Rage 2 – I Suppose So – A Review From Scroo

So I'm actually one of the rare few who actually liked the first Rage. It had it's issues, yes, but it still told an okay story and had a fairly cool premise. When I saw Rage 2 in the works I was kind of excited. I tried not to get too hyped but it stayed with me and I picked it up very quickly after release. I decided I'd make a first impression video for the LP channel and it's since turned into more of an opinion, or postmortem video. Keep an eye on the channel if you're interested in seeing it. It may still be a little while before it goes up. As for this written review, stay with me and I'll tell you my thoughts on Rage 2.

Both Bethesda and Id are companies that are known for producing some great, long lasting titles. Bethesda has the Elder Scrolls franchise as well as many others and Id invented first person shooters and 2015's Doom was, and still is, an amazing revival of said shooters. Id has been a part of Bethesda for some time now, so when they got on board with Avalanche Studios, the folks who brought us Just Cause, to produce Rage 2, it wasn't hard to imagine that the open world action was going to be pretty awesome. This has proven to be, essentially, untrue. And the problems start early...

...Apex Engine?

With Id on this project I don't -really- understand why they wouldn't use the ID Tech engine. Doom 2015 uses the Vulkan API and it runs beautifully, even on old hardware. I'm assuming it's because the Id Tech engine isn't made for open world building while the Apex engine clearly is. Maybe I've just answered my own question. And look, it's not that the game runs poorly or looks bad. I'm still getting frame rates in the 80's at 1440p, Ultra settings which is perfectly fine. The Apex engine does still use Vulkan and can handle the rendering of the large open world and all the cool details that have been built in. But everything just feels different, not quite right.

DRM

The weird choice to use Denuvo DRM on the Steam release and not the Bethesda release is confusing. The game was cracked on the first day since there was no DRM on one launcher and this just prompted the removal of Denuvo from the Steam version. Now of course it's a non-issue, but Denuvo isn't particularly effective as it is, and it also carries the stigma of allegedly hurting game performance. Some people claim to have proven this performance difference with Monster Hunter: World but I've never experienced a noticeable hit playing any Denuvo enabled title. Then again, maybe I'm just blissfully unaware.

Doom? Mad Max? Nope.

As you start a new game you'll be confronted with a choice to pick a male or female character. A normal every day human who's tasked with the general defense of the settlement you live in. Cool. Then comes an attack and Rage 2 tries to be Doom. A "Ranger", the badasses of the Rage 2 world, shows up in a special shiny suit of armor and is promptly killed. You of course take it upon yourself to put on the armor and take the Ranger's place. This has a very Id feel to it. Just as the "Doom Slayer" puts on his armor and starts punching things, so does your character in Rage 2. Which admittedly is a cool feeling because for Doom alumni it brings some familiarity to the game. The problem is that the character controller for the Ranger doesn't handle anywhere near as well as the Doom Slayer. There are loads of abilities to acquire but none of them are particularly easy to use.

The first one you'll get is the dash ability. Hit CTRL and a direction at the same time and you dash in that direction. Useful for avoiding attacks and closing distances etc. The problem lies in that CTL is also a "focus" key. Focus is used for channeling vehicle repairs or predicting enemy locations and gathering Feltrite crystals used in upgrades. So hitting the button will often bring up said focus and instead of dashing you'll begin to channel and locate enemies, resulting in just dying because you've been hit by an energy beam or something. All these abilities use CTRL and another key in succession. So you can understand how this could be frustrating. CRTL + F is the "shatter" ability, probably the most useful. Kind of a Jedi force push that strips armor and knocks enemies back. Fun to use when it works. CTRL and Space is the Slam ability. You'll jump into the air and land slamming your fist into the ground sending enemies flying from the shock wave. Also awesome to use. But dying instead of using the ability you want to activate is pretty immersion breaking. And I don't know, maybe this all works better with a controller, but I'm never playing any shooter with a controller. Conversely, what made the character controller so good in Doom was the fluidity it brought to the game play and that fluidity just isn't present here. Your character doesn't move as quickly, abilities aren't as responsive, and every action takes a press and hold key to perform. Even something as simple as climbing a ladder means pressing "E" and holding it down before you can go up. In combat that can mean a silly death.

Vehicles control fairly well and there's clearly influence from Mad Max in both the world building and vehicle aesthetics along with the blatant addition of looping convoys to attack. The problem is that vehicle combat is really bad. Ramming other vehicles, which is how you're first taught to combat others, will almost always result in you spinning out of control and losing your pursuit. Secondly, your vehicle, the Phoenix, has miniguns that work pretty well in general but against convoys you have to wait for weak spots to open up while they shred you to pieces. You do have the option to find and save other vehicles to use but they can't be repaired so they're useless in vehicle combat. And once you do defeat an enemy convoy, that's all that happened. There's virtually no reward. You win. Great. Races, on the other hand, are super fun to play. But I'm nearly done with the game and have only found one race track. So even that's hampered a bit by just getting old.

