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Mordhau Player Critically Panned

Today on Highlight Reel we have Mordhau hitboxes, casual Division 2 deaths, smooth Rage 2 riders, and much more.

Watch the video then talk about your favorite highlight in the comments below. Be sure to check out, like, and share the original videos via the links below. Subscribe to Kotaku on YouTube for more! Catch up on all the episodes on the Highlight Reel Youtube playlist!

Highlight Reel is Kotaku’s regular roundup of great plays, stunts, records and other great moments from around the gaming world. If you record an amazing feat while playing a game (here’s how to record a clip), send it to us with a message confirming that the clip is yours at [email protected] Or, if you see a great clip around that isn’t yours, encourage that person to send it in!

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Searching For Crates In Rage 2 Sucks

Rage 2 is a violent and dangerous world. Every day is filled with action, explosions, car chases, and giant monsters. It’s all very exciting and a blast to experience. But one of the most prevalent activities in this world isn’t killing mutants or destroying enemy convoys. No. Instead, for some reason, the game really wants you to find a bunch of crates. So many crates. And it sucks.

I’ve been enjoying my time with Rage 2, even if the game feels like six things copied and pasted a thousand times. Luckily, most of Rage 2 is fun and feels great. I love the shooting and driving, so I don’t mind doing the same things over and over. It’s fine. What I do dislike and actively hate is how nearly every single location in Rage 2 is packed with the same collectibles. And each location tasks the player with finding them.

Again and again and again.

To be fair, you don’t have to find these collectibles which are usually crates and PDAs. However, if you want to fully check a location off your map you will need to spend some time searching for crates and stupid little PDAs.

And again, to be fair to Rage 2, you don’t have to collect these things. This is just a problem I have while playing. I just can’t walk away from these locations and see them on my map unfinished. I hate it. This is my personal hang up, I understand this. If you can drive by a bandit camp that isn’t checked off the map, more power to you. I can’t do it, which means I end up digging around every location searching for shit.

Here’s the thing though, even if these crates are optional, I don’t understand WHY these scavenger hunts are even in the game at all. Because they suck. They are just the worst.

Crates can be hidden almost anywhere. Sometimes they are just sitting out in the open. I love these crates. I’ll never say anything bad about these good ones. They are fine. But other crates are bastards, hiding in weird spots or under buildings. These crates are annoying, but I understand that these scavenger hunts need to be a bit challenging, so I’ll get grumpy at these bastards, but I don’t hate them.

No, I reserve that hatred for the asshole crates.

These assholes are always a pain to find. Here’s an example of an asshole chest. I was searching a bandit camp in Rage 2, looking for the last crate in the area. I spent way too long digging around this area, searching every room, behind rocks and even vehicles. I almost gave up. Suddenly, as I was walking by a large shipping container, my view stopped moving and locked onto the doors for a moment. I stopped and checked the container and found the doors were locked with a small pink padlock and my reticle was locking on to this object due to auto-aim. I shot it, the doors opened and I found the last crate. What an asshole.

This sucked and wasn’t fun. I didn’t feel clever finding this box. Up until this point, I had no idea I could shoot locks that I found randomly in the world. I didn’t even know I could check shipping containers, as most of them are locked and can’t be opened. In fact, at this location, there was actually a few other containers that I couldn’t open. After finding it I felt cheated and it left a sour taste in my mouth, a taste that I quickly rinsed away by shotgunning some bandits later.

There is an ability players can unlock that adds a item tracker to the in-game HUD. I didn’t have this tracker for my first few hours of Rage 2. Once I did unlock this tracker, I was excited. Finally, chests will be easy to find.

Except there was a big problem: The tracker blows.

It works well enough in large and open areas. But more compact or vertical bases are still a massive hassle to search. One problem is that the tracker seems to be inconsistent or at least it feels that way. It also has a problem with how it works. It tracks not just crates, but PDAs and Ark chests (another collectible some areas have you search for.) This means if a PDA, chest, and crate are close to each other, the tracker will change wildly as you move in different directions. I’ve gotten better at using it, but it doesn’t really solve my main problem with these overused checklists.

