Rage 2: The Kotaku Review

Rage 2 is caught between Good Stupid and Bad Stupid. In the end, Bad Stupid wins out.

Rage 2 takes place on a dystopian, desert Earth that was struck by a meteor over a century ago. Much of the population has been wiped out, and civilisation is a shadow of its former self. In the first Rage, you were a survivor, put in cryogenesis in a futuristic building called an Ark before the meteor hit, and you woke up in order to defeat the fascist Authority bent on taking over what was left of humanity.

In Rage 2, the Authority is back, and now you’re a new character named Walker who has to take them down after they killed Walker’s adoptive mother and destroyed their home.

Walker, who can be male or female, is a Ranger. Rangers wear armour that basically gives them super powers, and they can use extra-powerful weapons. You find new weapons and powers as you visit Arks across the world. I was eager to find those powers and weapons, but in the end they were a little lacklustre. The first power, Dash, lets you dash, but I didn’t use it much.

The second power, Shatter, is a concussive blast that can tear the armour off enemies and also explode them. I used it a little more, but by the end of the game I forgot it existed. Getting a double jump was useful, but I could also climb pretty much anywhere. I also barely used my fourth power, Slam, which let you slam to the ground and knock out enemies. There were more powers I could unlock, but I didn’t end up looking for them. They didn’t feel worth seeking out.

It isn’t that using these powers isn’t fun. It’s exceptionally fun to explode a man through his armour with my fist. It’s just that more often than not, the easiest and fastest way to get out of a jam is to shoot something until it’s dead.

That wouldn’t be an issue if shooting things until they’re dead wasn’t so dull. You end up with very cool weapons if you visit Arks: I remember when I found the Spitfire Revolver, a gun that sets people on fire. The first time I set someone on fire with my revolver, it was like I had been given a shot of adrenaline to the heart. After sticking to my trusty assault rifle and shotgun for much of the beginning hours of the game, I was ready for things to get Good Stupid.

Rage 2 convinced me it would be Good Stupid during E3 last year, when Bethesda brought out Andrew WK to play “Ready To Die.” Andrew WK is Good Stupid, like early twenties bad decisions you talk about years later or “doing it for the Vine.”

His music is unrelentingly positive, urging the listener to go out in search of the unpredictable, violent beauty of life. When I found the gun that sets people on fire, I thought I’d also found where Rage 2 was hiding its Good Stupid.

When you come out of an Ark, after a quick tutorial on the new weapon or power you’ve gained, you’re greeted by a host of enemies to try your new thing out on. With the Spitfire Revolver in hand, I shot some guys, and then lit them on fire by hitting the button you’d normally use to look down the sights. It was hilarious, until I realised that the gun wasn’t taking enemies out as quickly as I needed. I switched to my shotgun, but it was too late. I was swarmed, and I died.

I figured I’d just try again, building on what I’d learned. That time, I lasted longer in the firefight but died again. I tried to come out on top two more times using the Spitfire Revolver, but each time I was overtaken by enemies and died.

Reluctantly, I switched to the assault rifle and took down the crowd easily. I never took out the gun that sets people on fire again.

Screenshot: Rage 2

This feeling of having something cool but never really needing it persisted through my time with Rage 2. The way you can move during combat is thrilling, sprinting across the length of the stage and jumping up and down platforms. It’s fun, but it’s much simpler to take down your enemies by funnelling them into a corridor and then hitting them with the assault rifle.

Car combat is cool, especially given my fond memories of slamming other cars with mine in Mad Max, which was developed by Rage 2 developer’s Avalanche. But when I went out to take down a convoy in Rage 2, I felt cheated. There isn’t a lot of strategy involved: Your car, which talks though I wish it wouldn’t, helpfully tells you when a semi-truck’s weak spots are visible. You could ram other cars, but it’s more expedient just to shoot them.

Like every large enemy in this game, most vehicle battles come down to “shoot the glowing blue thing.”

Want to take down an Authority sentry, an obelisk that shoot lasers at you? Shoot the glowing blue part. Want to take down a Crusher, a huge mutant that shoots lasers at you? Shoot the glowing blue part. Want to take down General Cross, the leader of the Authority? Shoot the glowing blue part. Oh, and you have to do it three times, every time.

