Last night I had a bit of a pleasant surprise, in that I came home and noticed that Rage 2 in my Bethesda launcher had 30 minutes left on the countdown to being ready to play. I was fully expecting it to unlock somewhere around midnight, meaning that I would not be playing it last night at all. However in theory the Bethesda launcher unlocked the game at the earliest playable time instead of Steam which I believe unlocked it at Midnight Eastern Standard time. Quake Champions alpha was the game that got me to install the Bethesda Launcher so when Fallout 76 forced me to use it… it was no big deal given that I already had it installed on my system. For Rage 2… it just seemed like a decent idea to go ahead and order directly from the company for fear of there being some last minute storefront shenanigans like there have been recently with the Epic Games store. One thing that you have to know going into this discussion… I loved the original Rage, just felt that it was too short of a game that felt like the opening act of a story and not a complete experience.
So going into Rage I was already familiar with the basic story of how the world went wrong. That said… I do think they did a good job of prefacing the major points through some slightly unreliable narration. Given that if you have not played Rage yet you like area not going to… so here goes my quick rundown of the events as I remember them. Essentially a planet-killer scale meteor named Apophis fell and destroyed the world… and you are one of the representatives of mankind’s best hope that were buried in Arks underground in order to survive the impact. However on the way to earth the meteor bounced off of the moon causing a large chunk to break off… and also causing the impact to not be quite as devastating as originally predicted. So in the first game you encounter survivors of the old world both good and bad… and fight your way through the paramilitary power of the time called the Authority and trigger all of the other Arks to rise to the surface in the final events of that game. However at some point between those events and that of Rage 2 some terraforming satellites have fallen to earth and caused pockets of the world to become a lush oasis… as was in theory the goal of Project Eden to help reclaim the broken world.
There is a thirty year gap between the events of Rage 1 and Rage 2 and in that time a number of major settlements have arisen and solidified their hold on the world. You play as your choice of a male or female character from the Settlement of Vineland. Within moments of starting the game you are thrust into a battle with the Authority that is now returning after a lengthy absense to begin reclaiming the wastes for themselves. Through a somewhat creepy sequence you scavenge a set of ranger armor from a dead body and that is apparently all it takes to make you one? You are sent out on a mission to make contact with three other city states and start something called Project Dagger going. And thus begins the first of the comparisons to Fallout… in that from the moment you leave that tutorial sequence you are no longer fettered by any constraints as to what you should or should not be doing.
Just like your first footsteps out of the vault… you can roam the world freely and do anything that suits your fancy. You have markers on your map directing you to each of these major settlements but also a bunch of other micro objectives that will gain you favor with various entities. The original Rage was essentially “what if Fallout were more like Quake”, and this game is more like “what if Fallout were a better shooter”. I am somewhat cautious on the Fallout comparisons however because Bethesda games are massively different for each of the players that choose to play them. For me that core Fallout experience is going off into the wilderness to be a murder hobo and bring back stacks of blood drenched armor to sell for caps… and then repeating this over and over until I have explored every bit of the world that suits my fancy and done all of the quests associated with them. In those terms Rage 2 feels very Fallout to me, because I can roam around the map and tick off objectives while looking for tasty loot.
Much like the first game you have a trusty steed in the form of a Mad Maxian road war vehicle… this time around it is something called Phoenix equipped with an Alexa style AI that talks to you as you do things. The game also gives you a decent waypoint system that shows up in game as a series of neon pink chevrons directing you towards your target. While on the road there are a number of random encounters… bandit camps of sorts or other vehicles that might try and run you off the road. One of the first objectives that you encounter is a bridge that has been blocked off by bandits and you need to clear the camp and flip a lever to raise the roadblock. That is more or less the sort of level involvement you should expect from the encounters in game… more or less go to an area… murder everything… search for hidden loot boxes and then profit. If Fallout was a deep role-playing experience for you… then maybe Rage 2 won’t feel like a reasonable simulacrum.
For me however the world is interesting and filled with quest givers that want me to help them out either to retrieve items or get much needed revenge on someone who did them or their family wrong. The feel of the world is also excellent, and not at all what I was expecting given the trailers and neon punk aesthetic leading up to the release of this game. Sure there are hot pink flares burning in the distance at times, but the world itself feels significantly more subdued and is filled with the sort of broken people you would expect from a broken landscape. There are no dialog prompts… just click on an NPC and get their story as well as a quest showing up in your journal… which admittedly is perfectly fine for me. I am always going to be the hero and help everyone out… so it isn’t like I need a red or blue option to the dialog to make me happy. That said for some the game will feel like it isn’t giving you any options other than killing everything… but again… it is a shooter first and anything else second.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the game is that each Ark can teach you a super power of sorts. From the first Ark located in Vineland you learn the ability to dodge out of the way of things… which comes in handy in many places. Last night before I shut down for the evening I found an Ark that effectively taught me the ability to double jump, and before that another one that taught me how to take my dodge and turn it into a body slam that can break armor off enemies. All of the abilities have their own skill tree of sorts that allows you to pour resources find in the wastes into leveling them up. As you start gaining these the game begins to feel really interesting and unique in that you are given was to both traverse the world but also interact with its combat. Now so far it is nothing in the way of the types of movement Tam generally craves… but double jump should at least make Ash as happy as it does me. I deeply appreciate the fact that the game has a ledge system that allows you to pull up if you get close enough to it… meaning that traversing areas that at first glance that you might not be able to make becomes a little bit more reasonable.
All in all I am deeply pleased with the experience so far, and all I really wanted in truth was more of the first game. Rage 2 however gives me enough tweaks to make that prospect significantly more interesting. The challenge the game has in front of it however is that so far… the game plays NOTHING like the trailer. The trailers were all so over the top and filled with Neon Punk aesthetic and thus far at least… I have seen very little of it apart from the occasional colored flare. The trailers would make me expect that a rainbow shat on my screen… and so far at least that isn’t exactly the case as you can see from what is a pretty common vista of junk strewn across a wasteland. This might be a turn off for folks expecting the former… for me personally I am completely fine with this as like I said before I loved the original.
I mean I guess the screenshots get a little more over the top when you factor in the photo mode that you can apply to things and add all sorts of neon nonsense to the sides. However that same aesthetic doesn’t really carry over to the gritty world that I have been experiencing. If you like playing murder hobo in Bethesda games… then Rage 2 might be a game for you. If you like post apocalyptic gopher mission shooters… then Rage 2 might be a game for you. If you want deep role-playing choices and feeling like you have some effect on the story… then Rage 2 might not be a game for you. If you were expecting a carnal bullet ballet in a neon punk wasteland… then it is probably a coin flip if this game will be for you because there are definitely those elements but as I said before it is nowhere near as over the top as the trailers would lead you to believe. For me personally… this is a positive but it won’t be for everyone.
I will say that the latest trailers for the game are playing down the elements from the earlier ones… so MAYBE the style changed over time? It is a really fun game that I am definitely enjoying, and if what I talked about seems interesting to you then maybe check it out. I am not about to say the game is going to be for everyone, but for me… I am completely down for this nonsense.