Rage 2 review: Do not resuscitate

Avalanche Studios and id Software come together to reimagine the post-apocalypse in Rage 2. But is the sequel any better than the first game, or is it time to lay the series to rest for good? Our review.

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Rage 2 has been an interesting game to follow, to say the least. The game’s announcement came out of nowhere when it was originally revealed, causing many to question why Bethesda would choose to revisit a series that had been so heavily criticized and disliked. This meant, though, that they had a chance to really wow everyone when the final product was released, even going so far as to bring in id Software to work on the game’s combat—it’s primary feature. While the combat is amazing, as you’d expect from id Software, the rest of the game falls flat in comparison, all around creating a mediocre experience that just isn’t worth the asking price.

What are we even doing here?

Rage 2 review - Loosum Hagar
Despite having several major characters, none of the main characters in Rage 2 have much depth to them or their actions.

Story can often be a very engaging point in video games—even in FPS games—and having a strong underlying plot can be the difference between a world that feels alive and one that feels like an empty husk of what it could be. Unfortunately, Rage 2’s story leaves a lot to be desired. If you’re looking for depth, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Rage 2 is the equivalent of a summer blockbuster, ripe with action but rife with bad dialogue, weird pacing, and more love for violence and explosions than narrative. That’s perfectly fine, though, so long as you aren’t expecting some kind of life changing look at humanity and how it changes after times of great catastrophe.

Many games have managed to pull off this kind of low-story system in the past, with the latest iteration of DOOM being one of them. Unfortunately, Rage 2 lacks the same tight, fast-paced setting that DOOM offered, and the overall lack of intriguing story makes the open-world a bit of a slog to wade through. The main campaign itself only took me about 10 hours to complete (that includes taking time to find all of the weapons and abilities), which meant that the next 15 or so hours that I put into the game was spent roaming around the world and just killing muties and other baddies as I came across them.

In Rage 2, players step into the shoes of Walker, the last of the Vineland Rangers, a group of elite fighters that have long worked to protect the good people of the wastelands from mutants and other baddies. At the start of the game The Authority, a nefarious group of people dedicated to "evolving humanity" by way of mutation emerges once again, wiping out all of the Rangers except for Walker. From here, it's a wild and bullet-riddled journey across the wastelands to make new friends, gather some items, and kill lots of baddies, all while slowly making your way closer to a final showdown with The Authority's commander, General Cross. It's a shallow story that's riddled with fetch quests and tons of useless exposition.

Granted, I never expected any kind of life changing story to be presented in Rage 2. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s sad that the developers decided to take such a lazy approach to storytelling, especially considering their previous work in the industry. The game relies way too heavily on the combat, never really bothering to make the characters likeable or even all that interesting. Sure, there’s plenty of flair and weirdness in the game, but none of it really makes you want to get to know the characters or the environments better. While the combat is phenomenal, it isn’t nearly enough to hold the game’s head above the stormy waters of doubt that have surrounded it since Rage 2 was first revealed.

Wasteful wastelands

Rage 2 review - Wellspring at night time
While the world includes several locations for players to revisit, they all feel shallow without any kind of story to draw players deeper into them.

There’s no doubting that Rage 2 has the potential to be a beautiful game. Set within a series of contrasting biomes, the “wastelands” are an intriguing idea. Unfortunately, what’s cast as a beautiful post-post-apocalyptic world quickly becomes boring as you simply drive from point to point taking out baddies. There’s not really enough story within the world to make it that interesting, and the world feels wasted on the complete lack of investment made in the story.

Side quests amount to simply clearing out bandit dens, pit stops (which are basically like bandit dens but with fuel tanks that you need to destroy), and mutant pits. There’s no real story underneath it all, though many of the NPCs will hit you with sob stories about how they witnessed bandits or mutants killing everyone in that area when it was taken over. Nothing in Rage 2 provides any real incentive for players to care about the people of the world, or what happens to them, aside from the fact that somebody somewhere said we should.

Of course, this means that you’ll spend quite a bit of time in the game’s combat, which is by far Rage 2’s best feature. id Software has outdone themselves, as always, delivering a brutal and smooth combat system full of great weapons and abilities that you can’t help but love blasting baddies with. The guns feel great in Rage 2 as you make your way through the various enemy strongholds, blasting heads with the shotgun, or even going after the bigger mutants that The Authority has unleashed on the world. One of the best parts about Rage 2 is blending your abilities with the various weapons that you have at your disposal. Vortex gives you a great way to pull enemies together before they are expelled into the air. If you time this correctly, you can often hit enemies with a round from you Hyper-Cannon, or even your Firestorm Revolver, allowing you to deal even more damage to them as they are expelled upwards.

