Rage 2 dropped on the 14th of May and I’ve been putting some serious hours into it. So does it live up to the hype or is it just another Duke Nukem Forever?
I’ll try and keep the review focused on gameplay and not so much storyline, so, no spoilers. From the get go the game feels like it is trying to jam a lot of information into you all at once. The opening tutorial level is constantly interrupting your game-play to draw your attention to different abilities along with the standard controls, jump, crouch etc, etc, etc… ‘Press enter to continue’, quickly became the bane of my existence.
This theme of ‘player interrupted’ continues for the first couple missions as the game first teaches you to breath in, then out. Shortly after that you are introduced to Nanotrites, and this is where the game finally picks up. Nanotrites are special abilities which open up a world of fun new ways to kill your enemies. Once you have ‘pressed enter to continue’ for what feels like the hundredth time, you are finally set free upon the wasteland to wreak carnage on the population.
The story arc is nothing new, and follows a tried and true method of locating key characters spread over the map who then send us on missions to gather intelligence, weapons or research. You know, classic beer run type stuff.
To be honest it’s this style of gameplay that really highlights some of the limitations of the environment. Although the open world is vast, I felt punished for exploring or looking for shortcuts. Straying too far from the road while looking for the quickest route will find you in unbearably rocky or steep terrain bringing your vehicle and game momentum to a screeching halt. It’s because of this, getting around the map feels like a chore.
Moving onto gameplay, there is plenty to unpack here. Combat feels off when starting out, damage dealt from a far is minimal and disproportionate to damage taken. Key bindings to use abilities is confusing and physics, particularly vehicles physics, is woeful. This was super off putting at first and if I wasn’t committed to putting a review together, may have been enough to turn me off the game entirely. As I continued however, I discovered most of these ‘issues’ were a way for the game to teach me how it wanted to be played… Put the scope away and get in there! Headshots feel rewarding and Overdrive is great for pulling you out of a tight spot.
Once comfortable with the ‘all in’ nature of combat, and after a few weapon upgrades, the game becomes a whole lot more enjoyable. Clearing roadblocks and buildings becomes exciting as you learn to take advantage of your weapons and surroundings. As is tradition with close quarters combat the player is rewarded with small amounts of health from each kill. This encourages much faster and aggressive movement from the player. This is further enhanced by the Nanotrite abilities and as you further progress, making battles hectic and satisfying. I did find however, enemies were fairly predictable and I needed to up the difficulty about halfway through to keep the fights interesting.
The key bindings, while I never felt completely comfortable, I did eventually adjust and help pump up my ego as I slammed, shattered and vortexed my way through enemy lines.
Vehicle physics also start to make sense after a while… Just kidding, they don’t, it’s a mess. Moving between locations is a nightmare, and vehicle combat is worse. The default setup for the vehicle crosshair is to self centre and, even with this off, the crosshair snaps between targets. You have about as much chance of hitting what you are aiming at as a drunken storm trooper. Eventually I figured a fast car with no weapons is a better idea than a slow one with all the weapons.
The graphics also fall a little flat, while some of the character design is amazing, and at times truly disturbing, most of the time it feels like you are talking to a slightly melted mannequin.
As I touched on earlier, the environment was designed to ensure travel time is as long as possible, even when traversing a relatively small corner of the map. Slowing vehicles down and winding back and forth is common practice in open world games and creates the illusion you are in a large world with lots to see. The thing with Rage 2 is, there’s just nothing interesting to see. Towards the end I started to treat the Wastelands as a slightly more interesting loading screen between missions.
The games audio had some nice moments and help build tension. The Sentry Turrets were particularly evil sounding, however vehicle noises were repetitive and a little lacklustre. There was also more than one occasion where voicelines just didn’t play at all.
- GAMEPLAY - 70%70%
- GRAPHICS - 65%65%
- AUDIO - 50%50%
- OVERALL - 60%60%
Overall, Rage 2 is a solid follow up to the original and has fast and exciting combat moments that are up there with the best of them. Despite some shortcomings, the game has plenty to offer and certainly has potential for multiple play throughs or speed running. I for one look forward to going back and finding additional ways to smash, squish and explode enemies using different Nanotrites and weapon combinations.
For more on RAGE 2, check out our previous coverage.