Back in 2011, RAGE was released – an open-world action-adventure shooter set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic desert. RAGE sought to combine high-octane first-person action and driving with open-world elements. And while it succeeded in some aspects, it definitely fell short of the mark in others – and most would agree that RAGE was worthy of its rather lukewarm reception. While the game didn’t leave much of an impact on the industry and the medium, it was still a solid experience and one that would benefit a lot from a sequel.
And then in 2019, we got RAGE 2 which was developed through a joint venture with Avalanche Studios. RAGE 2 was a sequel that seemed to fix most of the criticisms aimed at the original all while building upon the bombastic and action-packed combat loop that defined the first game. While the game did ultimately suffer a markedly worse fate than the original when it comes to sales, with RAGE 2 selling just a quarter of the original’s physical sales in its opening week – the game itself received praise from critics and has earned a sort of cult classic status amongst its lovers. It has been three years since the game was first released, so the time seems ripe to finally ask – was RAGE 2 an underrated game?
Firstly, let’s just chalk down the major criticisms with the original to better understand where RAGE 2 succeeds and where it doesn’t. In addition to a weak story, RAGE was held back by a bland open-world design and a tedious gameplay loop which culminated in an experience that can become boring after a while. And its gloomy color palette also didn’t do the game’s offbeat tone any favors, presenting its post-apocalyptic world in a dim light mostly composed of green, brown, and gray as dominant colors.
Let’s talk about RAGE 2‘s moment-to-moment gameplay first. The game builds upon the excellent first-person-shooter foundations established by modern standards, and as such – the sheer intensity of its combat loop dwarfs the original with punchy sound effects, plenty of visual feedback, and the sense of always moving forward instead of hiding behind cover and taking out enemies one by one. The game borrows many mechanics from its contemporaries for its own benefit and looting the cash and resources dropped by dead enemies replenishes a player’s health.
Additionally, players can also explore the game’s vast open world and seek out useful skills such as ground pounds, double jumps, and dash swipes that help to enhance the dynamic nature of the gameplay loop. Gone is the gloomy color palette of the original, which has been replaced by an abundance of popping colors such as red and pink. Furthermore, with a vast array of distinct weapons available at the player’s disposal and an equally vast assortment of enemy types to fight, RAGE 2‘s combat system rarely gets repetitive. Instead, the game continues to throw more options at the player with extensive skill trees for the player’s vehicles, weapons, and abilities that all change the way how they are used within combat encounters.
But everything surrounding that core combat loop is what ultimately bogs down the end-user experience. The story is just as uninteresting as the first game, which isn’t the biggest criticism considering that it isn’t the focal point of the experience. But this combined with repetitive missions for the majority of the game can result in a sense of tedium, which sours the surprisingly solid moment-to-moment gameplay experience.
Other aspects of the experience though, such as vehicular combat have seen improvements but not to the extent that would make them stand out like the updated combat system. RAGE 2 firstly never really explores the full potential of its armored vehicles aside from a few car chases and race events. The open world itself, while gorgeous on a visual level -houses only a few surprises scattered around here and there. It’s also largely based around the same cookie-cutter design of most of Ubisoft’s games. This is especially disappointing, considering the sheer potential for goofy side-quests and random encounters afforded by the game’s eccentric tone and punk rock aesthetic.
So, RAGE 2 does alleviate most of the concerns presented with the original – but it doesn’t provide for an experience that feels well-rounded. Most would agree that RAGE 2 can be summed up as a game of two halves – a bombastic combat loop that’s best in class and an underwhelming open world with cookie-cutter content and repetitive missions. As it stands now, RAGE 2 stands at a rating of 73 on review aggregator Metacritic – and it isn’t too unreasonable if we’re being honest. That argument is further solidified by an even lower user rating of 5.5.
As for its sales, the game definitely didn’t perform as well as it should have on the commercial front. While Bethesda hasn’t released any sales figures for the game, we do know that the game sold significantly less than its predecessor – which didn’t have any impressive sales numbers, to begin with. What’s more surprising is that RAGE 2 was released in May, which is usually a dry spell for video game releases – so the game did get an ample amount of time to shine in the spotlight. Of course, a major contributing factor to this rather unfavorable commercial reception is Bethesda’s poor marketing record – which very much stands true in the case of RAGE 2.
So, looking in that context – one could say that RAGE 2 was an underrated game. Simply put, it’s a sequel that’s simultaneously a big step forward in the right direction but also one that failed to fully deliver improvements in other aspects. It’s a sequel that would serve well to those who enjoyed the original, and it’s also a game that is a fresh take on the open-world RPG formula that has come to dominate the AAA landscape. But at the same time, it doesn’t lean on its differentiating factors too much that it would end up appealing to newcomers to the franchise. And while its critical reception can be considered a just one, RAGE 2 didn’t deserve such a poor commercial reception – but Avalanche Studios aren’t the only ones to blame for those disappointing figures.
RAGE 2 is certainly worth a try for lovers of the recent Wolfenstein reboot. The game was previously given out as a free title on the Epic Games Store and with its availability on Xbox Game Pass, interested fans can easily try out the game. As for the future of the RAGE franchise, it looks extremely bleak now that two out of two entries have failed on a commercial level. While a potential third game could definitely turn the tides around for the franchise, it just doesn’t seem viable from a business standpoint. But now that ZeniMax Media is under Microsoft’s leadership, one cannot say what’s going to be the case. Either way, it seems fair to say that chances are pretty slim that we might see a potential RAGE 3 anytime in the near future.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.