its brown-and-gray predecessor. The final product was… kind of all those things, but not to the extend that it was being promoted.

Yes, Rage 2 features a much more varied color palette than the original, and that’s a good thing, because from top to bottom, the game looks really great both in terms of aesthetic and technical presentation. The sky ranges from pink to orange, with the sun beaming from behind mountainous formations in the desert badlands. There’s also a lot of neon going on, but it creates a cool lighting effect that just works,

Interiors are a bit tamer, but they still feature a solid art design, with an almost-Doom-like feel at times. Every indoor space look grungy and grimy, and the mutant inhabitants help give everything a more gritty feel.

Character designs are decent for the most part, with the aforementioned mutants sporting especially grotesque appearances. The human marauder types look like they belong in a hallucinogenic version of Mad Max. Most of these character sport colorful mohawks, spiked clothing, combat boots, and goggles. The designs border on cheesy, but they work well within the context of this urban post-apocalypse.

The enemies also shout a lot. Yeah, these dudes and gals never shut up as they engage you in combat. Some — scratch that — most — actually, scratch that, too — almost all of what they say is cringy as hell. But really, that accounts for most characters in the game, even the ones you’re supposed to take seriously. And I hate to be that guy, but come on, no John Goodman this time around? Weak!

All in all, at least in terms of presentation, Rage 2 reminds me of a really cool cat at school who maybe tries a bit harder than he should. Like, don’t get me wrong, this guy is definitely a chill person, and you’re not ashamed to hang with him or have his back, but he may need to tone it down just a bit.

Bullet Heaven

The presentation may be a mix of great graphics and hit-or-miss sound, but the gameplay of Rage 2 is mostly solid. You’re here for the shooting anyway, right? Well, you’ll be glad to hear that the FPS mechanics in Rage 2 are about as polished as you could possibly want in this type of mission-based shooter. Aiming with every weapon is precise, each gun feels great, and the smaller mechanics intertwined with the shooting work to make you feel like a badass.

Whether you’re filling enemies with holes with an assault rifle or popping big-ass rounds into them with a shotgun, firing weapons in Rage 2 just feels awesome. That awesomeness is multiplied to the nth degree when you factor in special moves, like a force push that can be upgraded to make enemies explode on contact, a downward slam, and even the ability to float momentarily while aiming down sights mid-jump.

All of these abilities are intended to aid you as you press forward during shootouts. You’re not going to be able to find any respite while taking on desert gangs. Try and hide behind cover, and you’ll be bombarded with grenades. Rage 2 forces you to play aggressively. You’re going to take a ton of damage, but you’re also going to deal a crap ton of damage. So long as you’re constantly on the move, collecting health pick-ups, and shooting with intent, you can survive anything. Most of the time, at least.

I played through Rage 2 on the Hard difficulty setting — which felt just right — and it wasn’t until later in the game that things got challenging. It was usually a fair challenge, but there were times where certain enemies — specifically dudes in mech suits and sentry turrets — were just plain obnoxious.

There’s a bunch of optional stuff in Rage 2, but none of it ever feels meaningful. In an attempt to create an open world filled with things to do, developer Avalanche Studios overflowed the land with monotonous side missions that you could very well skip. You probably shouldn’t skip all of them, though, because finding artifacts and upgrades ties directly into the amount of fun you’ll have with your weapons and abilities, but in a way, that makes it even more annoying because now you have to push yourself to raid a bandit camp for the umpteenth time.

While exploring the world, I was reminded of the Just Cause games, Avalanche’s other big seller, in that the side objectives were fun at first but quickly grew boring and felt unnecessary. It’s a shame that there weren’t better, more engaging side missions in Rage 2, because this is a world I wish I could’ve gotten lost in.

It’s Definitely Fun, Though

I loved the first Rage. Sure, its open world was kind of a lie — there wasn’t anything to do! — but you spent the majority of your time doing missions and taking on hundreds of enemies. Rage 2 also has that, but it’s marred by an open world that’s somehow even more disheartening. I’ll admit that the side missions are a lot of fun the first few hours, but then it all just gets kind of dull. You’re left to juggle optional objectives for the sole purpose of upgrading your weapons, making it feel like a total grind.

In addition, that crazy attitude that was being boasted by id Software and Avalanche Studios doesn’t come through as much as we all thought and hoped it would. The game has its crazy moments, and it’s a damn beauty to behold, but it’s nowhere near the level of insane as something like Borderlands.

On the plus side, if all you care about is damn near perfect shooting mechanics, well, Rage 2 has an endless supply of that. A more dedicated open world could’ve done wonders, and I’d argue that stripping the open world entirely and making this a straightforward mission-based shooter would’ve been a better direction, but ultimately, Rage 2 features outstanding FPS action that makes for a hell of a good time, most of the time.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

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