These item searches are a terrible activity. They aren’t fun or interesting and their rewards are rarely worth the time. These damn crates are a wonderful example of how overstuffing an open world can lead to things that are created simply to be time sinks. A way of making that list to “finish” the game get longer and longer.

These things add little to no value to the game and for the players, like me, who try to complete them, they often make us hate playing the game we were enjoying just a moment earlier.

So if you are enjoying Rage 2, don’t worry about tracking down every chest. Find what you can and if you really feel up to it, wait until you unlock the tracker before looking for all these collectibles. Don’t make my mistake. Instead, have fun. Don’t worry about checklists.


These Rage 2 Characters Have Amazing Names But No Backstories, So I Made Some Up

I’ve met some real characters during my time playing Rage 2. And by characters, I mean glorified quest dispensers. There’s old guy, cool lady, and of course—who could forget?—third main story person. These folks get functional speaking parts, but I honestly can’t remember a word they’ve said. They’re bland potato people in a perfunctory post-apocalyptic stew. But some of Rage 2‘s characters deserve better. I speak, of course, of all the otherwise faceless NPCs with in-friggin’-credible names.

Rage 2—a game I’m enjoying because The Guns Feel Good, and sometimes that’s all you need—feels like it could’ve been the bizarro garage punk noise solo its trailers tried to portray it as, but then its mom came in and told it to turn down that awful racket. So now it’s got a standard-issue video game setting, but all the ladders are pink, because fuck you, mom. There are, however, sprinkles of legitimate strangeness throughout the game in the form of characters with names that beautifully straddle the line between trying too hard and not trying even a single bit. These, dear reader, are their names (that I didn’t make up) and their stories (that I did make up).

Bruise Armbar

A retired MMA fighter who earned his nickname by being wholly unable to bruise or armbar anybody and having very mean friends.

Annie Hilator

“Name’s Annie,” she tells people she meets through her job as a security guard outside a very exclusive club. “Annie Hilator,” she adds with a sly grin. “Get it?” No one’s ever gotten it.

Hella Brew

The coolest person in the whole wasteland. In his mind.

Ryan Cockaim

By day: the quietest guy at the accounting firm. By night: definitely does porn.

Fistu Lars

Ryan Cockaim’s partner. Not in porn, surprisingly, but very supportive of all his lover’s pursuits. Doesn’t believe in “the institution of marriage,” but would still kind of like it if Ryan proposed.

Peter O’Nails

Every time anyone’s asked him how his day is going, he’s replied “bad.”

Acid Rayne

Actually a staunch conservationist, trying to bring plants and wildlife back to this smoking crater of a world. He swears he saw a duck once, to the point that it’s the only story he tells at parties. People laugh at him for this, and he suffers from pretty bad depression.

Lazer Fist

She is THE LAW.


Younger brother of Bruce, older brother of Brucest.

Bad Bertha

Probably one of the top ten worst Berthas, but surprisingly not that bad as far as people go, in general.

Andi Wasteland

SWEARS the wasteland was named after her and not the other way around. Might be right???

Bronco Koronco

Can only say his own name. Is the life of every party.





The final Twitter user. Named by his mother, who was the final Twitter user before him. She passed away many years ago, but remains his only follower. It’s all very tragic, actually.

Lisa Nailgun

The real main character of Rage 2. You’re just a supporting character in their story. Sorry to break it to you this way. If you need someone to help you process this, just hit me up. I’m happy to help. You know I care about you.

DognBone von Carrotcake

Like I’d sully a name this good with some pithy made-up story.

Durk Viscous

Right hand man of DognBone von Carrotcake. Knows very little about about them. Loves them with all his heart. Spends all day on the internet re-posting #relatablecontent.

Wimothy Tillits

I don’t know. Some loser, probably.


VR Gun Fu Backfires

Today on Highlight Reel we have VR guns in Blade & Sorcery, carriage stops in Red Dead Online, difficult climbing in Rage 2, Days Gone bike trouble and much more!

Watch the video then talk about your favorite highlight in the comments below. Be sure to check out, like, and share the original videos via the links below. Subscribe to Kotaku on YouTube for more! Catch up on all the episodes on the Highlight Reel Youtube playlist!