There's just not quite enough influence from either game to make Rage 2 it's own thing. Instead it's just two things mashed together that don't quite gel properly. Action isn't constant. It's great when it's there, the gun play is really cool. But fire fights are weirdly uncommon in a world where all that's left are gun wielding gangs and tribes of cannibal mutants. I spend a lot of time just driving around to the next bandit den where there's a short burst of really fun and challenging game play (when I'm not dying while I'm trying to dash away from a grenade), and then nothing.

Abilities and Upgrades

Weapons and Vehicles both get a lot of upgrades, from damage boosts and faster reload or extra magazine capacity power-ups for weapons, to extra weapon attacks for the Phoenix that do come in handy as you play. But none of them are really necessary to get. Hell, I still haven't even found three of the weapons available for the arsenal, nor do I feel like I need to. The best thing your character can do is go into Overdrive mode where you'll regenerate health and change the characteristics of your weapons as long as overdrive is active. That in itself is a fun bit of game play. Even the abilities themselves have upgrades and different tiers. Which sounds amazing. Except that it isn't, because it's too much. Every time you open your menu there's something else to unlock or add to. And the improvements are so slight it's almost not worth doing it at all. Not to mention that some of the character upgrades require you to be in town at the "Cyber Doc" to apply. In fact, the only recommendations I would make are to increase any health or damage upgrades for vehicles and character, along with magazine capacities. Everything else is just in the way as far as I'm concerned. And even with that recommendation, as I said above, none of it all that necessary.

As you progress you'll find "Arks" across the map that contain new abilities and the occasional weapon. These arks are what carried humans to space and kept them in stasis while the Earth was being destroyed by a meteor. They're special and were meant to help repopulate and rebuild once the dust settled. Most of what you find in these arks will be the typical ammo or healing item so that doesn't matter much at all because they don't feel special. And the weapons and abilities require you to go through the most boring tutorials you'll find in recent memory.

Graphics Sounds and Music

Okay so I've talked negative quite a bit but let's take a look at some of the good stuff. Graphically, Rage 2 is pretty nice. The world looks cool from all angles but the draw distance can seem a little short. Not far too short, but even though you can see a long ways there's no super clear view of the distance. But it can feel pretty atmospheric so it's not really a bad thing. Areas are also varied, which is something of an improvement on the desert wasteland formula. There are the stereotypical dunes and dry lake beds, but there are also large overgrown jungle and swamp lands, even some snowy spots here and there. And the world itself is populated. Lots of buildings and the occasional underground tunnel containing gangs to fight and mutants that want to eat you. Problems here arise with the fact that exploring these areas doesn't reward you with anything. Sometimes you'll find some action, maybe a miniboss, but you're not finding anything aside from junk to sell or ammo for weapons.

The good really lies in the ways these places look. Lighting is quite beautiful. Lots of volumetric lights and nice looking bloom effects and lens flares, along with great particle effects and some translucent outlines on foliage and really nice reflections all come together to make a really good looking experience. Even the color banding of the chromatic aberration looks good, and that's a setting I always turn off. The water effects are lacking, but I'm not sure that's a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Textures are pretty nice but not always very high resolution. One of my favorite effects is when you're near a waterfall and the whole screen is blurry from the mist surrounding you while it's truly thunderous be near in the first place. The neon effects of holographic signs are bright and pleasant to look at. Most things are very clear and legible. Vehicles all have their own engine noises and that's welcome and keeps things pretty fresh. Weapon sounds and designs are wonderful. Explosions are big, fiery and awesome to look at and they almost impact you with the booms they create. And just the overall theme of mowhawks and flashy colors makes the game feel like a vision of the future from the 80's. Which is pretty fun while also stepping away from the all too typical 50 shades of brown color scheme of open worlds recently. But honestly, we're not playing games just because they look good, right?

Music is pretty great all in all. Good jams that feel appropriate for the situations at hand. From the crunchy combat music of vehicle chases to the fast paced guitars of bandit fighting you're probably going to enjoy all the tracks. If I had to complain about it at all, I'd say it just fades in and out too quickly to stay with you.

Conclusion

Yeah so this one was pretty quick to finish. Rage 2 isn't necessarily bad, it's just not really that good. Nothing about it really makes it unique feeling and some bits are downright generic. But it still keeps me playing and I'll probably finish the story and move on, but I'm not sensing a lot of replay value.  And that's too bad because with just a little refinement of the combat systems and some streamlining with upgrades and vehicles, this could be a really excellent game to play. So would I recommend picking this one up? Well, probably not at the $60.00 price tag. If you can get it on a good sale, it's probably worth a play through because when it's good, it's good. But it's definitely not the non-stop, white knuckle, "Welcome to insanity", that it claims to be.

System Requirements for Rage 2, are as follows

MINIMUM:

    • OS: Win7, 8.1, or 10 (64-Bit versions)
    • Processor: Intel Core i5-3570 or AMD Ryzen 3 1300X
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 780 3GB or AMD R9 280 3GB
    • Storage: 50 GB available space

RECOMMENDED:

    • OS: Win7, 8.1, or 10 (64-Bit versions)
    • Processor: Intel Core i7-4770 or AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1070 8GB or AMD Vega 56 8GB
    • Storage: 50 GB available space

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