By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on May 16, 2019
It has been eight years since we were first introduced to a post-apocalyptic world, battered to an within an inch of its life by an enormous asteroid and under the evil rule of a military group called the Authority. After having their plans thwarted by one man in particular, the Authority was believed to be beaten and haven't been heard from since... until now!
In-game, thirty years have passed since the events of the first Rage. During these years, the people of Earth has lived in relative peace, safeguarded by the Rangers; a group of soldiers with extreme prowess in battle and the weaponry to match! But, just as things seem calm and tranquil, an old enemy rears its ugly and partly mechanical head. General Martin Cross is back, and he has brought a brand new Authority army with him. With this army, he plans to take back what was taken from him all those years ago and wreak bloody havoc on those who would oppose him.
And bloody, it is going to be. Now, I have to get this out of the way first; Damn, that's a lot of blood flying around. I almost needed to put down plastic around my TV because of the sheer amount of blood flying across the screen! Not that I'm opposed to this in any way, but it is just something I instantly noticed when starting my game. Now, we're used to seeing a lot of blood and gore flying around since Doom made its comeback in 2016 but, especially in comparison to the first Rage game, Rage 2 is a true splatter-fest! Also in terms of game speed, Rage 2 overtakes its predecessor in leaps and bounds. Where the first Rage was also a FPS in which bullets were not spared, I always had the feeling that time was definitely on my side. You could just hang back a bit and choose your battles. Rage 2, however, comes for you with a vengeance and drags you kicking and screaming into the fray!
This is mainly due to the fact that the core gameplay of Rage 2 has also changed somewhat from eight years ago. The basics are still there; The game acts as a first person shooter while exploring the world on foot, and as a vehicular combat game when driving one of many mechanical monsters the Wasteland has to offer. Yet something has changed, especially in the FPS sections of the game. Because of the increase in momentum, the game feels more action-oriented and utilizes the "Push Forward" type of gameplay that was also featured in the aforementioned Doom. This makes for a much more visceral experience and truly enhances the sense of threat when traversing the plains and enemy settlements of Rage 2.
The game's tone was set almost immediately after I chose my character. Yes, you can choose your character's gender at the start of the game. No matter the choice you make here, your character will simply be called Walker, without giving a first name, so it fits both the female as well as the male protagonist. Now, although this feature wasn't present in the first Rage game, this in itself isn't all that spectacular; it's what happens to the character you didn't choose that made me think: "Damn, this is going to be a no holds barred type of game!" And no, I'm not going to tell you exactly what happened, but I can tell you it really shows what playing Rage 2 is going to be like.
As in the first Rage game, Nanotrites will play an important part in your character development. This clever compound makes people who use it even more battle-hardened and provides them with special abilities that will make life on the battlefield somewhat easier... and, very possibly, a lot longer. Of course, you can't just walk into your local drugstore and ask for a few gallons of the stuff. The only place this valuable concoction can be found, is in the sealed remains of old Arks. These Arks served as a kind of oversized life pods in a time when the asteroid 99942 Apophis was about to strike Earth in a very violent and definite way. Nowadays, these hulking structures are scattered around the Wasteland and can only be accessed by Rangers. Luckily, and by being extremely lucky, you are such a ranger. No wait, scratch that; you are actually the last remaining Ranger. How the hell did that happen, I hear you ask? Well, just play the game and find out, why don't you?
Each time you find some new Nanotrite abilty within an Ark, you'll go through a small tutorial, showing you that specific abilities' capabilities and letting you get used to them at an easy pace. The abilities you have gained can be upgraded by using Nanotrite Boosters and a precious crystal named Feltrite, making them even stronger than before. Each Nanotrite ability has levels that can be unlocked using the Feltrite you've scavenged, while the Nanotrite Boosters can be used to unlock perks that come with the ability in question. By making the most of the available Nanotrite and Nanotrite Boosters, and by scouring the world for Feltrite, you can tailor your Ranger to your gaming preferences. Incidentally, Nanotrite isn't the only thing that can be found inside of the Arks; they will sometimes even provide you with additional weaponry. And, seeing as how it is always a good idea to have more than one gun and having abilities is also something that comes in really handy from time to time, you will definitely want to search out the Arks and discover what they have in store for you.
But don't think for one minute that you can just take a leisurely stroll to one of these structures and enter them without encountering some resistance. Or, as, Sean Bean would probably say in this case: "One does not simply enter an Ark without a fight." The valuable technology within the Arks seems to attract the weird, crazy and violent, so practically every Ark you encounter will be surrounded by a number of enemies; enemies that will first have to be dispatched if you want to get your hands on what the Arks are hiding. Now, I hear some of you thinking: "Well, can't I just open the Ark, grab what's inside and run like hell?" The answer to this, my friends, is "No, you can't", because the Arks will not open as long as there are enemies around. It's only after these enemies have been dealt with that it will open its doors to you and give up its secrets.
