Rage 2

FBT hated the original Rage. Rage 2 ain't looking good either ...

I hated the original Rage (review here). Not just because it was a Fallout 3 rip-off, but because it was from id – the guys who reinvented gaming were now reworking others’ achievements. But Rage 2 is co-developed by Avalanche, who created not only the open-world Looney Tunes that is Just Cause, but also the mighty Mad Max. Doom meets Mad Max? This could be the apocalypse we deserve.

Goddamn it. R2 is my most hated game of 2019. I don’t care what I play next, nothing will annoy me as much as this. I hated it so much I couldn’t even Rage Quit, I just had to see how bad it gets. But it doesn’t get better or worse, it just rips off other games until it ends.

In Rage, an asteroid decimated Earth. While some surviving humans rebuilt amidst the ruins, raiders and mutants, a few lucky ones were hidden underground in Arks, cryogenically frozen until the Earth was safe - but a General, Cross, filled Arks with his own men, intending to create a new world order under his ‘Authority’. Everything else was sub Fallout 3 really.

Thirty years on and the ‘Rangers’ are resisting The Authority, who are forcing the evolution of mankind into cybernetic beings. Cross, who is cybernetic and psychotic, wipes out all the Rangers except our new hero, Walker, who must unite three settlements and disrespect the authoritah to ensure humanity survives.

How many times have we been here? Post-Apocalyptic world, settlements, fascist state, steampunk, ruins, outposts, raiders, lone hero, quirky characters, mutants; we know it well, and we love it when it's done right, and R2 clearly loves it too - because every single element is nicked from some other game. I mean, Rage wasn't exactly original but R2 ... it simultaneously rips off every other apocalyptic game while making very little effort to be exciting. Never played a game that can’t be assed before.

R2 feels like it was designed at 4pm on a Friday. The world is completely vacant. There’s raider bases, mutie bases, authority bases, raider road blocks, authority checkpoints, mutie caves, but that’s about it. There’s no exploration, no ruins, nothing to blunder into or distract you. There’s no fast travel either so getting about gets boring quickly - it’s like being on the bus to work, you just idly stare out the window wishing you were elsewhere. Some areas depart from the usual scorched earth look, such as a swamp and a lush grassland, but there’s absolutely nothing there. If it’s not on the map it’s empty. It’s like a beta test version.

The only thing worth looking for is Arks. Those who escaped them, like Walker, were injected with nanites to survive the cryo-freeze, which in theory makes them prime targets for the cybernetic Authority, but I didn’t even see them outside their bases; how are they imposing their authoritah if they never leave? Nanites allow ‘super-powers’, upgrades like dash, smash, overpower and – ah, basically the same old shit.

Walker can also upgrade weapons, which are meaty and fun - id can’t mess that up at least, and one lets you fire an explosive bullet you trigger with a click of your fingers. But we have to suffer a tutorial for each reheated power and weapon – a tutorial for a shotgun?! id, you created the super-shotgun, I know how to use it. What I’d like is something to use it on.

The raiders aren’t original but they’re fun to kill, and they like to use baseball bats to clobber grenades your way. Hearing the ‘crack’ of a bat is always a fun ‘where is it’ moment and an upgrade allows you to gun-butt the grenades back at them. The mutants are the usual screechy melee types or the oversized mini-boss ammo-suckers, there's some annoyances called the Shrouded or something who can go invisible, while Authority drones are either Combine or those stilted drones in Half-Life 2, but the annoying thing is they keep to their locations so there's never a surprise firefight or threat.

I was cautious walking around at first, but there’s no hazards besides the clearly marked camps and outposts; and within those, everything has levels but a mutant at level 10 is no worse than a level 3 one - I don’t know if that’s a balance issue or they just added the levels to make it seem threatening. They're not. I only died twice and once was by driving off a cliff out of boredom. Plus you can unlock a Borderlands second wind option.

To be fair, firefights are good stuff, but it’s like entering arenas. Outside of those, I once saw a Mole-rat type thing and a big sheep, that’s it. This is from the makers of Doom, where hell was around every corner? Eventually you give up looking for trouble and get behind the wheel again. There’s convoys reskinned from Mad Max, and occasionally you’ll run over some Raiders and Mutants having a fight, an annoying guy in a go-kart will zip by and challenge you to a race, and you’ll keep passing the same 3 cars who are non-hostile but that’s all that happens, not only is there no reason to get out the car but I never really got into a fight behind the wheel either. This is a Tuesday of a game.

Even the story is uneventful. Each of the three settlements’ bosses require you do chores before they’ll help take down the Authority. Fair enough, that’s standard mission structure for open-worlders, but you could at least try to hide how linear and cliched it is? Unless this is a parody and I’m missing the point.

