Rage 2 Review: Madness Awaits
It must not have been easy, for id Software and Avalanche, to instill in Rage 2 a character that could distinguish it clearly and convincingly from the other shooters published by Bethesda, so that the production was not seen by the public as a simple post-variation apocalyptic of DOOM or Wolfenstein. The feeling of the two FPS that have re-launched the genre after a long period of crisis is recognizable and so distinctive that the risk of producing a pale imitation of it was more than concrete. Instead, it is precisely in this area that Rage 2 manages to excel, proving to be an energetic and distinctive shooter. The imprint is obviously the violent and hyperkinetic character of Blazko and his associates, but the functionalities of the weapons and the sci-fi powers of the protagonist are sufficient to transmit new sensations, in a rousing blood ecstasy, headshot and bullets.
On the other hand, in Rage 2 there is also something that does not work, ending up overshadowing the excellent work done on the stylistic and gunplay front. Specifically, we are talking about that typical inconsistency of the Avalanche open-worlds, which in this case results in a repetitive progression, not very demanding and, above all, too short.
Peace Between Bombs:
In the wounded world of Rage 2, there is no peace for the survivors. The Authority’s threat, a faction of possessed people who play with genetics and profess the extermination of all that remains of the old society, is back stronger than before.
During the initial sequence the revived General Cross (using an exoskeleton that could have been born from the mind of Deathshead), launches a devastating attack on the headquarters of the resistance, leaving the protagonist without companions and without resources, but with a certain purpose of revenge. The premise of the story is simple and direct, as is its continuation: the goal is to make some allies in the wild Wastelands, collecting the technology that will be used to launch a lethal attack on our nemesis. The plot of Rage 2, you must have understood, represents only a pretext to launch into a furious exploration of the game map, with the intent to devastate everything that comes our way. In addition to being quite inconsistent, the story does not even shine in intensity: if the introduction puts us in front of exaggerated dialogues and with a touch of unruliness, the writing soon becomes much more traditional, abandoning a “poetics of excesses” that would have done damn well to production. Not lacking some more brilliant moments, but the epic exaltation of Wolfenstein is, unfortunately, a distant memory.
What remains, fortunately, is a post-apocalyptic context of all respect, which like a sandworm gulps down, mince and digest all sorts of influences and inspirations. The Ranger mythology and the hierarchies of Immortal Shrouds (clearly inspired by the Children of Immortan Joe’s War), the madness of the Bullies and the brutality of the Boars, are told through the “hidden” information in the Datapads, and will therefore be accessible mainly to those who wants to read and groom the archives in the menu; but even if you prefer a more hasty and lighter approach, you will find yourself faced with a world characterized in a solid and effective manner.
The unexpected variety of panoramas, which moves from rocky canyons to large deserts of white sands, passing through swamps clogged with rubbish and indestructible bamboo jungles, is coupled with extreme chromatic choices, with neon lights of human settlements, with the exaggerations typical of a punk aesthetic that hits hard. Screaming and chrome-plated, the world of Rage 2 remains imprinted in its own way on the retinas of those who play, although the change in the graphics engine has made it less brilliant than it was that of the predecessor at the time of its release. Despite being able to manage extremely large environments and with a good degree of interactivity, the Apex Engine of Avalanche is less incisive, as regards the details of models and textures, compared to the always impressive id Tech.
Shooting in Rage 2 is a galvanizing experience. A submachine gun and the most classic shotgun are enough to weigh the qualities of a rapid, quick, precise production and capable of transmitting a thrill of pure exaltation with every blow to the head. The merit, as always, is of small details like the feedback of the weapons, the dull sound of an exploding skull, the ecstasy of running and the incomparable feeling of control (amplified, on PC, by the fluidity of the 60fps).
On these solid foundations, Avalanche was able to build various and disruptive game mechanics, embracing the sci-fi element that winds in the setting. While the Wastelands are dominated by bleak technological backwardness, our Ranger is able to recover the technology of the space Arc, precipitated on the surface of the planet, to improve the equipment and functionality of his suit. And so soon it will be possible to use shockwaves to hurl opponents against the elements of the scenario, launch antigravity vortexes that trap enemies, but also to remain raised in midair for a few seconds during a double jump, like a lightning-fast angel of death ready to rain lead on his opponents.
The work of characterization of firearms is also really excellent, both in terms of feedback and in terms of functionality. Each rifle has a distinctive function, which makes it somehow unique and peculiar, even if we wanted to compare the endowment of our Ranger with that of BJ or Doomguy. The old Railgun, for example, is capable of piercing the bodies of the adversaries, while the Firestorm Revolver launches detonating charges which must then be blown up with a snap of the fingers.
Playing with the powers of the protagonist and experimenting with the effects of his unlikely arsenal is an experience that every lover of ferocious shooters of the 90s should experience, even if to counterbalance the electrifying gameplay soon emerge macroscopic problems. The first, for example, is linked to the structure of the progression: since the finding of the Arks on the game map is essentially optional, it can happen that a player passes most of the adventure only with two weapons and few powers. We, therefore, allow ourselves to give, in this review, a suggestion of method, inviting you to look, first of all, for the places in which to unlock new guns and additional skills.
Another important suggestion is to set the difficulty to the highest level, without fear of facing an unfathomable game. Rage 2, on the contrary, suffers from the opposite problem: cleaning up the overflowing lairs is an operation of ease at times bleak. Opponents fall like flies, appropriately developed powers make it possible to massacre dozens of enemies indiscriminately, the damage received is few and the amount of healing objects that can be built with the resources accumulated around is really too high.