Highlight Reel is Kotaku’s regular roundup of great plays, stunts, records and other great moments from around the gaming world. If you record an amazing feat while playing a game (here’s how to record a clip), send it to us with a message confirming that the clip is yours at [email protected] Or, if you see a great clip around that isn’t yours, encourage that person to send it in!


Rage 2 Has Already Been Beaten In Under Two Hours

Rage 2, Bethesda’s new post-apocalyptic shooter, takes place in a big, open world full of enemy outposts to clear and quests to grind through. That hasn’t stopped one speedrunner from already beating it in under two hours.

Over the weekend, speedrunner CreeperHntr set the Any% world record for Rage 2 with a time of 1:53:26 after days of trying to work out an ideal route through the game and the best way to take advantage of the various out of bounds glitches players have found since the game came out on May 14. For all of its problems, Rage 2 has some precise and elegant shooting, which comes through beautifully in CreeperHntr’s run.

CreeperHntr’s current route focuses on trying to the get the game’s rocket launcher as quickly as possible, since it stuns bosses and thus shaves lots of time and difficulty, and boosting all of the game’s three characters to level five along the way to unlock their secondary quests, which are required to finish the game.

Out-of-bounds glitches are also key. Currently two have been discovered that help cut down on time. The first skips much of the labyrinthine Genetic Research Station in the Double Cross mission. The other, in the Beneath the Surface mission, requires climbing up into the area’s rafters and into a closed-off section of the map that immediately breaks the game and allows players to quickly bypass even more of Rage 2.

The run also partly relies on Rage 2’s arsenal of special abilities and performance-boosting perks. Upgrades to reload speed and movement speed, both while sprinting and aiming down the sights, help CreeperHntr get through the game more quickly. Abilities like Rush, which lets you blink forward several feet, and Grav Jump, a double jump that makes it possible to platform out of bounds, are also key.

CreeperHntr mostly speedruns first-person action games like Prey, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Dishonored 2. They also currently hold the world record for the legacy rules category in 2016’s Doom. Since Rage 2 has a lot in common with the most recent Doom, as Id Software was involved in creating both, it’s a natural fit for the speedrunner.

“I’d say that the gunplay is what really makes it fun,” CreeperHntr told Kotaku in an email. “It feels like an open-world version of Doom.” That open-world aspect means there’s still plenty of ways to improve on CreeperHntr’s initial world record. CreepHntr said that other players are working on ways to skip the game’s lengthy tutorials, while simply perfecting the current route would lead to a time of close to 1:40.


Fashion Is Important In Rage 2

How important is fashion and clothing after the end of the world? For most, I think they would say “Not very important. Also, help me kill these mutated bandits trying to steal our food.” But in Rage 2, you can find folks who still give a damn about how they look, even after the world has died. Some of them are goofy looking, but they own it.

Rage 2 has a few large cities and towns dotted around its wasteland and stopping by these locations you can find an assortment of NPCs, each dressed in colorful and odd garments and hats. While this is mostly a background detail, the game does have a surprising amount of content in it related directly to the threads you and others are wearing.

For example, one of the very first things you do in the game is put on somet clothing. Granted, it is Ranger super-armor, but still interesting that the game doesn’t really start until you change your look. Throughout the game, characters will comment upon your outfit, too.

Then there is the town of Wellspring, which actually has guards out front who only allow people in if they are dressed in an impressive or cool looking way. The first time I arrived, I found a small line of people hoping to get in. Some would make it in, others would be told their clothes weren’t fresh enough and be sent packing.

Once you make it into town, thanks in part by your own cool Ranger suit, you can encounter two men who are both wearing the same outfit and who have a confrontation over their matching duds. I’m not a huge fan of how these two men are handled in the game, using crappy stereotypes of gay men, but it does show how important fashion is to the folks living in this town.

Once I got into Wellspring I used the in-game free camera to take screenshots of all the various folks walking around the town. Many of them were dressed in colorful attire, with strange hats or brightly colored accessories.

Though not everyone was as flashy. One woman, a merchant, wore a little simple and sleek yellow dress.

