Rage 2 Review - A Real Splatfest
Released May. 13th, 2019
At a certain point in Rage 2, you become an unstoppable force, a lone wolf that can take down bandit camps, monsters 10 times your size, and crowds of deformed humanoids with your gratifying, destructive abilities and weapons. Not only does your suite of superpowers make combat a blast, it's the key to developing a satisfying momentum. It's too bad that, more often than not, the game doesn't do enough to keep that momentum going.

Rage 2 doesn't waste a lot of time trying to explain to you why things are the way they are. It instead thrusts you into an open world with its fair share of places to go and things to do. In addition to bandits, mutants, and monsters, there's the villainous organization, The Authority, who wiped out your hometown. As the last ranger--elite soldiers with superpowered suits--it's up to you to corral three key leaders by carrying out their missions and finishing Project Dagger, a biological weapon to kill the Authority's seemingly immortal tyrant General Cross. It doesn't really matter who's who, just that you need to destroy those who are hostile. You're only marginally "super" at the start, but the gradual ascent to hero status is rewarding in that you accumulate a roster of devastatingly fun toys.

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Arks spread across the map unlock powers called nanotrites as well as multi-purpose weapons, and these tools pave the way for dynamic approaches to some intense combat scenarios. Nanotrites can be used in isolation or in sequence, creating a diverse yet easy-to-understand set of abilities that allow you to efficiently rip through enemies. For example, Slam is a strong ground-pound that does area-of-effect damage, and Shatter tears through armor and forcefully sends foes flying backward. Their strong impact is matched by their effectiveness, and when combined with a beefy shotgun or rocket launcher, you create a distinct, destructive flow in combat. It's not unlike nailing down an attack rotation in an RPG and seamlessly swapping firearms for the right situation in an arena shooter.

Once you start stringing kills in succession, you can go into overdrive for a temporary boost where you essentially become invulnerable and weapons fire in an even more powerful mode. With all these capabilities in mind, you never have to resort to one individual tactic in fights because you're consistently cycling through all of your extraordinary tools. It's easy to see and feel the parallels with the modern Doom and Wolfenstein games, but Rage 2 distinguishes itself with how much you have at your disposal and how it's all intuitive to use.

You constantly evolve your arsenal via extensive upgrade trees. It's not just about enhancing weapon damage or increasing overall health; nanotrites can be made more useful with shorter cooldown timers, bigger target areas, and additional effects. Weapons also have branching perks, and special unlocks called Projects stack even more buffs on top of all your other capabilities. Upgrading all these facets can fundamentally change how you operate during the moment to moment action and open up new, devastating approaches in combat.

Rage 2's biggest issue is that it's structurally bare; most of its wasteland is made up of short, fragmented activities that hardly ask much from you and don't lead to anything worthwhile.

What Rage 2 is short on, however, are opportunities to put all those abilities to good use. The main campaign structure makes itself clear early on; do a mission for each of three different leaders, fill a trust meter by finishing corresponding side activities, then complete one more mission for each of them before the finale. It doesn't sound like much, because it isn't. Some of these missions make for the game's better moments, but combat sequences wrap up just as you get into a rhythm. And the main questline as a whole comes to an underwhelming head rather quickly.

Take a late-game mission, for example. You bust into a base with a massive tank, then blast through rooms of enemies before fighting a beast that takes more than a few shots to kill. But the tank sequence is essentially a thin on-rails drive-by, the rooms of enemies are recycled, and that beast is the same as ones you've fought before. There isn't much surprise or imagination for a campaign mission that's supposed to build toward a conclusion. Only once did the campaign put me in a position to get creative or extensively use my powers, and that was at the final boss.