RAGE 2 review: Is this ultra-violent shooter worth your money?

One for fans of apocalyptic ultra-violence.

Rage 2
(Image: © Windows Central)

RAGE 2 is the long-awaited sequel to 2011's RAGE, which incorporated elements of id Software shooting in a Mad Max-style apocalypse environment, complete with hyperviolent vehicular combat and tight shooting mechanics.

RAGE 2 launched earlier this week and received a bit of a mixed reception. Some major outlets have flat out called the game bad, while groups of passionate apocalypse fans have spoken positively about their experiences with id Software's latest efforts.

id Software wasn't alone on this one, either. Teaming up with Avalanche, known for franchises like Just Cause and the recent (wholly underrated) Mad Max game, it seems like the team hoped to combine id's intimate knowledge of shooters with Avalanche's portfolio of explosive open-world action games. The final execution is far from perfect, but the ultra-violence is on point.

And isn't that sometimes enough?

What you'll love about RAGE 2

Overdrive mode dials up the damage and gore, resulting in explosive combos.

The best aspects of RAGE 2 are found firmly within its shooting mechanics. As a first-person shooter (FPS) that borrows heavily from the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Mad Max, the relentless B-movie style violence is almost as exciting and satisfying in RAGE 2 as it is in DOOM.

An expansive open world awaits players, following a meteor strike that effectively killed the world. Terraforming ecopods have crashed back to earth, creating wild and mutated jungles and even wilder creatures that beg to be hunted down with your vast array of weaponry. Rocket launchers, laser weapons, even DOOM's BFG 9000 makes an appearance, and the Ranger (that's you) also sports an array of space crystal-enhanced (don't ask) cybernetic powers to aid him or her in combat.

Various hubs allow you to talk to NPCs, trade in consumeables, and undertake side quests.

Various hubs allow you to talk to NPCs, trade in consumeables, and undertake side quests.

You can select whether you want to play as a male or female to experience the story, which plays out in various quest hubs and linear, more dungeon-like areas intersecting with the open overworld.

RAGE 2 is as gory and fast-paced as they come.

RAGE 2 is as gory and fast-paced as they come. And it's delicious. The merciless combat shotgun not only turns enemies into dismembered chunks, but its alt-fire mode acts as a force push, knocking enemies' armor off, or even knocking them off cliffs and ledges. The game runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second (FPS_ on Xbox One X, with uncapped frame rates on PC. Xbox One S users have to settle for 30 frames, however.

The open world is vast and varied with a wide variety of outpost-style objectives to explore and complete. You can dive into hulking giant pits deep in the jungle, take out raider camps suspended on cliffsides and mountain tops, or even participate in death races on the sand-blasted wastes.

The main story campaign only covers around 10 hours of play, but if you spend your time exploring, progressing your character's skills, abilities, and equipment, enjoying the open world for what it is, that could easily stretch out to 30 or 40 hours.

As fun as RAGE 2's shooting is, the game is far from perfect.

What you'll dislike about RAGE 2

If you find open-world gameplay in titles like Far Cry to be a bit repetitive, RAGE 2 doesn't exactly do a great deal to change the formula. The open world is relatively interesting to explore, with data pads that add context or side missions to undertake, but repetitiveness settles in relatively quickly if you focus entirely on trying to clear the map. Thankfully, the main story missions often take place in unique areas that are set aside from the main world, containing fun set pieces that help to break up the monotony the open world may present for those who don't like that sort of gameplay.

At times, I found myself either laughing out loud or twisted in disgust. (In a good way.)

Getting around in RAGE 2 is quite fun, with decent vehicle handling complemented by on-road events like racing, and vehicle convoys to destroy. Oddly, though, the vehicle combat doesn't feel as refined as 2016's Mad Max, which is strange, since it was made by the same developer. The roads in RAGE 2 are winding and often lend themselves to long stints of wheel-to-wheel combat scenarios, resigned to having to drive slowly behind vehicles to hit them with your weapons, rather than shunting them off the road. Vehicle combat certainly isn't the main focus of the game, but with some upgrades, it can provide some truly awesome moments. I just expected a bit more from the studio behind Mad Max.

Don't expect to be blown away by the story, either. There are some memorable moments and quirky characters, but Citizen Kane it ain't. I found myself either laughing out loud or twisted in disgust (in a good way) at some of the game's setpieces and story moments, even if the overarching plot is, well, a bit dumb. This is '80s B-movie action violence, at its best.

There is also a collection of minor issues that hinder the experience. The game has atrocious lighting and no torch in-game, so you'll oftentimes be in areas that are too saturated in darkness to actually see anything. At 1080p, the game has a blurry appearance on Xbox One X when compared to other similar open-world games that manage to hit a far higher resolution (to be fair, it would likely sacrifice that smooth frame rate in the process, however). PC, as always, is the best place to play if you want the best visuals and frame rates.

Finally, the game has a few odd UI problems that could do with patching out. After every outpost, you're greeted by an unwelcome "outpost complete" summary that takes control away from you for a few seconds so you can watch an EXP bar sliding up. It's pointless and only serves to get in the way of the wanton carnage. The inventory screens are also painfully slow to use, another roadblock to the violence. And my god, I hope they add an option to stop your car's A.I. from "talking," cus it's annoying as hell.

So should you buy RAGE 2?

Ultimately, if you felt that DOOM was worth it at $60, you won't be disappointed with RAGE 2. The story is forgettable, save for a few key WTF moments, the open world layer isn't terribly unique, and the visuals aren't anything to shout about, even if some of the gore, effects, and explosions are well-presented.

Where RAGE 2 truly shines is its relentless, unapologetic, apocalyptic violence, which has long been id Software's forte.

If your video game library is hungering for fresh blood, guts, and gasoline, you should definitely buy RAGE 2.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!