You come to expect sequels from certain franchises. I’m pretty sure there’s always going to be another Call of Duty each year, for instance, and I don’t think there’s ever going to be a final Final Fantasy. In other cases, though, it’s more of a surprise. I count myself among those shocked that they made another Watch_Dogs, for instance – and further shocked that it was so good – and now we’ve got a sequel many thought would never happen with Rage 2. Yes. Rage 2. Pull your jaw up off the floor, that’s bad for you.
Way back in 2011 the original Rage, if you don’t recall, was hyped up to be the next shooter franchise mainstay a la Doom or Quake. As an id Software joint, it certainly had the pedigree, but the final game just didn’t make the kind of splash we expected. The storyline followed an Ark survivor who emerged from a totally-not-Fallout-Vault bunker, eager to explore and reclaim a post-apocalyptic world after a devastating meteor impact. It wasn’t the most inspiring plot, but Rage looked nice and played well…and didn’t have relevant multiplayer.
In Rage 2 – which also doesn’t have relevant multiplayer – we control Walker, a member of the elite Rangers whose settlement is destroyed by the villainous Authority from the first game. Walker wears a suit of upgradable armor and can earn a variety of goofy superpowers, guns and vehicles by discovering and exploring Arks and blasting baddies. By doing so and working with a group of returning characters from the first game, Walker aims to strike back at the Authority.
Unlike the first title’s more serious take on post-apocalyptic shootybangs, Rage 2 is going for Just Case-style insane carnage. That stuff you’ll find in the Arks really is goofy. Some of it is less so – a dash, a double jump, deployable cover – but that’s all functional stuff that keeps you from dying. We’re more interested in the wacky stuff, like the grav-dart gun that can send enemies flying into the air, the black hole vortex grenade and the incendiary revolver with remote-triggered ammo. You can upgrade all this stuff to hilarious extents, meaning that you start out as a badass and end the game as something approaching a god.
Combining all of this stuff together is great fun, especially combined with Rage’s familiar dynamic enemy animations. For all its flaws, the original Rage had some of the best single-player shooting around and Rage 2 maintains that legacy. The biggest change to the combat is the addition of armor to most enemies, meaning you’re best off switching weapons or being especially precise to avoid wasting tons of ammo, time and health.
This is all held together with the standard open-world conceit that powers most games these days. I don’t hate it! It basically means that you get to drive to levels instead of going through a load screen and doesn’t really affect the game much otherwise. There’s the odd bonus objective here and there, like Authority turrets to take out and raider strongholds to take over, though I’ll freely admit that my focus was always on finding the next Ark to see what excitement would pop out. If you’re tired of open worlds, Rage 2 isn’t going to change your mind, but it’s a perfectly competent take on the idea.
As expected, Rage 2 looks pretty damn nice. I doubt it uses the same techno-wizardry that the original did, what with megatextures and all, but the presentation is still fantastic all around; those familiar with other recent Bethesda hits like DOOM and Wolfenstein 2 should know what to expect here. Environments look nice, guns sound nice, voice acting is solid enough given the material they’re working with, and as expected the highlight of the experience is the way the enemies move and juke around your shots. It’s neat!
Rage 2 isn’t going to win any serious Game of the Year awards or anything, but, well…it’s more Rage. It generally does what the first game did well and does it all substantially better, though it’s a bit short all things considered. A competent, well-designed shooter that’s fun to play is still a blessing in 2019, where good games come out on a multiple-times-per-week basis. Even if the original game left a bad taste in your craw, don’t hold that against this considerably improved follow-up.