‘Rage 2’ Video Game Review: Neon Loneliness

If Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s character from Mad Max: Fury Road, dropped a boatload of acid and a mix of shrooms, (Don’t do drugs, kids, and stay in school), then what she threw up – provided she was still conscious – would be Rage 2.

Rage 2 is a mixed bag of set your phasers from moosh and crazy to neon nightmare mode!

It’s no easy task, trying to explain exactly what Rage 2 is. I try to describe it as taking Borderlands 2, Mad Max, Crackdown, and Cyberpunk and mixing them with all the colors of a unicorn-pooped rainbow… then you’d be getting somewhere in the vicinity of what Rage 2 is.

Image courtesy of Bethesda

Firstly, let me get the non-neon stuff out of the way. I played this game on both Xbox One S and a PS4. While Bethesda did indeed provide me a copy of the game (the PS4 version – thank you, Bethesda!), the Xbox One game was purchased with all my own bottle caps. This review is not sponsored.

It’s safe to say that when the original Rage dropped way back in the dark ages of gaming (AKA 2007, when the tech demo was introduced), no one really knew what to do with it. It was a game that had some very ambitious dreams of what it wanted to be. Unfortunately, the final execution was RAGE-inducing, and after players got lost in the very open world of Rage, they also lost the game.

And that was the last of Rage… or so we thought. Now, ID Software is back and kicking ass with color! But is this Rage rendition actually any good?

Image courtesy of Bethesda

After having completed the story campaign, which was about 12 hours in total, I’d have to admit that I’m not really sure if the game is good or great. I have played 25 hours in total now, and I still have mixed feelings.

The game itself is a colorful extravaganza of exploding heads and weirdly wonderful characters. Regardless of the gameplay mechanics, I always need a hero to care about or a story to grip me. Rage 2 has neither. The story is standard at best. Big Bad Guy kill’s protagonist’s special person and wants to rule all the land through death and ‘splosions! Nothing unusual for a game of this type, but then again, it has nothing that stands out storywise, either.

Image courtesy of Bethesda

You can choose to be either a female or male protagonist ranger, and your character is equipped with a Nano suit, which is fully upgradable. Once you’ve collected the necessary parts and completed the right missions, then upgrade away! This is also standard for this type of game.

There aren’t actually that many scripted scenes coming from your character. The side characters and NPCs do most of the work here, which brings me to sound design, voice work and atmosphere. The NCPs are actually great… in dialogue, at least. The voice work is superb for all the craziness within Rage. For the most part, each tattooed, spray-painted, erotically-dressed character hit their mark well. I did notice that, on  occasion, the audio and video did not sink up correctly. But the voice work itself was awesome!

The sound design is definitely one of the best parts of the game. When things explode like a Michael Bay film – and believe me, they do – you feel it through the sound. It’s crisp, not distorted, in everything from the sound of  bullets hailing down into the heads of your victims to the grandees making mincemeat of everything. The sound is visceral and quite exquisite when it needs to be.

Image courtesy of Bethesda

I also encountered various bugs, but I won’t go into all of them, as it seems that is the way games are released nowadays. Well, at least that is what Destiny, Anthem, Days Gone and now Rage 2 have taught me. A barely finished game gets released, and then, a year or so later, they get fixed through many patches, some of which are almost as big as the game itself.

The actually gameplay is fast and frenetic. This is where Rage 2 shines! In the midst of battle, whenever you have a hoard of Rage-endued monsters, punks or bad guys, you destroy them in a rainbow of glorious color! This is where the upgrading menu system comes into play. There is a lot to upgrade, and you feel a little daunted when you first look at it. Choosing whether to upgrade a gun’s second capacity or your Nano suit’s various abilities can get confusing. However, in the midst of battle, it’s fracking fantastic! Using your slam in combination with a vortex shot and then melee-ing your opponent into oblivion is stunningly satisfying! Then there are the Mad Max Fury Road-esque car battles. You take out a plethora of smaller vehicles until you get to the lead vehicle. Super fun!

Image courtesy of Bethesda

Then you rinse and repeat this with some side missions, a few monsters and main story missions. That’s the game in a nutshell.

What really surprised me, though, was how lonely I felt while playing the game. In this vast open world, with cars that are surprisingly slower than you’d expect and bandits’ camps that are exactly as you’d expect, Rage 2 is a neon explosion of loneliness.

So, I’m out there in the wilds and swamps, kicking ass and taking names because I’m all outta bubblegum, and the thing I keep coming back to is: Why do I care about taking on these bad guys and watching their heads explode? After a few hours, it does become a case of *cue Buffy musical episode line* “Just going through the motions!”

Image courtesy of Bethesda

It’s because there is no actually fleshed out main character. Both your ranger and the story feel very bland. Out in the game, slogging though the suck, you get to a point where you need to care about grinding to get that doohickey that will save the world, and for the most part, you don’t. Apart from the occasional radio voice telling where to go and what to do next, as well as the cut scenes when you’ve finished story missions, you are alone. And you feel this.

Some examples of other open world game single player games: GTA V, Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim V, Days Gone, Spiderman, God of War (kind of an open world), The Witcher 3, Horizon Zero Dawn. All of these are single player games (apart from the online modes) with great, story-driven, engaging drama. This makes you care for the character. This makes you give a shit.

Image courtesy of Bethesda

So, after all the color and Mad Max chases, I’m left asking myself: Will I play Rage 2 again? The answer is… a firm maybe, although I’d probably just play the Witcher 3 one more time.

Image courtesy of Bethesda

Final Thoughts on Rage 2

I have mixed feelings about Rage 2. In the midst of battle, it’s glorious, like a non-stop party that I want to attend. If that’s enough for you, then you’ll love this game. If it’s not, you might not want to skip this one. Although there are also some free DLCs coming very soon, so there’s hope.

I want to give it a 7/10, but I think I’ll settle on a Rage-filled 6/10.

About Ruben Lee Shaw

Movies have been a part of Ruben's life for as long as he can remember. His first film experience was E.T. when he was 5 in a dark grotty cinema in Amsterdam (at least that is how he remembers it). He grew up in South Africa and studied Film and Television production in the UK, which is where he now resides with his stunning wife, 2 interesting teenagers, a fat cat, a crazy dog, and sometimes a dark passenger, (his very imaginative imagination). He has worked on both features and short films and has experience as a journalist/reviewer for films, tv, and games. In 2016 he created his own super Geeky brand called The Ruby Tuesday.  Ruben has a love for horror and things that go bump in the night, although he himself will admit to being a scaredy-cat. Ruben's first teen-fantasy-horror novel is to be released in 2018. Some of his favorite creatives and their creations are Stephen King (It and on writing), Dean Koontz, (Odd Thomas series) Ridley Scott (Alien), C. S. Lewis (Narnia and Screwtape letters) John Carpenter (The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China), James Herbert (Rats) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labrythn, Hellboy and The Book of Life). Ruben continues to push the boundaries of his imagination and intends to release three novels and short films in the coming years.

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