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'Rage 2' game review: Why fun with guns isn't enough

Score: 6.0/10
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Windows PC
Developer: id Software, Avalanche
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: May 14, 2019

A special kind of frustration swells up from playing a game that delivers pristine action mechanics set within a creatively vapid world.

Rage 2 , a sequel to id Software’s mostly forgotten 2011 post-apocalypse shooter Rage , provides players a cornucopia of fine action filled with imaginative weapons and abilities — local singularities FTW! — and fully invests in the storied studio’s trademark gore, with headshots that make skulls bloodily blast off bodies with a satisfying pop and micro-rockets that transform people into unidentifiable smears of scarlet. And there’s no shortage of ways to augment and improve your guns and skills via perks and upgrades. By the end you’ll be an unmitigated agent of havoc and carnage of the peculiar variety that only springs from and exists within the weird world of video games.

Qualms with the frenetic, fantastical firefights are few and far between. But it seems the designers spent all of their inventiveness on the action, making the world in which it is set feel bland and lifeless by comparison.

We are thrust unceremoniously into a fictional universe that players unfamiliar with the game’s nearly decade-old predecessor will be hard pressed to understand. It’s clear that there’s been a calamity of some sort that has laid waste to the world, leaving the population looking like cyberpunk rejects from one of William Gibson’s lesser stories. And there’s a bad guy who was supposed to be killed in the last game who now needs to be killed again because he’s running an outfit of bad guys intent on doing bad things with no apparent motivation beyond that they’re bad. Kudos to anyone who can make more of the plot than that.

The characters aren’t much more developed than the story. Our hero — a soldier named Walker who is trained to be a Ranger (that’s about as clever as the humour gets) — has almost no back story and zero personality. He (or she) functions as little more than a player avatar who occasionally talks tough and grunts in appropriate circumstances.

It’s the setting, though, that disappoints most. Rage 2 ‘s post-apocalyptic landscape is an uninspired expanse of desert dunes, toxic swamps, and twisty canyons that could have been plucked from Borderlands , Mad Max , or any number of other wasteland adventures. And it’s pocked with a seemingly endless collection of cookie-cutter encampments. Gas stations that need to be cleared of goons. Mutant nests so similar in design you’ll experience déjà vu. Ugly, rusted, maze-like fortresses built of scrap. Once you’ve cleared a couple of one type of location, you’ll have seen pretty much everything that the other dozen or more waiting to be found have to show you. Suffice to say the thrill of discovery is not a driving force here.

That I’ve continued to play is testament solely to the great gunplay. Collecting — and then gradually augmenting — weapons and abilities has proven a powerful lure. Once I unlocked the Firestorm revolver — a pistol that fires rounds that explode on command at the touch of a button — I couldn’t wait to head out and give it a whirl on the nearest den of enemies. And each time I upgraded and modified it to make it an even more efficient and spectacular weapon I was just as eager to do it all over. This is the game’s hook, and it’s a great one.

But it’s not sufficient to fully satisfy. Rage 2 is simply fun with guns, and there are plenty of games that fit that bill. Pity, when it could have been so much more.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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