Review: RAGE 2 – Big guns, bigger enemies, and even bigger explosions

RAGE 2 is the follow up to the 2011 cult-classic RAGE, bringing in brand new guns, enemies, a setting taking place years later in the exact same region, from two of gamings biggest developer titans in order to make an even bigger experience. Let’s see if it’s all the RAGE we’ve been hearing about.


Pros:
+The sound design is some of the best there has ever been in the history of gaming
+The open-world experience brings in a wide-array of biomes to explore
+Enemies feel like a true threat when playing on Nightmare difficulty
+Unlockables feel rewarding and worthwhile
+Pseudo-RPG elements actually blend in rather nicely with RAGE 2’s progression system
+Total completion exceeds 20 hours on Nightmare

Cons:
-Driving can be rather difficult due to control stiffness
-Exploration can feel dull after long periods of time
-The main campaign caps out at 7 hours on Nightmare


You know, compared to when I first experienced RAGE 2 in 2018, I had quite a few things to say about the early impressions RAGE 2 left me with based on a 30-minute demo Bethesda let us experience. I was impressed with the gunplay, satisfied with how it felt close to that of DOOM‘s while the pacing of combat was essentially that of DOOM‘s as well, urging players to continually press forward while using the cutting edge Avalanche Engine from Avalanche Studios, the co-developer of RAGE 2.

However, what I didn’t know, was what the final experience would be like. I was unsure of what kind of story I would experience, what kind of open world offerings I would get, and how the progression system would actually play out. Long story short, all I knew is I was playing something from two of the most heavy-hitting developers in the industry.

Except, you might be wondering, how is this the case if reviews are coming in and they are already rough as one could imagine? Well. There are quite a few talking points we need to discuss before our review wraps up, so let’s get started. We’ll discuss the story last just for the sake of that being one of the most important talking points.

Duration. This one is important.

One of the key elements I get asked about quite often is the duration of the game, which currently, is a hot topic about the game. There are people already beating the main story in a two-to-three hour period, which in truth- isn’t really all that long. However, let me tell you now. That screenshot above? Was taken before I neared the end of the main campaign, a solid fifteen hours on the Nightmare difficulty, and I haven’t even 100% cleared the map as I’ve intended to do before writing this review.

However, that doesn’t elude the fact the campaign is short, extremely short if you just rush through it. This means you will miss arks, which contain weapons and abilities for you to use. That means you’ll miss out on a chance to experience the game to its fullest and even miss out on taking advantages of upgrades that will allow you to better face off against your enemies without getting your face kicked in during later portions of the game.

Just remember, the game is short, but only if you don’t take your time, and I can confirm the campaign will only last you between 4-5 hours in a single playthrough if you just shoot straight through the story. Trust me when I say this, there’s a lot to do, and there are actually quite a few background story items you can find throughout your adventures.

But, how does the game perform? Do the graphics hold up, does it actually deliver on the 1080p at 60fps promise on a PlayStation 4 Pro? Let’s discuss that a bit.

It’s buttery smooth, most of the time, with a few minor hiccups along the way

One thing that makes me sad about this generation is the fact I know we’re beginning to hit the hardware limitations of what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One family has to offer. The hardware itself is being pushed to its limits, developers are pulling every last ounce of how the hardware performs in order to give us the best experiences they have to offer.

Astonishingly enough, RAGE 2 actually delivers on its promise of 60fps at 1080p on a PlayStation 4 Pro console – for the most part, anyway. During my time with the game, roughly 20+ hours and counting  – there’s still a lot to do – there were a few minor hiccups. While they weren’t common, it doesn’t mean they were all that rare, especially in the more detailed areas of the game.

There were times I’d notice my FPS would tank, sending me hovering down into the sub-40-to-50fps, there were even times I could see the game move in a frame-by-frame basis, which in itself, was quite frustrating. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the experience itself is quite beautiful and the performance is among some of the best so far this generation.

But this also makes one wonder: Do graphics suffer because of this? Short answer, no. The graphics don’t. Thankfully, just like the id Tech engine, the Apex Engine created by Avalanche Studios. Surprisingly enough, it delivers the same visuals, same steady performance, and it actually runs almost on par with id Tech 6 (DOOM) on PlayStation 4 Pro consoles. Just don’t expect the same performance on a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Slim.

Graphically, this is by far one of the best looking games I’ve seen, and fortunately enough, it’s also a decent piece of eye candy thanks to the post-apocalyptic punk appeal. You won’t be surprised to see a few familiar sights return, namely the mutants, who actually haven’t changed all that much in the 18 years since RAGE released on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

You’ll even be pleased to know, there are quite a few set pieces that make a pleasant return, but in a new-age fashion.