One of my personal favorite combinations to run was the Firestorm Revolver with the Shatter ability. You get in close with the revolver, hit them with Shatter to remove their armor, and then immediately pop them with a few rounds from the revolver. Then with a snap of your fingers, they're lit afire as they fly through the air away from you. You can also combine the Grav-Jump and Slam abilities, allowing you to jump up really high before you slam down into the ground, dealing even more damage to the enemies around you.

Don't revive me, bro

Rage 2 review - mutant combat
Combat is the only shining light in Rage 2, but you can only shoot enemies in the face so many times before it becomes too repetitive. 

I really wanted to like Rage 2, and for a good bit of my time in the game I did. As I’ve stated several times throughout the review, the combat is amazing. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a game that includes work from id Software, and it easily rivals the brutal violence of the new DOOM games. Unfortunately, the most enjoyable aspect of the game is the only big shining positive, and it’s buried beneath a ton of garbage. The world is boring and dull, suffering from some of the same problems that the first game did when it released eight years ago. This time it’s just a bit more colorful.

The story is nothing to write home about, and honestly feels more like the kind of story you’d find in a linear action game, not a massive open-world title. Something just doesn’t fit with it, and it’s a shame that the developers didn’t take more time to explore the wasteland and really dive deep into it all to provide a good story that engrosses players. The fact that the main campaign only lasts 10 hours or so, tops, is outrageous, and the sheer promise of “explore an open world with great combat” just isn’t enough to justify the price tag that Bethesda has placed on Rage 2.

As much as I wanted Rage 2 to work, it just doesn’t deliver the best that it could from the two top-notch studios working on it. Right now, I can’t rightfully recommend picking it up at full price, as I just don’t feel there’s enough content here to warrant what they’re asking. The developers do have a lot of plans to continue creating content in the future, though, so maybe we’ll see a game worth returning to after a few months. For now, Rage 2 feels like the final shrill beep on the ECG before the flatline hits. The last flutter of life the series had to offer, squandered away.


This review is based on a digital PC copy of the game provided by the publisher. Rage 2 will release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC May 14.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

Review for
Rage 2
5
Pros
  • Brutal, smooth combat that rivals previous id Software titles
  • Tons of weapons and abilities to combine and use to take down baddies
Cons
  • Mediocre story lacks any real investment for the player
  • Short campaign means you'll spend a lot of time aimlessly wandering the world
  • Open-world feels dull and boring despite being full of enemy encounters
  • The ability system can sometimes be clunky to use, especially in larger combat encounters
  • Lack of any real reason to return to the game after completing the campaign
  • Combat gets repetitive after a while
From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 13, 2019 5:01 AM

    Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Rage 2 review: Do not resuscitate

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 5:05 AM

      That's too bad. I'll wait for a big sale to get it

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 5:15 AM

      Sounds they took work for Mad Max 2 and shoe horned in Rage 2 IP with FPS combat. Okay by me. This is the perfect companion to RDR2 by the sounds of it, where RDR2 gameplay was boring and clunky with great story Rage 2 sounds like it is a blast to play and you just ignore the missing or shit story.

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      May 13, 2019 5:23 AM

      Reading reviews (including this one) and they all have these things in common: Good to great gun play (depending on the reviewer), uninteresting openworld, and terrible story and dialog. Not mention in Josh's review is there is no stealth. So if you were expecting to take down a location like Far Cry 3-5, then you are in for disappointment.

      • reply
        May 13, 2019 7:25 AM

        Oh yeah, there's definitely no stealth to be had here. Though, to be honest... I never really expected that to be an option, but I can see the appeal to some.

        It honestly feels like a game that would have been much more suited to a more narrowed and linear experience, more akin to the nuDOOM title. But with the open world there to get in the way, combat just isn't enough to keep things interesting enough for it to be worth the current asking price. Hopefully the DLC they have in the works will add more stuff and make it better. I honestly wanted it to work out, sadly it just didn't.