Even at nightmare difficulty, we can perceive a real sense of challenge, and this remains perhaps the “mortal sin” for every FPS that wants to pursue the teaching of the cornerstones of the genre. It is worth reiterating that the problems described above do not clearly emerge during the first hours of play, when instead the player is engaged in a curious and pleasant exploration of the Wastelands, stimulated also and above all by the character development system.
From this point of view, we must admit, Avalanche did a great job, creating a complex and multifaceted mechanism. In addition to a junk and raw materials (necessary to build grenades, Windstops and healing infusions), around the settings, money is recovered and Feltrite (a mineral of extraterrestrial origin), together with an impressive number of other key objects: mutant glands, neural interfaces, modules for war development and mechanical components. Each of these elements has a specific function and allows you to unlock upgrades of various kinds. It will, therefore, be possible to improve the strength and firepower of our vehicle, or add extra features to weapons and powers, but also invest in projects to hone the qualities of the suit, crafting or reconnaissance skills, mobility.
From the Windstick to the grenades, passing through the basic Ranger statistics, everything can be boosted. We are not exaggerating in saying that the “realistic” development system of Rage 2 is one of the most complex that we have ever seen recently, and we believe we must spend applause for how the development team worked on this aspect. It is precisely this mechanism that, initially, gives the right impulse to the player, pushing him to browse around the map in search of outposts to free the boxes full of materials. In the first few hours, everything seems to be in the right place: although the game world is quite empty, we are willingly looking for points of interest, spurred on by the desire to optimize the Ranger’s qualities.
Little by little, however, this need begins to fail, and the distortions of the classic “Avalanche style” reappear by force. So it happens that the open-world component becomes extremely repetitive, a bit empty and an end in itself. The wastelands become a huge (but not very populous) space in which to limit oneself to “messing around”, a bit like what happens in the Just Cause series. Unfortunately, the presence of very few types of secondary activities, combined with a substantially inexistent difficulty, makes the gaming experience progressively less memorable, stimulating and meaningful.
If it is true that the caliber of an open-world is measured on the basis of how many times you feel the need for the “quick trip”, know that in Rage 2 this solution is used often and willingly, to avoid having to run along roads and in totally reclaimed areas. It is surprising, among other things, that the fighting between vehicles is in fact extremely rare, limited to the assault of a few convoys scattered around the map, but not at all integrated with history or progress.
The suspicions that we had matured over the months, ultimately, came to fruition: Rage 2 is a basically two-faced title, which tries to make the fullness of an old school shooting coexisting with the lightness of the noisiest and lightest open-worlds. Although it is felt that these two thrusts, linked respectively to the legacies of id Software and Avalanche, do not always intertwine in a happy way, the gaming experience remains pleasant after all, albeit less effective than other Bethesda branded proposals.
Unfortunately, to put further sticks in the wheels of Rage 2 there is another very obvious problem: the quantity of contents. To be an open-world, the title is extremely short. The main campaign can be completed in just over ten hours, and after a fortnight we can instead say we have upgraded almost every weapon and every available power.
However, perhaps the most painful aspect concerns the structure of the campaign. The main missions are interspersed with phases of pure “grinding” in which it is necessary to increase the level of the three allied “factions”. If the number of hours needed to complete the story had already seemed low, you should know that the main quest is actually composed of a really unjustifiable number of missions (you don’t get to a dozen). A real shame, given that on more than one occasion these are the activities that are best characterized by the whole package.
It is also regrettable that, due to the evident lack of content, the publisher has already announced a post-launch support plan which includes paid DLC: the missions and activities included in these expansions would have been much more useful to consolidate immediately the foundations of the game, rather than to extend, in retrospect, the structure.
Cyberpunk aesthetics and technical sector:
As we have already mentioned, Rage 2 uses the proprietary engine of Avalanche, the Apex Engine. A technology designed to manage large-scale open-world environments, which has no qualms about giving up detail to focus on extension and interactivity.
The latter, to be honest, is certainly more limited in this production than it was in the last chapters of Just Cause; it must be said that on the other hand Avalanche seems to have embellished the effect, certainly important for staging shootings that are roaring and, of course, explosive. Although the models of the adversaries are well characterized, there is a discreet tendency to the ruthless reuse of the same “figurative”; moreover, the animations and, above all, the insipid artificial intelligence (another element that contributes to making the difficulty not exciting) are not surprising. In short, Rage 2 is certainly not the title that aims to set a new standard in technical and graphic terms, thanks to the artistic direction that, between chromatic games and fluo shades, creates a convincing context.
On PC the optimization is good and the title also runs on fairly dated configurations, with a resolution that exceeds 1080p (without reaching 4K, but easily moving around on the 1440p), and above all without particular framerate drops. To go into Ultra settings you need a machine with more recent components, but the engine stands out for its scalability.
Rage 2 has the ambition of being a thunderous and irrepressible open-world shooter, supported by the extreme sensations of id Software. Thanks to its visceral gunplay, violence, exaggerated and concrete, close to that of the other shooters branded by Bethesda, the game, fortunately, manages to counterbalance the inconsistency of an exploration that is too repetitive, monotonous and sometimes an end in itself. Among other things, the reinforcement system designed by the team manages, at least in the first hours of the game, to spur the user on, sending him around the map driven by sincere curiosity to unlock new powers, weapons and abilities. Rage 2 remains an appreciable experience, especially by FPS fans. Rage 2 is the merger between Avalanche Studios and id Software that tries to modernize the image of Rage by adopting an open world structure without interruptions or uploads and entrusting the most devastating and creative component to gunplay.