So, what do these abilities entail? Well, how about, for instance: Dash, which lets you evade incoming projectiles by quickly moving in the desired direction? Or Shatter; a ability that will send you charging at an enemy and knocking them back with awesome force, breaking their armor in the process? Or even Grav-Jump, which serves as a double jump and is the perfect means to get to those hard to reach places throughout the world. And trust me, you will want to reach these places, because they usually have goodies in store for you. You see, most locations that you'll encounter on your trek through the Wasteland contain valuables, which come in the form of Storage containers (containing either money or Feltrite), Ark Chests (containing Nanotrite Boosters) or even Datapads (containing clues to hidden "treasures" or other useful items). Apart from this, most locations are riddled with ammo pickups and other random stuff which can be sold for money at a trader's post.
A brand new feature for the Rage series is a little something called Overdrive. By steadily killing enemies, your Overdrive gauge will fill up. When full, you can unleash this stored power to deal additional damage with your weapons for a limited period of time. Also, during this period, your character's health will be somewhat restored, so that's two benefits in one power. Using Overdrive effectively turns you into an nigh unstoppable force and can be used for getting out of tight spots when needed... or for fun, that's your call!
But, as we know, the "running-around-shooting-people-that-will-otherwise-kill-you" portion of the game is only half of what Rage is all about. So, let's take a look at what makes up the other half of the game, shall we? As most of you will probably be aware of, Rage has always prominently featured vehicular combat as a core game mechanic. Rage 2, I can happily report, is no exception to this rule. Lucky for me, the driving in Rage is more of an arcade racing experience than it is a racing simulation, meaning the cars are much easier to control, without having to worry about understeer, oversteer or any other steer for that matter! Because of this, making your way swiftly across the Wasteland in your gasoline-guzzling mechanical metal monster is real easy and really, REALLY fun. And who knows, maybe you'll meet some interesting people along the way. Hell, you might even find one or two that will not try to end your life within 0.386 seconds of spotting you!
The first vehicle I got was called Phoenix; a badass looking but slightly creaking hunk of metal on wheels. When I entered said vehicle, a friendly female voice welcomed me. This was the voice of Phoenix, and it will stay with you for as long as you reside inside the vehicle, telling you when you've reached your destination and warning you when damage to the structural integrity of the car is reaching critical levels. The Wasteland is full of banged-up vehicles for you to get in and drive around. Plus, if you manage to get said vehicle back to a trade town, you will automatically unlock it in the Car selection menu, which kind of serves as a garage. All vehicles you buy can be selected and upgraded in this safe haven of mechanical engineering, so go absolutely bonkers and put together the coolest ride anyone on this planet, or any other, for that matter, has ever seen!
As you can probably imagine, something that goes by the ominous name of "the Wasteland" is a bit bigger than a football field so, even with a cool car, it can be hard to find your way around. That's where our map screen comes in; whenever you see a location on the map you'd like to visit, just put down a marker in that spot and the route you'll need to take is shown to you. And not only on the map screen, no siree! When you close your map, you'll see colored arrows forming a path in the direction you'll need to go. If you just follow the purple arrow road, you'll get to where you want to go in no time at all... providing you don't get in a fight with some enemies or get distracted by a chance to race other survivors, that is. I really like driving around the Wasteland; it's a grim, but seriously cool looking place, filled with all sorts of locations to discover, explore and, of course, cleanse of any enemy presence. For those of us who aren't that into driving everywhere, fast travel has been implemented. You can fast travel to certain locations, provided these locations aren't in enemy hands.
Now, I'm sure there are still a ton of things I should tell you about Rage 2, and probably twice as much that I could tell you, but the best way to get to know absolutely everything there is to know about a game is still the old-fashioned approach: play the damn thing for yourself! And trust me on this one; Rage 2 really, truly, deeply deserves to be played by anyone who is into awesome action FPS games! The gunplay is just tremendous amounts of fun, as is the vehicular combat and exploration.
At Rage 2's core resides a cool story that draws on the events of the first game in the series and is guaranteed to keep you interested for the entire proverbial ride! The environments you'll travel through look awesome, you'll meet a cast of cool characters and you even get to blow some heads off; I mean, come on! What's not too like?! Oh, and don't worry if you run out of bullets; Walker has a punch like a jackhammer so, when in doubt, start bashing skulls! As for the game itself; I can only say that it's an adventure unlike any other and more than deserving of your time and effort!