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Rage 2 is free on PC, which certainly helps one overlook its flaws

Who cares about the story when the shooting is this good?

A purple mohawked character faces a monster truck in the wasteland of Rage 2. Image: Avalanche Software, id Software/Bethesda Softworks

Rage 2 is a pastiche of better shooters that have been released in the past decade, but that aspect of its design hides one huge secret for people looking for hidden gems: The combat and sense of power from the game’s guns and abilities is almost unmatched in gaming right now. It’s the perfect free video game, if you’re in the mood for a first-person shooter. Which is great news, because it’s currently free on the Epic Games Store.

Rage 2’s story is a jumbled mess that I won’t even try to describe; let’s just say you play as a chosen one with special powers and leave it at that. You explore a somewhat open world, finding new weapons, working your way up through the tech tree, and unlocking a series of preternatural abilities while fighting against The Authority. You just know they’re bad with a name like that. The game’s aesthetic suggests something like splatterpunk, evoking the violent nihilism of the Borderlands series.

The original Rage was a pretty mediocre shooter from id Software, and John Carmack himself later directly apologized for its PC performance. So there wasn’t a lot that Avalanche Studios and id Software could pull from it for the sequel. You don’t have to worry about knowing the story beats from the first game to enjoy this one; it’s easily forgotten, and nothing of value is lost.

You may never care why you’re doing something in Rage 2, or who exactly you’re going after, but the combat itself shines like a beacon. Or at least, it does once you collect some of the better guns and abilities and get them nice and leveled up. The interface doesn’t always make this easy, but it’s worth the hassle.

“I can use one ability to fling enemies backward, slamming them into walls or each other,” I wrote in our original review. “I can use another ability to force enemies to float in the air, pulling other items toward them as if by the gravitational force of a very small black hole. I can turn myself into a human grenade and slam into the ground, reducing everyone around me to a bloody smear. I can upgrade my ability to leap high into the air until I can basically climb up the face of sheer-looking cliffs by spamming the jump button.”

This combination of abilities, as well as weapons that all sound and feel brutally powerful in action, makes Rage 2 into a creative playground of violence. How you kill folks is up to you, and you can spend a lot of time in the menus creating a fun loadout to get out there and just straight up wreck shit.

Rage 2 was a hard sell when it launched at $59.99, but for the cost of zero dollars, you should absolutely grab it. It’s a game that exists within a generic shell of attitude and faux edginess, and that can be annoying. But it can also be fun to giggle at the common gaming tropes and silly narrative excuses for how your player character became the most powerful fighter out on the battlefield.

Regardless, hidden inside this OK game is one of the best examples of weapon design and selection I’ve seen in quite some time. I’m always interested in just seeing how my arsenal grows and interacts with the world as I go forth and kill everyone I see in order to … do whatever it is I’m trying to do. There’s never been a better time to take out all your frustrations on virtual bad guys who are happy to die by the thousands.

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