This is where Rage 2 is Bad Stupid. Bad Stupid makes me feel condescended to. Boring boss fights are Bad Stupid because they rob me of the chance to use my powers in an interesting way. You’d think boss fights would be chances to learn new strategies for using your powers, or at least moments for the gross out of excessive gore.

Instead, most boss battles were simply opportunities for me to use my rocket launcher, which didn’t have much application outside of boss fights. It’s nice to use the rocket launcher, but boss battles still came down to shooting the glowing blue part, albeit with a bigger gun. For the most part, Rage 2 shows that it’s hard by shoving more enemies at you.

By the end game I could carry over 400 bullets for my assault rifle and take them down just like every other fight, which is Bad Stupid.

Screenshot: Rage 2

Rage 2’s most egregious instances of Bad Stupid are in the writing, which doesn’t seem to like its own plot or characters. After a dozen quests where I was sent to a location to kill some guys, Doctor Kvasir, a mutant-riding mad scientist, summoned me for a mission to get a strand of General Cross’s DNA in order to make a virus that would kill him.

After a little back and forth, Walker said to the doctor, “Let me guess, I’ll be able to find it in a heavily fortified base filled with baddies to kill?” She sounded bored, even exasperated. That moment was probably meant to be self aware, but it just made me want to scream. Knowing that the narrative has a problem and putting a lampshade on it is not the same as actually addressing or fixing that problem.

There’s one particularly bad moment with a character called Mama JoJo, who you meet in Lagooney, one of the three Trade Towns in the Wasteland. Lagooney itself is gorgeous, a Floridian wetland full of overgrown bamboo and tangles of weeds. The people of Lagooney aren’t particularly interesting. Like much of Rage 2, Lagooney is a pastiche of other pieces of media, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

It’s just that Lagooney is, well, a redneck town. If you think Appalachians are funny, you might like hanging out there. It’s not really my jam.

Mama JoJo is an information trader in Lagooney. His name is Joseph, he told me, but “everyone” calls him Mama JoJo. He has his hair cut in a soccer mum bob and wears a cropped tank top with a slit in the top to show off his cleavage. It registered to me that this was supposed to be funny, but I had trouble figuring out who the joke was on.

Was I laughing with JoJo, or at him? I never went back to Lagooney.

Rage 2

BACK OF THE BOX QUOTE

We want fun.

TYPE OF GAME

If Doom were in the desert and less fun.

LIKED

The shooting, the powers, the very pretty environments, and Loosum Hagar

DISLIKED

not enough variety in enemy encounters, not a lot of good reasons to use your powers

DEVELOPER

Avalanche, Id Software

PLATFORMS

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

RELEASE DATE

May 14th

PLAYED

20 hours, two or three of which were spent just driving around looking for something interesting to do

Not all the towns are like Lagooney. I really liked Wellspring, the closest thing to a city in the game’s Wasteland. It’s neon and bustling and big, with a nice market area right outside of town hall. I like Wellspring’s mayor, Loosum Hagar, a straight-shooting woman who tells you to watch your back each time you leave her office.

I liked the weird dynamic she has with Klegg Clayton, a rich blowhard trying to assassinate her and take over the mayor’s office. He’s all glitz and glam, while she’s more rough and tumble. Her writing was Good Stupid.

There are other instances of Good Stupid in Rage 2. I enjoyed using the rocket launcher, and I really liked driving up to enemy bases and shooting people with my car’s gatling gun. I liked when people’s brains straight up popped out of their heads when they died, and the wet squelching sound when I got a headshot.

Though I defaulted to them out of disappointment with the game’s other tools, I really loved how the shotgun and assault rifle felt to shoot. The shotgun is booming and knocks back enemies, while the assault rifle is precise when I need it to be and sprays a nigh endless barrage of bullets for every other time. What all this misses is the sense of earnestness that makes Good Stupid things like Andrew WK’s music so great.

Screenshot: Rage 2

There’s no irony to Andrew WK’s music. It’s not deep. His most recent album, You’re Not Alone, kicks off with the lead single, “Music Is Worth Living For.” It’s not smart, nor subtle, and it doesn’t need to be. It makes you feel good.

