The real fun comes when you decided to turn off the GPS and the HUD and then just set out to see what you might find.
I’ve always loved first-person shooters and few would argue against the idea that id Software are hands-down the best studio when it comes to thrusting some big guns in your hands and letting you feel like an absolute beast on the battlefield. From Wolfenstein to Doom and then round the houses and back again to more of the same, their games have become synonymous with smooth gameplay, powerful weaponry, intense battles against monstrous hordes and meaty, bloody gibs and RAGE 2 seeks to capitalize on these expectations by combining the tight shooting mechanics we know and love with a sprawling open-world.
If you never played the first RAGE (which came out on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC but was way ahead of its time in technical terms) then there’s nothing to worry about as this game does little to follow-on from its predecessor other than keep a couple of characters and expand on the lore. Much of what you need to know is drip-fed (and sometimes force-fed to you) as you explore the wastelands and its varied environments. As the game is set some three decades after the original it is much more a game with its own story to tell, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a fair few nods to the past for the eagle-eyed fans out there. In essence, you’ll spend time exploring a post-apocalyptic wasteland whilst fighting against roaming gangs from varying factions in the search for resources as you level-up and prepare for the endgame but there’s a solid narrative tying it all together.
From the opening battle there’s a good feel to the shooting (which you would expect from an id title) and the graphics are off a high standard. It’s not the most outlandishly beautiful game I’ve ever seen but that’s sort-of expected when a game is set in a world where everything has pretty much gone to shit. You’d feel confused if everything was all shiny and glittery, so the dank rust-colored walls and dingy corridors actually add a lot to the atmosphere. The enemies are a bit dumb at times but mid-fight you’re likely to see all manner of limbs and heads popping off and there’s an overly-theatrical spurt to the blood spilling which is as hilarious as it is horrible. This is a game which revels in itself and doesn’t care too much if you like its choices.
Beyond the fighting, which we’ll come back to shortly, the bulk of the game requires you to explore the map by foot or in vehicle and you’re given ample opportunity to buy (or steal) and upgrade a good selection of transportation with your ill-gotten gains. The driving feels a little loose when you first get behind the wheel and the initial modes of transport are more than a little sluggish in terms of pace, but keep playing and you’ll get to drive a few things which you’ll come back to over and again. For this type of game, the idea of having to drive might seem out of place but there’s plenty to explore and if you wander of the beaten track you never know what you might stumble upon. Okay, it can be a bit barren and sparse at times but this gives it a sense of scale which you don’t normally get in an FPS. The game itself has actually been developed by Avalanche Studios (of Just Cause fame) and you can see where their knowledge has been put to work amongst the mountainous regions, vast deserts, dense forests and cavernous…well, caves. There’s also plenty of underground areas to jump into and the whole thing is seamless with no loading screens to break your immersion. Imagine Fallout with better shooting and more chaotic firefights and you’re along the right lines.
The main storyline revolves around you stepping into the shoes of a low-level rebel who steps (literally) into the boots of a superpowered suit of armor when its previous occupant is promptly decapitated by the jaws of a rather large monster about four seconds after making a dramatic entrance. Cue you trying to unlock your full potential whilst you scavenge the landscape for resources and make some friends and allies through the usual fare of search-and-destroy or collect-and-return missions. There’s nothing to write home about in terms of narrative – it’s good but it’s quite predictable for the most part. The real fun comes when you decided to turn off the GPS and the HUD and then just set out to see what you might find.
Despite the sometimes-barren nature of the world, there’s plenty of things hidden away and stumbling upon a settlement or gang hideout by accident is a lot of fun. Staking out an area from a distance and then deciding the best approach is reminiscent of the earlier Far Cry games but shit tends to hit the fan pretty quickly so don’t go expecting too much stealth in the main. The majority of your exploration should be spent trying to locate the mysterious ARCs as each one gives you the chance to unlock either a new power, upgrade or weapon and some of these are absolutely phenomenal. From the ability to quick-dash to avoid projectiles or close the gap between you and an enemy to a super-powered jump booster which sends you flying into the air to get the drop on your opponents, the powers you collect are what beings the game into its own. I would highly recommend spending some time exploring and upgrading before getting into the story properly as it will make for a far more fun-and-laughter-filled experience once you are a walking war machine.
Overall there are still some rough edges but RAGE 2 manages to deliver a confident shooter with plenty of bells and whistles. You never really tire of shooting the living hell out of things and some of the larger enemies you encounter will make you rethink your strategies more than a couple of times. The chances are that you will use fast-travel to get back and forth between locations to save time, but if you are prepared to put in the effort to explore at a leisurely pace then you’ll more than likely start to love the world you’re attempting to save. Well worth looking at, especially if you see it on offer.
Review by PSY 23
Images and Game play by Bethesda Softworks