Looking closely at a significant part of modern science fiction in the cinema or in video games, the darkest component of the possible futures from here to the next fifty or a hundred years we have “enjoyed” in almost every imaginable sauce, one of which is now expressed in Rage 2.
Between award-winning novels and all sorts of video games, the next decades and centuries often assume the colors of post-apocalyptic dystopia, a rather inflated stage trodden by hypertechnological rebel machines, zombies, monstrous creatures or outraged bandits, all ready to take over what’s left of mankind. Rage 2 fits perfectly into the middle, inserting all the above elements into its world without missing a healthy injection of madness. We just have to see if the union between Avalanche Studios and id Software has managed to get out of the shadow of the “more of the same”.
AN APOCALYPTIC SMOOTHIE
We talked a lot about Mad Max’s influence on the world of video games and, at alternate moments, we dealt with a whole series of offers that tried to develop this context within an open world. Rage 2 essentially tries to widen the boundaries set by the previous chapter, class 2011, stumbling, however, on a number of technicalities related to the context. Our hometown is attacked in the middle of the night by the bad guys, gregarious of a dictatorial power called Authority, but fortunately one of the few survivors is just the protagonist, who discovers to be the only Ranger left alive on the face of the Earth. Unlike other human beings, this role gives the opportunity to access real superpowers thanks to nanotrites, cells in the blood that can be enhanced within particular arches scattered on the planet. In addition to this fortunate legacy, we learn that the only way to defeat the leader of the Authority is to complete the Dagger Project, so as to give shape to a technology that can make us penetrate the enemy base undisturbed and do what no one else has managed to do until then.
The narrative begins with this little information and continues, in a linear way, leading us to three key characters who possess a part of what we need to complete the project. The same trio of NPC serves to justify the presence of as many types of places scattered around the open world packaged by Avalanche Studios, which once cleaned or conquered will give valuable points to increase the confidence of the corresponding key character, and unlock interesting skills to make the holiday easier than expected. Freeing the hideouts from the Bullies, one of the factions in the game, we will get some influence to be transformed into projects with which to unlock excellent skills to deal with the clashes, such as the recharge in motion or the Granatennis, an unusual and spectacular way to send back to the sender a grenade. This example will have made you immediately understand that, in addition to the main mission – about ten hours to be completed, pulling straight without catching your breath – there are secondary paths offered by the game world by means of tasks on the notice boards of the city, without disdaining, as a way of engaging in this task, even the simple dialogue with some citizens (you will recognize them thanks to a dedicated pop-up), free exploration or information contained in a datapad. Too bad, however, that the story loses its bite after spending not too much time in the wastelands imagined by the developers, perhaps because of a linear plot that does not blend properly with gameplay also quite ordinary.
UNLOAD THE MAGAZINE
Although DOOM’s return has succeeded in making the gunplay much more dynamic in a first-person shooter, we can certainly not say that this same formula can always work, simply by adapting it to a product with different characteristics. By this we don’t mean that the dynamic shooter of Rage 2 doesn’t work, on the contrary, the exploitation of powers makes rather adrenalinic the shootings in the crazy lands of the game, but only that the conceptual momentum is a bit ‘distorted by the presence of enemies led by a fairly elementary artificial intelligence. Even increasing the complexity of the game to difficult, many of the opponents will follow a rather predictable movement routine that frustrates the expenditure of superhuman powers, used perhaps only during a close encounter with a group of cinerea or wild boar banned to the extreme. The Devastation and Backwood skills are very useful to eliminate armored enemies in a short time, although often their use follows the natural desire to revive the clash by adding a pinch of spectacularity. By now it is clear that nowadays the trend sees a relationship with the video game often tending to simplification, seen as distraction and fun without too many thoughts, especially when you notice that the most striking difference on the change of difficulty emerges just for the amount of damage received. Let’s say that, in this sense, it is at the difficulty Nightmare that the game becomes really interesting.
We talked about the abilities offered by the nanotrites, which correspond to superpowers, and we also talked about the projects unlockable when you get points of favor with the three key characters related to the story. Rage 2 still uses other small mechanics seen in games of the same genre, such as a crafting system useful to create consumables such as grenades or healing infusions, accompanied for the occasion by a power plant that touches both the weapons (using felts, a mineral scattered around the world, and mod weapons) that the means of transport Phoenix with their respective vehicle mod. Feltrite can also be used to enhance the degree of skills unlocked during the game, which unlocks a tree of skills in which to spend the nanotritic upgrades. Maximizing these abilities, together with the constitution or enhancement of the overload, ends up making you real uncontrollable war machines. Even with phenomenal cosmic powers, our alter ego can come across death at any time, especially if it takes a few waves of enemies in the game by the horns, sometimes even offering real mechs, assassins or sentinel towers ready to make you swallow an unimaginable amount of damage. The game comes with an automatic rescue system calibrated almost per second, which prepares a checkpoint of our progress as soon as we enter an area and before starting the fight, making us even breathe in a desolate place in order to start again without too many thoughts. If your vehicle is destroyed you can call it from the menu, as long as you spend the amount of money required (in addition to Phoenix, the other vehicles can be unlocked in the list only after finding and leading them to a city).
Giving character to an open world is probably one of the most difficult bets that a team of developers must try to win at all costs. The entrance into the devastated lands imagined by the authors succeeds in surprising especially with regard to diversification; the exploration areas of the game world are presented with different biomes, justified by the landing of some space probes called Ecopods that served, originally, to repopulate fauna and flora allowing a better survival of humans. The basic idea is certainly excellent, it succeeds in the task of giving a minimum of diversification to the now universal “setting à la Mad Max”, but unfortunately it does not find a real impetus in its implementation in Rage 2, perhaps because this world does not appear populated as you would expect.
It must be acknowledged that the attempt is noticeable, but it does not have that bursting charge to produce amazement at every curve or gorge of the scenario, on foot or above our racing car. On the contrary, unfortunately, the open world seems rather empty, so much so that the journey between a point of interest and the other can be enlivened just by the presence of factions ready to fight on the side of the road. We would have expected something more also about the destructibility of the setting, which does not exist here, since Avalanche is the master of matter thanks to the many pyrotechnic experiments of Just Cause. Stylistically speaking, the palette of colors is the one that most deviates from the concept of post-apocalyptic world, since most places seem to be animated by a paradoxically cheerful color, tending precisely to a general madness that reminded us a bit of Far Cry New Dawn (for chronological closeness). The Bullies, perhaps one of the best-characterized factions in the game, along with the Authority and the Wild Boars, are perhaps the most striking example of this colorful approach. To complete the “crazy” part of the product there are the exterminators Abaddon, legendary mutant creatures who have burrows scattered around the game world and that represent, at high difficulty, a nice challenge to be taken up with Mutant Bash TV, a freak show to participate in doing car races, overcoming arenas full of mutants or racing at the polygon of Slippery Nipple. By accumulating Mutant Bash points we can unlock nice skins for our weapons.
From our point of view, Avalanche Studios and id Software have done an above-average job in their respective fields of expertise, but unfortunately, they have run into all those problems that often afflict productions of the genre without getting him the merits of the case. Such bases, if exploited as it should, could lead the franchise to a possible third chapter even more worthy of praise, beyond the fun that Rage 2 still manages to ensure, which is why we can only continue to cheer for this collaboration.