The single player AAA first person shooter is becoming a bit of a rare breed – which is why we were so looking forward to Id Software’s Rage 2. Out now on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One, we went the mouse and keyboard route on PC for this review.
Although it was met with mixed reviews, I personally liked the first Rage. The technology behind it (id Tech 5) was impressive – to the point where it was still the engine of choice for a game like The Evil Within 2, released only eighteen months ago. It blended classic first person shooting with driving mechanics and an open world environment in a post-apocalyptic setting, and the shooting elements were so good that you almost forgot that a lot of the other stuff was kind of forgettable.
For Rage 2, development duties went to Avalanche Software, most well-known for their work on the Just Cause series and the Mad Max videogame. On paper, you’d be hard pressed to find a better match for Rage 2 – vehicles and post apocalyptic settings are a staple in Avalanche’s work (they also recently released Generation Zero).
Somewhat surprisingly, Rage 2 doesn’t use one of id’s own “tech” versions, but rather Avalanche’s own game engine. I assume this was so that the team didn’t have to learn how to work with a new engine, because the end result still very much looks like Rage did in many parts of the game. The post-apocalyptic wasteland still looks like it has a ton of brown and grey in it, although Avalanche’s take on Rage does include more splashes of color and more “attitude” and style in how everything’s delivered audiovisually. I’d say this brings elements of Just Cause into the mix, but the colorful elements almost reminded me of Borderlands instead.
Far Cry’s recent take on the post apocalyptic genre felt a bit more engaging, and certainly more original than Rage 2’s. Perhaps part of that has to do with the fact that Rage 2’s narrative (where you go up against an oppressive general and the regime behind him), which lacks memorable characters and engaging storytelling. Characters (friend or foe) can feel like caricatures of themselves because of it, which is further enhanced by the fact that many of them repeat themselves over and over again if you tackle a few side missions during your playthrough.
Perhaps more rewarding than the actual narrative is your ability to keep unlocking new weapons, upgrades and vehicles as you progress through the story – all of them (the guns especially) strengthening the game’s core asset: shooting bad guys. From that perspective, the game world and its inhabitants feel almost like distractions to the main attraction.
Luckily, that part of Rage 2 is rock solid. We played an early snippet of the game close to a year ago, and that E3 demo showcased perfectly where the game’s strength lies. Get to the top of a building, take out the bad guys. Because of its satisfying gunplay, good AI behavior and decent level design, it was a fun experience and a blast to play – leaving us wanting more.
Rage 2 offers just that – more top shooting encounters in buildings, sewers and open environments. It’s just a shame that the parts in between tend to feel like a filler, and there isn’t enough of a (narrative) reward for playing repetitive side missions either. There are a lot of echoes of id’s Rage and Avalanche’s Mad Max here – for better and for worse. A potentially great setting and thrilling encounters, but struggling to keep up the momentum over the course of an eight hour campaign.