Backlog Beatdown: Rage 2’s Outstanding Gunplay Is Plenty (Review)

Rage 2 cover

Follow my journey to actually play the games I buy with Backlog Beatdown. Here’s my take on Rage 2.

Rage 2 is a shotgun-blasting’ joyride that pairs sublime gunplay with a post-apocalyptic hellscape where everyone tries to hide their ugliness with splashes of the brightest colors they could find at Sherwin-Williams. Having fun is a guarantee, but it’s too bad the open-world structure never comes close to reaching the heights set by the fantastic gunplay. But gameplay is king, and it’s hard to hate on the moment-to-moment shooting in Rage 2.

Where Rage 2 shines

The gunplay. If there’s one thing a shooter from Bethesda nails consistently, it’s the gunplay. It also helps when id Software collabs with Avalanche Studios to bring us Rage 2. The booming crack as oversized pellets roar out of the shotgun barrel never gets old. And it hits even harder. Chunks go flying across the screen on the regular. If you loved the shotgun in DOOM 2016, you’re going to get more of the same here.

Rage 2 doesn’t drown us with weapon choice. You get one. One rifle, one rocket launcher, one shotgun, along with a few special guns along the way like the Grav Dart launcher. The devs also added a secondary function to most of them. The shotgun’s regular spread turns into a single shell that blasts enemies backwards. The Grav Dart secondary fire lets you have a bunch of fun with the game’s physics. After hitting an enemy with a dart, you can make them fly towards whatever you’re aiming at with the press of a button.

It helps spice up the combat a bit, but most of the time you’ll be running around using the regular fire mode and maybe the Ark abilities. Dash, Grav-Jump, and Shatter (think force push) add another potential layer to the moment-to-moment gameplay. But honestly, I didn’t use them all that much. The gunplay is so polished I found myself forgetting about them.

Chazcar Derby and Mutant Bash TV stand out in an otherwise dull open-world. Rage 2’s open-world feels empty. It looks good and blasting stuff is a blast, but too often it feels like you’re the only one inhabiting this post-apocalyptic wasteland. There are a couple of exceptions. Two events stand out from the rest: Chazar Derby and Mutant Bash TV.

Mutant Bash TV pits you against waves of Mutants. It keeps all the focus on Rage 2’s greatest strength; it’s gunplay. Plus, it offers a little more to the backstory of the world versus clearing out a Bandit base or doing some random bounty. Too much of Rage 2’s activities feel like nothing more than a checklist. Mutant Bash TV gives this checklist a little life.

Chazcar Derby is just a rally race, but it’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the open-world. Though, I would like to have seen more tracks and the guns stay on the cars.

Vehicle combat keeps it simple and fun. The vehicle gameplay isn’t all perfect, but I enjoyed it. The devs keep it simple by having your guns auto-lock onto targets. A slew of upgrades adds more toys like cruise missiles, energy blasts, mortars, and an ejector seat. Plus, you can always grab other vehicles you see scattered across the world.

The vehicle combat especially shines when you stumble upon Convoys. Several vehicles cobbled together from whatever scrap was on hand protects a large one. Side-swiping the smaller cars off the road and then using all the weapons slapped onto your buggy is a whole lot of fun. But again, the fun that is to be had is too spread out. More convoys, or hell, enemy vehicles period would have been nice.

Where Rage 2 stumbles

The open-world falls flat. Avalanche Studios designed this bigger world, and it looks great – but it’s also awfully quiet. Some open-world games are way too busy (I’m looking at you, Far Cry), but Rage 2 slides in the other direction. You’ll often drive around between activities, and it feels like you’re the only one here. I’m not saying explosions and gunfire every 50 feet would be better, but it would at least fit the universe. There’s a middle ground here, and Rage 2 misses it.

Maybe it’s because most of the activities felt like a checklist. Do this bounty, clear this Bandit Den, find this Ark. Without a compelling narrative to drive it, it all feels like a giant checklist. I wonder if a ‘Wanted’ mechanic would have helped here. Say you take out a Bandit Den, and more bandits show up to try and stop you. It would have added a little more life to the open-world while also giving side-missions some much-needed depth.

Vehicles feel slow. Even when sitting on the boost button. It lacks the punch you expect boost to provide. There’s never that ‘wow, I can barely control this’ moment. It feels like you’re going from full throttle to slightly more full throttle. Oddly, tapping the boost button feels faster than just holding it.

Off-roading is sluggish. Rage 2’s open-world doesn’t reward going off the dusty roads. The minute you go off-road, the not-so-fast speed grinds to a halt. For a bunch of cars built to survive a post-apocalypse, everyone forgot about the suspension.

Music syncing has some hiccups. I liked the music here. Sure, it’s not the memorable riffs of Mick Gordon’s DOOM – but it does compliment the action well when it syncs correctly. Too often, the music kicks in too early or too late to have that meaningful effect that worked so well in DOOM.

The story is just an excuse to shoot stuff. That’s it. There’s the big bad named General Cross, who heads The Authority. You play as Walker who becomes a Ranger during an attack at the start of the game after donning the nanotrite suit (which gives you Ark abilities) off a fallen Ranger. It’s not good or bad; it’s just there. Honestly, it reminds me of how Crackdown 3’s story was just an excuse to collect agility orbs. The story here is just there to throw enemies in your way so you can shoot them.

Plus, the open-world and the story don’t mesh well. They give you this opening and then you’re stuck doing boring side quests for a while before it picks up again. It’s easy to forget you’re even fighting an evil organization as you keep shooting bandits and mutants in the face while you tick off a checklist before the story can progress further.

A game like DOOM works because while the story is simple, the linear mission structure meshes with it better. Rage 2 would have worked better if the story stayed laser-focused on General Cross and The Authority. Trade all the busy work helping three characters with us taking on General Cross’ underlings before the story culminates with a final boss fight.

Wrap-Up

Rage 2 is far from perfect. The open-world is filled with boring side quest content, parts of the vehicle gameplay could be better, and the story is nothing special. And yet, I still had fun. Its outstanding gunplay carries the moment-to-moment gameplay.

A few more notes:

  • Despite the bigger world, Rage 2 doesn’t take too long to beat. You’re looking at 10-15 hours to beat. Double that if you want to do absolutely everything in the game.
  • The Wingstick (Rage 2’s boomerang) gives you something to toss besides grenades in between reloading guns. And the AI are damn experts at dodging it.
Backlog Beatdown: Rage 2’s Outstanding Gunplay Is Plenty (Review)
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