The graphics, animations, set pieces, and atmospheric designs are an absolute treat

One thing I can’t help but discuss are graphics, art, and atmospheric designs. The reason behind this is because these parts of the game are, to me, insanely important when it comes to games that try or succeed in pushing current-gen tech to its limits. Thankfully, the graphical presentation is exactly what you’d hope to see with some of the best effects on the market.

Whether it’s the use of vibrant pastels to mark the territory of the Goon Squad, the dark and visceral reds, browns, and greens for the mutants, or the industrial yellows, tans, or greys for the Shroud, everything is thematic within the world of RAGE 2. Even the set designs are some of the best, each one playing into the faction that controls the area, and what kind of threat they might have with them.

Each set piece is uniquely designed, each one giving an idea of just how lived-in the world actually is, how organic it acts, and just what kinds of encounters one should expect to have when exploring the world of RAGE 2. Except, there’s something I’m forgetting to mention, which is a key piece to the unique use of god rays, particle effects, lighting, well-designed character animations, and even the graphics themselves: Atmospheric designs.

You might be wondering why I say “designs”. It’s not because we don’t experience a singular living world around us, but we are experiencing a fabricated world, one that has more detail, more visuals, and more to take in than any other game id Software has developed, or even co-developed with any other studio. Every base, every scenario, feels completely unique, each one culminating into a horde-based survival experience to a search and find for items you’ll need to use in order to proceed with your objective.

Some include clearing out a mutant nest, which essentially is a “search and destroy” scenario combined with horde-based encounters. If you venture further, you may notice that a Goon Squad base is a neon-infused experience where their hair designs are something pulled straight from the 70s to 90s punk appeal, highlighted by giant blue mohawks, plaid, denim, and spikes galore. It’s quite astonishing to see the punk-era clothing styles come back to life.

On the other side of things, comes RAGE 2‘s atmospheric designs. which are quite unique. Each one coming with their own vibe as you transition from one biome to another. Going from desert to swamp is quite amazing and each time you transition from one setting to another will gives you a lingering sense of depth to the world design.

The world itself is actually quite unique and with each of the micro-areas in the game coming with their own themes, you can’t help but feel slightly amazed by the attention to detail, nor can you shrug off such attention to detail as each set piece feels like a world of their very own, a principle we experienced with both DOOM and Wolfenstein: The New Colossus as we progressed through each game in the respected order.

Except… Before we talk about the good some more, we gotta talk about the bad.

When it comes to difficulty, I love to see what id Software has to offer. They’re renowned for punishing their players as the difficulty is increased in their games. DOOM ensured that you would die rather quickly, not becoming a one-man powerhouse from the very start, or even at the end of the day. Sure, you’ll get rather big guns (BFG 9000 anyone) that will tear through enemy forces, but when those are being put on the bench, you had to use everything you learned through your time with your game for a chance at success.

Unfortunately, RAGE 2 eventually breaks this tradition, even on its highest difficulty. Between the progression system, the Nanotrite abilities, Overdrive ability, and the weapons, you’ll find yourself plowing through enemy forces like a kid wreaking havoc while going through a Toys ‘R Us.

I’d even have a chance to drive around without little troubles, if any at all, outside of a few giant turrets looking to tear me apart. But I didn’t feel that my life was ever in danger when exploring. If anything, I felt like I owned the road and that the factions themselves aren’t as defensive over the areas they control compared to any other game I’d ever played.

It’s sad that such a design flaw exists.  I wish they would adjust, and add more enemy patrols to the roads, giving a higher sense of danger with the increased difficulties in the game. Even on Nightmare difficulty, I’m at a point where I mow through any opposition that I have, punching, shooting, and smashing my way through their forces. I’d even accumulated enough resources to max out several of my abilities.

Another flaw I felt was an issue was a lack in variety of dangers as one enemy force was pushed out of an area. I’d wished they’d done invasions of sorts, something we see happen quite frequently in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, where enemy forces will encroach upon once-liberated areas, claiming it as their own. But another issue we’ve come across is one a bit more dumbfounding than the rest.

Stuttering that occurs when navigating to the menus including the map, inventory, projects, vehicles, etc. This isn’t just a once in a while thing. It happens each and every time, causing the game to almost seem as if it was freezing up before it would pull up the menus interface once the stutter itself is done.

While it is a minor ordeal, it exists, and it almost seems as if it’s due to the resources in the game itself that is only used once that menus are requested. A design flaw that no doubt might have snuck out the door when the game was being launched, but it is one that needs to be patched, and it’s one that could irritate those wanting to seamlessly navigate the menus.

Weapon control and designs are actually fun, which drives the open-world exploration portion

One of the things that really helps bring a first-person shooter to life is the gunplay and weapon designs themselves. Those familiar with DOOM will feel right at home, as this game is, well, DOOM, but without the demon’s from Hell and… Well, there’s cybernetically enhanced baddies to face-down again, so let’s cross that one off the list.

