On the face of it, it’s strange that this game even exists, given that the original Rage, released in 2011, sold poorly and left little cultural impression. After playing this drab, repetitive sequel, I’m still unsure why they decided to bring it back for a second outing.
I heard the faint ringing of alarm bells during the game’s opening, which thrusts you abruptly into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with only the thinnest recap of the first game to provide any context or sense of direction.
You take on the role of Walker, the ‘last of the Rangers’, a class of heroes charged with defending what’s left of Earth from a quasi-fascist organisation called “The Authority”.
First, the positives, chief of which is the shooting – bullets explode heads with a satisfying pop, and the weapon selection is eclectic, complemented by a well-designed system of upgrades. There’s also a decent diversity of enemies to mangle, even if the firefights themselves become relatively uniform.
It doesn’t take long, however, before a paucity of inspiration begins to show; missions are hackneyed, iterative affairs, and with no clear centre to the story, no one goal feels worth pursuing over another.
Perhaps the most frustrating feature is the game’s open world, which is vast and – at least superficially – varied but almost impossible to interact with. Try as you might to discover points of interest – and I did; I drove my souped-up recon vehicle until my thumbs were numb – there’s little that feels new after the first hour. Occasionally you’ll come across a roadblock or a bandit hideout, but on the whole this is barren terrain. As far as I could tell, whole chunks of the map are almost entirely absent from the story, giving you little incentive to explore.
The dialogue is forgettable, committee-penned stuff – would it have killed them to add a few jokes? – and although you can decide whether Walker is a man or a woman at the beginning, there is nothing distinctive about either iteration. The vehicles, all bulging tires and DIY weaponry, are ripped straight from Mad Max, as is the largely desertified landscape. Someone more charitable might describe this as ‘paying homage’, though I suspect the studio had grubbier motivations. There’s no more saturated genre than the post-apocalyptic shooter, and no easier sell to fans than an open world furnished with dilapidated gas stations and busted-up superhighways, not to mention populated by various flavours of mutant. The best fighting mechanic in the world can’t scrub the stench of laziness.
Rage 2 is frustratingly lopsided, its technical grace vitiated by its half-hearted execution. It feels like so much energy went into the shooting that the world-building became an afterthought. If you want your FPS to be more than a brainless bullet orgy, look elsewhere.