Rage 2: On the Limit of a Neon Lie
There can be a strange disconnect when a trailer frames something as different from what it truly is. Often, you end up with this strange nagging feeling, one that whispers, “This isn’t what they sold me,” as you make your way through an experience.
This can happen with films, TV shows, and games. In games, though, it tends to feel more like you’ve been conned thanks to the time investment games inherently demand from you. I say "conned," but you have to acknowledge the brilliance of the marketing team and the video editors when things like this happen.
They are, after all, doing the best job they can.
When the Rage 2 trailers began to release, they showed a vibrant world filled with a neon color scheme, over-the-top abilities, and constant chaos. Every second in every trailer was pure, undiluted fun, and there was no reason to believe that the game would do anything other than live up to that expectation. After all, that’s what you expect from a trailer, a taste of what’s to come.
With the bright colors and super-powered protagonist, it was hard to feel anything other than exhilaration for Rage 2; they even got Danny Dyer in for a hilarious voice over.
Filled with the excitement that always comes with a new game, plus the hope that it will be different, you jump into Rage 2. As you get through the first mission, you realize this is a severely messed up world, one in which humanity is on the brink and struggling to survive. You step up, ready to help lead your people into a brighter future. A neon pink world that is so colorful it borders on gaudy.
You leave your ravaged home in search of a way to fight back, finally, a chance to explore the world you were shown in the game's trailers. You drive into the wilds, completely ready for your eyes to be assaulted with awesome, maybe you even put on sunglasses, both to look cool and for protection. Then, you wait for the color to come… but it never does.
Much like your Dad’s approval, it simply never actually happens.
Instead, you drive along beige roads that thread themselves through a beige world like a giant beige treacle lattice. There are occasional bright spots in the form of the game's towns and the odd bandit outpost, but 99% of the world is dreary and washed-out.
The trailers lied to you, to me, to all of us. We are all in this dull soup together, floating around looking for the game that the trailers sold us.
Nevertheless, you push on, certain that the gameplay will make up for things. After all, there are superpowers in this game; imagine the crazy things you can do with this (honey, where is my) super suit. Of course, by this point, you’ve already unlocked the mighty… dash? That’s fine, a dash ability isn’t a bad thing.
One dash ability can help a lot, but Rage 2 asks, “What happens when you have two dash abilities? Wouldn’t that be off the hook?”. No. No, it wouldn’t, that would be incredibly dull when I wanted to be able to throw cars at people or vomit rockets.
The abilities you get are so run of the mill. The highlight of all the powers is the double jump, which is an ability that is everywhere else in gaming. Every. Where.
You don’t feel like you’re wearing a legendary piece of powerful armor, you feel like you’re being conned. “Oh yeah, if you wait you can run, like really fast, but in two different ways." What?
It’s like ordering an ice cream sundae in a restaurant only to be given two scoops of vanilla ice cream and nothing else. Not what you ordered, and incredibly disappointing.
I was going to write about how there is a disconnect between the trailers and the game itself, but that may be underselling it. Ultimately, the game is not what it claims to be. There is fun to be had with it for sure, but it isn’t the OTT game it should have been.
It should have had bright pink trees, neon yellow grass, a stained green sky, and just fire everywhere. The abilities should have left you feeling like a god, not like someone in a slightly fancy suit. Abilities that have you teleporting around or ripping out spines from afar with your mind. There is so much that could have been done to make Rage the bombastic and utterly absurd experience it appeared to be, but they just weren’t done.
The result is a game that is objectively fine, but nothing special. It doesn’t do enough to push the boat out, instead being comfortable tied to the docks and bobbing up only when the tide rises.
It lacks the oomph of a game like Dishonored or Borderlands because it lacks ambition. It’s a shame really, because if we got the game that the trailers were showing it could have been exceptional.
It could have been all the rage.