      • rms legacy 10 years mercury mega
        reply
        May 13, 2019 7:49 AM

        I long for more Raven-developed games – put this idtech in more focused singleplayer games like Singularity or Quake4, instead of trying to recreate an alternate Borderlands

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 5:51 AM

      Damn, sitting at 73 on metacritic - was expecting better. Oh well I'm sure I'll get my entertainment out of it long term.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 5:54 AM

      Welp, oh well, you just saved me $90! Man am I so glad I didn't pre order, for once I am super glad that Rage 1 existed because otherwise I would have pre ordered this

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 5:56 AM

      You wrote the word "story" 18 times in that article. I don't think you get the appeal of games like this.

      • reply
        May 13, 2019 6:16 AM

        I noticed that too. That being said, if the combat is the only good thing about it and it isn't enough to keep you interested then it's a bit of a moot point.

      • reply
        May 13, 2019 7:12 AM

        "I don't think you get the appeal of games like this." Don't want me to focus on the story? The answer is simple. Don't force me to sit through a terribly written campaign with unskippable cutscenes.

        Also, you need something to hold the world together. This isn't as smooth as DOOM, where you just moved from area to area taking down baddies. I 100% get the appeal of games like this and am a huge fan of them. But the developers tries to shoehorn a story into it, so I'm going to judge the story. Even if you never take the story into account, the world is dull and boring after a few hours, and the game isn't worth $60. Period. DOOM does everything about this type of game better.

        • reply
          May 13, 2019 7:58 AM

          Ugh, unskippable cutscenes? Good story or not, I hate those. Well, I bought it with a gift card so hopefully I can at least enjoy the good parts of it.

          • reply
            May 13, 2019 9:10 AM

            Like I said. It's a fun game, and honestly... I'd have probably liked it better if it were just a more linear experience like DOOM was, where you're constantly pushing forward. It has some good parts, they just kind of weighed it all down with the bad.

        • reply
          May 13, 2019 7:58 AM

          DooM GOTY 2019

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 6:15 AM

      I trust Shacknews' reviews. As such, I am hoping to hear about borderlands 3. Gameplay announcement looks cool as bizzalls.

      Never played the first rage. Sounds like if iD hadn't came in and safe Bethesda they'd have another fat turd that won't flush and get their plunger all sticky with nasty fat gamer slop before trying to put an out of order sign on the door.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 6:18 AM

      Gameplay videos have looked like a hoot, so this is a sure buy for me when I can get it for cheaper, as a edition with all relevant content included.

      Did the first Rage sell well or something? I still can't figure out why this game even exists.

      • reply
        May 13, 2019 7:23 AM

        It's definitely a lot of fun to shoot baddies and combine the different skills and weapons together. They really nailed the combat (even though it can get a bit clunky at times, at least on PC, due to the control scheme). Honestly... had they been asking a lower price for this game, I'd have probably given it more points than I did. But for $60? No thanks.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 6:36 AM

      WHY DIDN'T I JUST WAIT?

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 7:54 AM

      Great combat and a 10 hour campaign means I might play through this eventually.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 8:06 AM

      Of all the games I've wished I waited on... I think I'll wait on this one. Sounds adequately average.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 8:56 AM

      One of the most mediocre games of the past decade gets a mediocre sequel out of nowhere. The crowd goes mild.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 9:04 AM

      I waited out Rage 1, I'll do the same for this one. Thanks, Josh!

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 9:49 AM

      Sounds exactly how I thought. Awesome combat and gun play (iD software help) but the story/world is mediocre.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 10:04 AM

      glad I didnt buy into hype and preorder. I'll wait now for a while. I have other games anyway.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 10:13 AM

      [deleted]

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 10:26 AM

      Damn, that's brutal.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 11:20 AM

      9th paragraph: pop them with a few rounsd

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 12:27 PM

      My experience in the 20 minute demo was terrific combat and moment to moment gameplay, and it sounds like most of the reviews are saying the same thing. It also sounds like the rest of the game doesn't match up to that, which is a shame.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 12:55 PM

      I would like to hear what someone thinks of this and if they liked Mad Max.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 5:14 PM

      Is it fun to shoot shit? If the answer is yes, I can deal with mediocrity. I play destiny 2.

      • reply
        May 13, 2019 8:34 PM

        I just completed the prologue, let's say this ain't no Doom.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 7:22 PM

      Yikes, thanks for the warning. I love the engine they are using for it though.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 8:00 PM

      Relieved I didn't preorder. This sounds like a wait 6 months to get it for $20 or less title.

    • reply
      May 13, 2019 9:33 PM

      Ah well, still got Borderlands 3 in September.

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