When I met characters like Mama JoJo, or when Walker lampshaded the saminess of the quests, or when Rage 2’s interesting intrigue between characters ended up just being another rendition of Go To A Location And Kill Those Guys, I didn’t feel good.

Rage 2 has moments of Good Stupid, but they’re outweighed by moments of Bad Stupid: uninspired and rote enemy encounters, not enough reasons to use my powers, and a general disdain for its own fiction. For a game about being an overpowered Ranger who can punch people until they explode, I rarely felt powerful.

Rage 2 promised me chaos in its lawless world that I alone could save with big guns, super powers, and a bitchin’ car, but by the end, I was still looking for it.


Comments

    It’s just that more often than not, the easiest and fastest way to get out of a jam is to shoot something until it’s dead.
    Except it's not, not by a long shot.

    Both shatter and slam, the two powers mentioned and then apparently ignored... Can instantly kill enemies, even on Nightmare difficulty. Non-heavy weapons don't even come close to matching the immediate stopping power of both of those skills.

      This exactly. Especially if they're upgraded. I love jumping off some crates in to a bunch of enemies and seeing them splatter everywhere. Extremely satisfying!

      Thanks for confirming that Gita is out of touch. Now I can cheerfully ignore her review and purchase the game. I really liked the first Rage and this one looks like even better setting with more awesome gadgets/powers to toy with. Writing is secondary in a game like this.

        Personally attacking the writer because she has an opinion is pretty shit.

          Two things:
          1 - That's not a personal attack.
          2 - It seems like the writer's opinion is disconnected from what the game is about and how it plays. That's a valid criticism of the opinion.

            "Thanks for confirming that Gita is out of touch. Now I can cheerfully ignore her " is a personal attack.

            "Gita" is a person and "out of touch. Now I can cheerfully ignore her" is a claim that she is bad at her job and her articles are not worth reading.

            Not a personal attack would instead sound more like "Thanks for confirming that the game looks like something I will like, even if Gita didn't agree. Now I can cheerfully purchase the game."

              If you consider 'being out of touch' a personal attack then I wonder how you've been on Kotaku for this long.

                I agree that personal attacks are pretty much par for the course on Kotaku forums, kinda like your extra throw away about my alleged ignorance. But true, these particular personal attacks are pretty mild in the Kotaku scheme of things.

              Now I can cheerfully ignore her review
              You left out a little bit there, not sure if it was intended.

            I think there's a disconnect here with the difficulty levels people are playing at. If you're on Nightmare or thereabouts, then stuff like shatter/slam will be absolutely essential. But if you're playing on regular difficulty - which most do, and the developers expect the majority of people to play on (and the game to be reviewed on that level) - then I can see why the powers wouldn't feel necessary.

            Anyway, I haven't played Rage 2 yet, so I've no idea how it pans out. Too busy with other stuff, but maybe I'll get back around to it later in the year.

              It is not a consideration of difficulty scaling or even necessity when you're going to claim that the game is easier/faster to play by choosing not to use powers that instantly kill enemies with a button press...

              You are quite literally handicapping yourself then claiming it is easier. That logic is insane.

                Considering Rob Zacny over at Vice completed the campaign on a harder mode without even having ti unlock two of the powers and only unlocking 4 guns (stating that in the end it was easier just to shoot people with the assualt rife), I'm going to take Gita's word for it.

                  Congrats?

                  I can't stop anyone from agreeing with the logic of tying a hand behind your back and arguing it's easier to box that way.

          Well, her 'opinion' is being touted here as a game review... A game review that is incorrect about aspects of the game and is therefor spreading misinformation.

            All reviews are opinion. If the issue is with the content of the review being incorrect, then the reasonable way to say that is "the content of the review is incorrect". That's not the same as a swipe at the author.

              All reviews are indeed opinion, but there's a line.

              This author admits to up and ignoring abilities they had, admits to never even obtaining others and then wrote them all off.

              Good reviews don't opt to simply ignore interacting with things they personally dislike, then go on to give everyone their review of how bad the things they've not been using or never even had are.

                Sure. But that's still an criticism of the content of the review, it shouldn't become a criticism of the author.

                i wonder if you would be getting this amount of pushback had you made the same statement about a male reviewer, this seems like some white knighting over what was a very tame criticism.