All three follow the same structure; do a ‘prove your mettle’ mission, then go secure their region by taking out camps (which you will have already done out of desperation because there’s nothing else to do), then do a Authority-related chore, then a personal side job, then get ‘I’m in’ - and just as you leave their region get a call to go all the way back and fix something – that’s it, one third done. It’s uninspired but at least it’s short – the main mission is five hours tops. The whole thing feels like a perfunctory single player mission for a game whose heart is set on Multiplayer. Which R2 doesn’t have either.

One has us go to a TV channel and do their violent reality show just like Saint’s Row’s Professor Genki. A shooting challenge is run by a horny old granny dressed like Christina Aguilera in the Lady Marmalade video surrounded by people in their underwear wearing oversized masks. It’s just so derivative. Another is win a race on a god-awful figure of 8 track straight out of the 90s; the original had pointless races but at least they were a mash-up between Mario Kart and the Pod Race from Phantom Menace. We can’t use weapons, cheat, anything, just go around and around until we win. Why is this here?! We do it to gain fame, to get access to a ViP area, to confront a local who wants to usurp the region’s leader, which is cool but all that happens is a cut-scene where the guy knows our plan and escapes; and the region leader still agreed to help.

Another region is controlled by a doctor using a mutant as a wheelchair but it’s just grotesque and a little uncomfortable. Walker responds to his request by commenting on how she bets it’ll be an impossible mission and that, for convoluted reasons, she’s the only one capable of doing it – hold up. You can’t play the self-aware card when you’re plagiarising every game in sight. And the third region I can’t even remember what I had to do. His side mission is related to the character we played in the first game, but by now I don’t give a shit.

There are side missions available from a bounty board, but they’re just repopulated camps, or people asking you to go here and do that – again, standard but somehow, R2 makes them dull. You never think ‘oh, that’s gonna take some doing’ or ‘sounds fun’, you just go do it. You don't even get distracted along the way. What kind of open world is this?

So, our master plan is to sneak through security using an Authority tank. Really, we’re doing the Trojan Horse thing? And once in, Cross immediately rumbles us. Well, yeah, we went into his secret base pretending to be him. This has to be a comedy. What then follows is a slow linear roll through the Authority’s bowels - because id can't think of any fun to be had in a tank? id's breakthrough game was Hovertank 3D, FFS! That's more fun now than this level.

Anyway, Walker abandons the tank after all that to carry on on-foot in a standard clear-room-before-next-door-opens sequence while Cross taunts us over the comm system like the good old days, before one of those face-offs where the final boss is huge but we’re on a platform at waist height. You even ripped off Mass Effect 2? Jesus.

R2’s campaign made it look like the maddest open-worlder since Borderlands but it’s a bigger lie than Suicide Squad’s trailer. Just having alt.bad guys in pastel colours, big guns and Banksy on the walls does not make a game cool; in photo mode you can add ‘stickers’ like ‘LOL’ and ‘Fail’ and other dated buzzwords my mum posts on The Facebook. It's not trying to be cool, it's trying to be hip. Down with the kids.

Daftness like unlocking Danny Dyer doing commentary would be great if Borderlands did it because they would get it right; here it comes across as desperate. Besides, Borderlands 2 had a talking gun which was far funnier than Dyer doing his cockney nonsense.

We do have a talking car actually, but they even muck that up. It tells us to be careful and flags when damaged, but it’s more of a GPS than a companion and Walker never reacts to it. And it’s a self-aware car that can’t drive itself. You can’t call it to your location so you have to keep spending $10 to have it appear next to you which isn’t exactly realistic. If you’re going to keep ripping off games, rip off Arkham Knight and give us it’s Batmobile. Which the tank rips off.

As if all this wasn’t enough, it’s a shitty port. The game’s biggest boast was ‘if you can see it, you can drive it’ – firstly, drive it where? Second, I never got to use bikes because I couldn’t reassign Turn Right. I used the arrow keys but Right doggedly stuck to D for bikes. Same with the pointless rideable Drone that can’t defend itself.

R2 also smacks of being rushed out the door; characters disappear during interactions, while one appeared twice - they even talked out of sync when clicked on. Map-markers are inaccurate, in the photo-mode Walker disappears, characters have maybe two lines of idle dialogue, every time I reach a place Walker goes ‘got a bad vibe about this place’ and her contact does the same reply, and when you visit traders they have exactly the same interaction – an awful joke – every time. I stopped trading because I just couldn’t stand to hear it again.

And during the end scene, one character talks but another goldfishes – I had the music turned off, so perhaps she was mixed into the score but that’s crap. R2 feels panic-released after Borderlands 3 was announced. Or maybe they saw Far Cry New Dawn and thought ‘oh shit someone already did it’ – yeah, they did. Way, way better.

There’s just no flair to it, the attempts at being outrageous are dad-dance levels of cringe and it's shameless ripping off of other games is embarrassing - you think we wouldn't notice? The best bit is in the opening, where you pick male or female Walker. As soon as you do, the other immediately gets killed, and Walker deadpans “better you than me”. That was a great start, and should have been its attitude all the way through, but no. In short, the character creation screen is the best bit of Rage 2.