This week, Yahtzee reviews Rage 2.
Developers, blink twice if the post-apocalypse is forcing you to make games about it against your will. I mean, there has to be some explanation for why we seem to be constantly banging this extremely sweaty drum, and I doubt it's because there are still post-apocalypse stories that desperately need to be told. Help me out here, Bethesda: why does Rage 2 have to exist? Actually, before you answer that, remind me: why did Rage 1 have to exist? 'Cos all Rage 1 was, in retrospect, was a rather unmemorable little sidetrack that meant we couldn't have Doom 2016 for another few years, like an extremely long queue outside a cake and blowjob shop.
So Rage 1 was a pudding-y fart in an overcrowded swimming pool, and Bethesda must've said to id, "All right, fine, just make Doom." So they made Doom, and it kicked arse, and then they were like, "Great! We've figured it out! Now let's make another Rage!" Why?! Why are we still bothering with Rage? And why do you have a black eye? "I walked into a door. I mean, because it's a post-apocalypse story that desperately needs to be told, that's why! Now, let's make Rage 2, and they're definitely not making me say this!" Well, let's give Rage 2 a chance; I mean, there might be a few things that a shoot-y drive-y post-apocalypse sandbox can do with the color magenta that Far Cry New Dawn didn't already do this year.
In Rage 2, you're a Ranger at a Ranger summer camp or something, who is one of the few survivors when the Authority attack. You remember the Authority; they were the main villains in Rage 1 that the game eventually got around to introducing after a not-inconsiderable amount of fannying about, so you have to take the fight to them just as soon as you make your own fannying-about quota. The influence from Doom 2016 is obvious, because the combat has an emphasis on fast-paced double-jumping around, and upon death, most enemies will vomit up the last few Mars bars they ate to keep your health ticking over. But as is so often the case when something that works well for a linear shooter is put in an open-world sandbox setting, Rage 2 has an issue with pacing, in the same way that I have an issue with my uncomfortably large 12-inch knob, because Rage 2 doesn't have any fucking pacing.
You start the game, and the entire sandbox map is available from the word "go"; granted, our character is someone who is familiar with the world, and has presumably been through all these places already when the Ranger camp needed groceries and printer toner, but I never get a sense that the world is unfolding as we play, or that the game's scope is increasing or that we're growing into the space. All the space just gets thrown at me at once, like a wet poppadum to the mush. I mean, the first vehicle you get is the best one in the game! It's got a mounted mini-gun so you can clear out half of most bandit camps before you've even set foot in the place like a psychotically-determined Jehovah's Witness.
And then you unlock a flying vehicle with precisely zero ceremony that you can infinitely spawn for roughly the cost of a Cornish pasty and chips apiece, and after you've got that, ascended to maximum height, and gone, "Yep, that's a sandbox map, all right," then all of that space in the sandbox map ceases to be an exciting land to explore where danger and adventure might lurk around every corner, but a series of indistinct smeary blurs that speed by as we zoom uncontested from one clearly-marked objective to the next. Things liven up when we do get into combat, so I'd take on bandit camps mainly just to keep myself amused, and is that really the attitude you want me to take? Combat being something I do not out of necessity or for challenge or self-improvement, but for the same reason I keep turning my dog upside-down - 'cos I find his futile attempts to bite my hands off hilarious?
There are a bunch of different weapons to look for, but I'd say you can officially stop looking once you've got the shotgun, rifle and rocket launcher. There are some gimmick weapons, like the pistol whose bullets burst into flames when you snap your fingers, or the gravity gun that pins your targets towards a second target like the instant yo-yo gun from Red Faction: Armageddon. But I think, "press the button then the thing dies", is a model of efficiency that works pretty well for guns, whereas, "press the button, then press another button to turn the bullet on", sounds like a gun developed by whoever designed the current American healthcare system. And I barely use them, always swiftly returning to the prestigious law firm of Shotgun, Rifle & Rocket Launcher.
Early in the game, when I still felt remotely challenged by the combat, I thought the pace issue was that after you've cleared out a bandit camp like a nitrous-fuelled Roomba, built up a 97-kill combo, and made all your HUD elements flash like a pinball machine in a rave, after everyone's dead, the game goes, "Whoops! This camp isn't finished yet! You haven't found all three hidden prize boxes!", and then the pace would audibly screech to a halt as I went back and forth across the empty camp looking for the Christmas tree, occasionally fruitlessly swinging my rifle butt at the empty air directly above one of the ammo crates 'cos they're only just tall enough for you to melee without crouching as long as you tuck it between your testicles first.
But as the game went on, I began to ask myself, "What do I expect to find in these prize boxes? 'Cos unless they're stashing a properly-structured plot or general purpose in life in one of those, probably safe to leave it. It'll either be upgrade tokens or money for buying upgrade tokens, and I have so many bloody weapons and abilities to upgrade, beyond a certain point, it's just another squirt of piss in an industrial piss-milking facility." Thanks partly to the increasingly-popular shitty interface, I was all the way through to post-ending fuck-abouts and industriously fucking about before I discovered that it was possible to upgrade your superpowers, which illustrates how necessary the upgrades are.
You've got your super-punch, your super-stomp, your super-dash, your super-run that's faster than the normal run but not quite as fast as the super-dash, and which I used less often than the fucking "Quit" button. Then there's your health upgrades, and your weapon upgrades, and your gregade upnades and your vehicle upgrades. That's a laugh; like I give a shit if my between-fights commute-mobile can go "vroom" more than it previously went "vroom". If you wanna focus on building the character's strength and ability to do stuff, fine, but it needs a suitable game world for that player to do stuff in. It needs a Breath of the Wild, something expansive and beautiful and hostile that takes more than four or five travel sweets to get across. Ideally, one where the GPS navigator has the ability to warn you that a turn's coming up more than ten feet before you get to the fucking thing!
By the end of Rage 2, I didn't feel like anything had truly threatened me; the main baddie shoots up my summer camp at the start, then proceeds to sit on his underground cyber-toilet rubbing his hands in glee, while I go to three old farts who say, "Oh yeah, we totally knew the main baddie would come back, and we've got a plan to kill him all set up already, and all you need to do is fill out the shopping list." Seven or eight short missions later, the plan goes off without a hitch, and we utterly chump Mr. Big-Mouth Scary-Trousers 'cos he got inside a giant pile of Spam whose unbeatable strategy was to slowly bring its fists down on the spot where I was three seconds ago and then pause for eight or nine minutes to get its breath back. "Rage"? I've been more enraged by my own trousers! But that's uncomfortably large 12-inch knobs for you.
- A lot calmer these days: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Honestly I used to have a 12-inch knob but got rid of it when it was making the front door too hard to open
- So how about that Doom: Eternal