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Game review: Rage 2 (PC)

23 May 2019
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Bethesda’s follow-up to their so-so 2010 post-apocalyptic shooter, Rage, is upon us. This time, rather than handle Rage 2 in-house, exclusively using id Software, the publisher farmed out some of the development duties to Avalanche Studios, who are no strangers to open-world and post-apocalyptic games.

Rage 2 is set some 30 years after its predecessor. In the first game, the world was in tatters following an asteroid that wiped out most of the human race. In the time that’s passed, the planet has started to heal, developing different biomes that are perfect gaming fodder. 

Players take on the role of Walker, the last ranger. The game’s big bad is the Authority, thought eradicated at the end of the last game, who are responsible for killing Walker’s surrogate mother- giving him ample reason to go out into the wasteland and seek revenge.  The plot is advanced via main missions unlocked on the world as well as data pads and other side missions that players may encounter.

The game is primarily a first-person-shooter with the sort of refined gameplay that you’d expect from the likes of id Software, the guys that practically invented the genre. Getting from A-to-B, players use vehicles- some of which are mounted with weapons, and drive around the landscape in a third-person view.

The publishers would likely prefer me to not remember Avalanche’s 2015 Mad Max game. Whilst I liked the game (and still play it), it did get a drubbing for being a bit empty…like a wasteland. 

The similarities between Mad Max and Rage 2 are very apparent. The overall setting and design aesthetic are clearly inspired, if not from the Mad Max game, from the Mad Max movies. The car combat and, especially the convoys are straight from Avalanche’s Mad Max, as are some of the more barren landscapes.

At first, I thought that Rage 2 was going to suffer from the same huge environment/nothing to do situation as Mad Max. For a while I did seem pretty alone in an empty wilderness save for a few bad-guys fighting with each other on the side of the road. 

Things start picking up quite quickly, though. Clearing out an area infested with the crazed members of the Goon Squad - the lunatics that feature heavily in Bethesda’s marketing for the game - revealed a structure called an Ark. Arks are dotted across the game world, discoverable as you pass them or if you buy a map from a vendor in a town. Survivors of the asteroid impact were cryogenically frozen in the Arks, but now they offer Walker additional nanotrite powers or Ark Tek weapons.

Not only does the world quickly open up with things to do, your characters abilities also become astonishingly augmented. It’s not long before your character becomes a super-man or super-woman, jumping, pushing and thumping the enemy, literally, to pieces. As you get to grips with gravity-defying jumps and moves, the combat becomes more and more fluid, satisfying and out-and-out fun.

The game does a good job of supplying players with things to do, be it an involved mission suitable for a heavy gaming session or simply liberating an enemy outpost for a quick ten-minute go. Any game designed to cater for “a quick go” is OK in my book. 

Driving over to my next mission would often lead to something entirely different as I got side-tracked. There are even cars driving around that you can engage in an impromptu race. 

Rage 2 features one of the nicest-looking post-apocalyptic landscapes I’ve seen in a game. From desert to jungle, the game’s environments are very diverse. On PC the game looks stunning with beautiful lighting that makes in hard not to stop the game every five minutes to use the built-in photo-mode to capture the moment.

For a game that promotes blowing stuff up, the buildings and infrastructure are absolutely bomb-proof, with my tank getting stuck on objects that it should have ripped though. Rage 2 isn’t the physics sand-box that I thought it would be. That being said, when you start to catch your stride, there’s still plenty of explosive fun to be had.

Rage 2 offers a superb first-person shooting experience. It took a little time to hook me about, especially because of the early similarities with the Mad Max game. Once it gets going, Rage 2 is its own game, offering players a rather unique single-player post-apocalyptic experience.

Verdict: 9/10