The first few hours of Rage 2 are fantastic. The game's opening mission is thrilling, action-packed, and shows that this game had a ton of potential to be a truly great FPS. After the first few missions, though, Rage 2's momentum comes to a screeching halt, and while there's still plenty to like about the game, its full potential was clearly squandered.
Rage 2 is an open world game, but its open world elements are what drag it down from being something special. The wasteland is boring to explore, and it's just filled with the typical busywork that is far too common in open world games. Driving from one place to the next is tolerable thanks to the vehicles being fast and the map being relatively small compared to other games in the genre, but all the open world does is keep players from enjoying what makes the game fun: the shooting.
Rage 2's first-person combat is second-to-none, and easily the highlight of the experience. It plays like the 2016 Doom reboot, meaning it's focused on fast-paced action instead of methodical cover-shooting, with players given the tools to effectively take on dozens of enemies at a time. The weapons in Rage 2 all have weight to them and feel great to use, whether it's the standard pistol or the shotgun or the "smart" rocket launcher that can lock onto two enemies at once.
Rage 2's combat is designed to be fun above all else, and it largely succeeds at this. The combat only gets better as the game progresses, as the Rage 2 skill trees offer a variety of fun abilities for players to unlock and toy with, like hitting grenades back at enemies with melee strikes or curving the wingstick to dismember mutants hiding around corners.
Players are given endless options when it comes to killing enemies in Rage 2, and these encounters are where the game shines. And since the early portions of Rage 2 feature story missions that focus almost entirely on showcasing the combat, the beginning of the game is a blast. Unfortunately, players will hit a roadblock where additional story missions become unavailable until they complete a certain number of side activities, and these side activities are far less compelling.
The main problem is that these side activities, like taking over bandit settlements for example, are pretty short. So what happens is players spend time driving to one of these activities, quickly kill everyone there, loot the place, and then have to hit the road again to go to the next one within minutes. This routine becomes tedious and repetitive, and so Rage 2 starts to feel like a chore.
While playing Rage 2 may not always be fun thanks to the open world bogging everything down, it actually runs very well. The frame rate doesn't miss a beat, with the game running smoother than most current-generation titles. We encountered very little in the way of technical issues or glitches during our time with Rage 2, minus vehicles like the Phoenix occasionally getting stuck on objects. Rage 2's lack of load times is also impressive, with players able to seamlessly go from the open world to a settlement to the inside of a building with no interruption.
It's a shame that Rage 2's impressive level of polish didn't translate to the story. The plot is as generic as can be, with halfhearted "twists" telegraphed from a mile away. Even when it comes to the main characters central to the plot, it's a struggle to remember anyone's name because they're all so bland and one-note.
Rage 2's story, which is about a person named Walker killing mutants and fighting the forces of the evil General Cross, offers little incentive for players to stick with the game. Fans of the original Rage may be further disappointed by the story once they realize it lifts multiple story beats and moments from that game, like forcing Walker to participate in the Mutant Bash TV arena and compete in a race in order to advance the plot.
Fans of the first Rage may also be disappointed to learn that some of the most significant content surrounding the first game is not available to all players. There is a timed-exclusive pre-order bonus mission about Rage protagonist Nicholas Raine that lets players collect his armor as well as the popular Settler Pistol weapon. Meanwhile, the BFG 9000 from Doom is exclusive to the Digital Deluxe and Collector's Editions of Rage 2, which means some of the most compelling content for hardcore fans may be unavailable to them if they didn't pre-order or shell out extra cash. Unsurprisingly, this hasn't sat well with everyone.
Those that didn't pre-order or shell out the cash for the special editions may feel like the Rage 2 base game really isn't offering them the full experience, and honestly, even with all the extra bells and whistles, it still feels like the game isn't quite the complete package. Bethesda plans to support it post-launch with multiple content updates in the coming months, as outlined by the Rage 2 DLC roadmap, and so maybe that content will make the game more complete. But with a campaign that can be beaten in under 10 hours, a relatively small open world, and a general lack of interesting things to do, we can't recommend Rage 2 at full price.
Rage 2 is a short game with a weak story and dull open world elements. However, the core shooting gameplay is strong enough that hardcore FPS fans may still want to give it a look once the price goes down. The opening hours prove that the potential was there for Rage 2 to be something great, and maybe it will reach that potential with future updates, but at launch, the game falls way short of expectations.
Rage 2 is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.