That aside, RAGE 2 has some of the tightest gunplay you will find in an FPS game of its type. Each weapon reacts quite different from its sister weapon. They all come with their own unique reaction, function, and upgrades you’ll opt for depending on the enemies that you encounter. Vehicles are treated much the same, but you’ll find yourself spending more time in Phoenix rather than running off and collecting what the game has to offer.

Now, before we talk about those loadouts and the weapons themselves, I want to briefly discuss the vehicle gameplay, which was something I both enjoyed and found myself a bit let down by. While controls for the cars do feel absolutely well designed, I couldn’t help but feel as if the cards did feel a bit stiff, reacting and turning incredibly horrible compared to what I’d have hoped to experience after having played games like Mad Max and Just Cause 4.

Car combat while fun, does take a bit of patience, mostly due to how the vehicles themselves actually handle. Sure, there’s a moderate variety of them and some are combat while others are explorative cars. Unfortunately, this also means, some of them aren’t the greatest for combat scenarios while others will outperform the rest. Phoenix, being the primary focus here due to its wide array of weapons. Honestly, I hope to see more emphasis on cars moving down on with post-launch content.

While it was fun, the driving part felt almost hollow, useless outside of caravan events, which you’ll find yourself doing quite a lot of if you hope to max out Phoenix before you complete the game. But anyway, back to those loadouts against specific factions and how effective on-foot combat feels.

Shotguns, in my opinion, are a delight if you want a brute force weapon. It’s a solid option, allowing you to alternate from a spread-shot burst to a slug-shot that’ll throw an enemy staggering backward or even flying. Weapons like the rocket launcher even have their own first and secondary fire modes. Each weapon feels completely unique and each of them actually benefits from the Overdrive mode that increases damage dealt as well as the ability for Walker to regenerate their health.

However, there’s a trick to it all. Keeping your kill multiplier up. The higher the number of kills you get, the higher the multiplier. The higher the multiplier, the faster you get Overdrive back, allowing you to stay alive while wreaking havoc upon those that would otherwise kill you.

This mechanic, coupled with the smooth gunplay and even smoother framerates, is a delight and quite honestly, a technical marvel due to how it stays constantly flowing at steady paces. Also, who can’t enjoy the awesome soundtrack that comes with it?

It’s a bass-filled good time if you enjoy a lot of bass and explosions big enough even Michael Bay would be awestruck.

One of the things about this game, I find odd, but at the same time quite enjoyable is the sound design. All the weapons feel as if they have an impact to them, each one feels as if they carry some form of weight to their punches. One of the biggest and most noteworthy parts is the amount of well-designed sound elements the game has.

Whether its the bass-heavy roar of the boosters on Phoenix or the subtle, yet somehow, the bass-heavy hum of Icarus’ propellers, the game itself has a lot of bass to it, but it also doesn’t get overwhelming by any means necessary. Even the rattle of ongoing fights between the Shroud, Goon Squad, and various other factions in the games can be heard in the distance, always sounding off with massive explosions in the distance.

Explosions themselves are even accented with head-rattling rumbles, each one getting louder than the prior, but always giving something to enjoy. But there’s also the subtleness to the game, those moments where nothing is happening, and the soft sounding score composed by not one, but three different composers; Johan Nilsson, Andreas Kinger, and Eirik Røland; takes over through the silence.

This soundtrack, for the three, would pretty much be considered their first big break out title, putting them on the map for bigger projects, but let’s focus on this one. Between the three, the soundtrack doesn’t seem composed by different people, but rather, by a single person. It works well and the music came together cohesively, allowing subtle hints of it to bleed into the overall atmosphere and setting the tone for the overall game.

The Conclusion – We see what you did there Willits and we approve

Even though I didn’t touch on it much, the story itself is more-or-less what you’d expect for a game of this kind. It’s subtle, it’s light, but it still draws on a lot of the previous entry. The story remains, many NPCs make another appearance, and the overall plot remains fairly unchanged from its predecessor.

Short story aside, RAGE 2 still has a lot to offer and it seems like both id Software, as well as Avalanche Studios, isn’t going to let that change. They both seem pretty straight forward with the games upcoming roadmap and live events. I do hope that they fix a few minor issues that exist and deliver some unforgettable story content moving forward.

RAGE 2 at the end of the dayis a shooter you shouldn’t miss as long as you don’t mind making it last through exploring a fully fleshed-out open world, that, at times, does feel slightly hollow, but still rather organic to most games of this type through side-missions, daily bounties, and even live-events that crop up rather often.

 

 

RAGE 2
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: id Software, Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Bethesda
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $59.99

Now, I’ve got mutants to set aside, some Goon Squad members to round up, and a few Shroud to put to rest.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.



About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s