                  For what it's worth I don't think the pushback was really directed at me.

                  I just detest the whole "personal attacks" label people throw around anytime someone they like is being criticised, usually to try and dismiss whoever it's aimed at as being an awful person or the likes. Especially when saying someone is 'out of touch' with what they're doing is valid criticism as far as I'm concerned.

        Careful. They are still a bit raw from not getting review copies.

          Where did you read that they didn't get review copies?

            My mistake being too brief.
            They don't get early review copies like other sites from Bethesda.
            They are still blacklisted from Bethesda PR. Kotaku makes a few twitter jabs here and there, but they are just ignored.

              Nobody gets early review copies from Bethesda - they're only handed out a day before the game launches. That's been their policy for a little while now, and it doesn't affect our reporting.

                i can believe that about you Alex but definitely not some of your comrades, plenty of the other writers routinely let personal bias and politics heavily influence their reviews. Gita is generally pretty good especially when compared to some of the people who write for Kotaku etc.

        She didn't say they were bad, just that they were superfluous, which if you look around is a pretty commonly held opinion. The shotgun and assault rifle get the job done more efficiently than anything else and the missions don't seem to inspire any need for creativity.

        From what I've seen not many really seem to have much good to say about the overall game either apart from the gunplay that Gita agreed was good. Id know guns. If you're looking for an excuse to get the game, I guess "she just doesn't 'get' the game" is... well if you want to buy the game just buy it.

        and purchase the game

        I paid full price for the version that includes future DLC, and I regret it; if it was $20-30 then maybe.

        Overall there are some good things, but a lot of shit things too.

        It's basically Far Cry 4/5 like game - a busy open world filled with a trash load of 'bite-sized' tasks and stupid, boring RPG elements, poorly written/voiced side quest NPCs; however it's got some cool combat.

          Yeah, I rarely buy games until they drop in price. I think this will be one of those.

    I like the framing of the game in terms of good stupid and bad stupid.

    This is a very old school game - almost like the first Quake. They polished the engine and the moment to moment gameplay loop (shooting and awesome Crackdown 1 style powers) but the story is Borderlands post apocalyptic general.

    I also concur with the cool things you never use. I was really looking forward to the grapple gun (this game was from the makers of Just Cause after all) but nope, the assault rifle and shotgun and the two upgrade bashes are all you really need.

    The thing is, with video-game stories, they need to be really good to be noticed (God of War). They were clearly going for generic post apocalyptic here, and the "I guess it involves me assaulting a heavily armed base" scene is their way of saying "We know the justifications for the shooting are paper thin - so we won't bore you further, go and enjoy the shooting!".

    I'd rather it that way than an amazing story with shoddy mechanics.

      video-game stories, they need to be really good to be noticed
      I actually found the humor and story so insufferable that I couldn't help but notice. So I guess the opposite is true too :)

    Sounds like the ID parts carry the game and the Avalanche parts are just as lukewarm as their other titles.

      That'd probably be an accurate take. Though, I was very surprised by how average the car combat was given how good it was in Mad Max.

      What I'd call the 'Doom' part of the game... Where every time you drive up to a new bandit outpost is like the Doom Marine entering a new room and the demons discover they're locked in there with him, well that is a whole lot of fun.

        Unfortunately the cars were pretty bad in Just Cause 4 too, so it seems they really didn't keep any of Mad Max's vehicular combat. A real shame, for both games.

          I'd argue the vehicles are still a mile ahead of Just Cause's vehicles, Mad Max shines through massively in this regard.

          It's just the vehicle combat has been so stripped down and simplified it is barely even interesting, and all you are sort of left asking is why even bother to go and pull the absolute best aspect from Mad Max if you're just going to intentionally gut it.

            That's a good cut through.

            I've got Computex and E3, but let's revisit Mad Mad Max as a group after that.

    Its dumb fun. Probably not worth full price, but its been pretty obvious what this game is about for the last year. Shrug.

    Also, I dont think games like RAGE should be approached like a Dark Souls game. Sure, I can probably just chokepoint these enemies into a corridor, but its a tonne more fun to slam people off the roof, even if it does get you killed more.

    I was hoping it was dumb Saints Row 4 levels of fun but looks like they missed it

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now