“Still Loading…” is a series we use to take a look at long video games that deserve more time to evaluate. This is the first installment in our series in Rage 2, the new game from ID and Bethesda. Our second piece on this game will be available on June 18.
I’m in between missions in Rage 2 and I have a problem.
I’ve more or less wrapped up all the missions I can complete at my current level. If I want to keep going, I’m going to need to upgrade. Which is no problem because I’ve collected plenary of Feltrite. Feltrite is the space rock that Rage 2 uses as in game currency. I can use it to upgrade my special abilities. Of course, I can also use it to heal myself in battle so I won’t want to use too much of it on the upgrades.
Or I could upgrade my weapons using weapon core mods. But to get those I will need to clear out a bandit camp. Then again, clearing one of those camps could also earn me Project Points I could use to unlock new skills. And if I bring a new vehicle back to camp to collect those points, we’ll then I could also earn some auto points to upgrade my ride. And did I mention the Cyber Doc?
It’s… a lot.
The same could be said for Rage 2 as a whole. The game is fundamentally fine. But it plays like the product of 100 focus groups instead of one coherent vision. The player controls Walker, the last in a group of super powered Rangers who fight to protect Earth. Protect it from what? Funny you should ask. The game’s cutscenes suggest that I’m fighting an alien race menacingly called The Authority. But so far I’d say at least 95% of my play time has been spent fighting other humans.
Don’t feel bad though. They’re not the nice humans who I’m supposed to be protecting. They’re mean humans. They’ve moved out to the desert and set up all sorts of camps and road blocks that they use as a base for their gangs. They use those bases to ambush the good humans I’m protecting, who live in small settlements. Settlements that are already having a hard time because of the mutants! You know the mutants. They live under the settlements and terrorize the townsfolk. They changed after the asteroid hit.
Yeah. It’s a lot.
But again, none of it’s bad. Just kind of overwhelming. Which seems to be what the game is going for. Bethesda and ID released the first in 2011. Right before the next-gen rerelease of Doom 3. Now, on the eve of the hotly anticipated Doom Eternal, we get Rage 2. ID and Bethesda seem to think the games are inexorably linked. And Rage has definitely cribbed borrowed the best parts of Doom. The fast paced, hyper violent, jump based combat will feel familiar to anyone who enjoyed Doom (2016).
What won’t feel familiar is just about everything else about the game. Where Doom always knew how to force a player to make tough decisions, Rage 2 is interested in helping you avoid those decisions entirely. One of the coolest mechanics in Doom (2016) involved the chainsaw. Killing an enemy with the chainsaw would reward players with a groundswell of ammunition. Which made sense. If you’re resorting to the chainsaw, you must be low in bullets. But it also forced you to get up close and personal with some pretty gruesome enemies that could put the hurt on your precious Doom Guy.
In Rage 2, however, there’s a skill called Overdrive. Activating it sends you into a super powered furry. The screen pulsates purple and blue. The music jumps a few decibels. And for a short time, a single bullet from your gun will turn any opponent into a puddle of viscera and juices. Plus, it heals you. When it’s over, the meter starts ticking up again. Stay alive long enough and you can use it again. No muss, no fuss. No interest.
And they called it Overdrive. Not Rage. The very thought of which is enough to make me want to overdrive quit this review.
Rage 2 won’t just be familiar to Doom fans. There are also elements of Avelanche studio’s Mad Max (2015). And Halo fans will think they’ve discovered the Covenant’s long lost cousins in The Authority — when they see them. Like almost everything else about Rage 2, it seems to be a smattering of random inputs rather than anything cohesive.
What isn’t overly complicated about Rage 2 is the plot. As Ranger Walker, the player is humanity’s last hope. After your mentor dies, you’re left to execute Project Dagger. You must travel into the wastelands and meet up with three different contacts. By completing enough goals for each of those contacts, you’ll convince them to execute Project Dagger and drive The Authority off planet.
Ultimately, Rage 2 is fun adjacent. But all it’s high points are by virtue of its quantity, not its quality. Nothing about the game so far seems to be distinct. It throws everything at the wall and hopes players will enjoy part of it. My hope is that going deeper into it for next week’s update will reveal a more specific game. Because, so far, everything about Rage 2 is better is the games it seems to be pulling inspiration from. And, for such a fast-paced and over stimulating game, it seems like it could be… boring.