I saw a man rocking a very striking look, with top of his body uncovered and wearing a large belt. He was a busy guy, walking around with a tablet all day.

It also seems the people in Rage 2 and the mask loving citizens found in Anthem have some things in common. I spotted a few folks wearing goggles and masks that reminded me of the masks I found exploring the main town of Fort Tarsis in Anthem.

Shorts are short in Rage 2. Men or women, it doesn’t matter who, many are rocking hot pink short-shorts. I approve.

One of my favorite looks was worn by a woman, who like the half-naked man from before, was very busy and walking around while using her tablet. But unlike that dude, she rocked some amazing boots that looked both stunning and deadly.

How many of these outfits are practical? I’m not sure and I don’t really care.

Instead, I enjoy just how colorful and fashion-focused the world of Rage 2 is compared to other games set in virtual wastelands. Fallout games, for example, rarely have NPCs dressed as colorfully as Rage 2‘s locals. The same is true of The Last of Us or State of Decay. Sure, I get it. Those games are more grounded or are trying to create a darker world for players to explore. Which is cool. I like those games a lot too. But I do enjoy Rage 2 going a totally different direction.

Even the enemies dress up. Some of them at least.

So much of Rage 2 is a bit…old hat. End of the world, mutants, heroes from the past, deadly bandits, large mutated monsters, etc. So adding extra color and style to the world helps make it feel different and fresh.

Besides, who doesn’t want a world where folks dress up in hot pink shorts and nobody bats an eye? That sounds like a great future.


Rage 2 Drops Denuvo DRM In Record Time

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Denuvo is anti-piracy tech that was once seen as uncrackable but is now viewed as more of a nuisance than anything. While tests have proven inconclusive, some believe it has a notable impact on games’ performance. It’s also the de facto DRM software of our time, and nobody, except big business, likes DRM. When Rage 2 players discovered it was tagging along for the ride in the post-apocalyptic shooter’s Steam version, they were not pleased.

They didn’t have to wait long for a solution. Rage 2‘s latest Steam patch touts that it “removes Denuvo DRM” because its developers “saw a few requests”—emphasis theirs. Rage 2 came out on May 14, meaning that player complaints got it stripped of Denuvo mere days after release.

It’s not uncommon for developers to remove Denuvo from their games, but usually that only happens months down the line, after the copy protection software has served its purpose in the boom period immediately following release. In this case, however, publisher Bethesda and developers id Software and Avalanche were dealing with a few factors that really threw a wrench in the works.

For one, there was all the passionate fan response to Denuvo’s presence in the game, which took on an even more aggrieved tone than usual due to the fact that the DRM wasn’t present in the game’s Bethesda Launcher version. This led to the usual slew of negative Steam reviews, forum posts, and other complaints. On top of that, Rage 2 was cracked within less than 24 hours of its release, seemingly because of the aforementioned lack of Denuvo in its Bethesda Launcher version. Given that Denuvo’s stated goal is to “protect initial sales” from piracy, there was likely no real reason for Bethesda, id, and Avalanche to keep it around anymore.

So now, at the very least, Rage 2 has a lack of Denuvo going for it. Unfortunately, while I’m enjoying the pimple-popping goodness of the game’s shooting, it seems like a lot of people—including Kotaku’s Gita Jackson—are finding that it quickly wears out its welcome. I suppose in that regard, the Denuvo-flavored apple didn’t fall very far from the tree. 


Rage 2: The Kotaku Review

Rage 2 is caught between Good Stupid and Bad Stupid. In the end, Bad Stupid wins out.

Rage 2 takes place on a dystopian, desert Earth that was struck by a meteor over a century ago. Much of the population has been wiped out, and civilization is a shadow of its former self. In the first Rage, you were a survivor, put in cryogenesis in a futuristic building called an Ark before the meteor hit, and you woke up in order to defeat the fascist Authority bent on taking over what was left of humanity. In Rage 2, the Authority is back, and now you’re a new character named Walker who has to take them down after they killed Walker’s adoptive mother and destroyed their home.

Walker, who can be male or female, is a Ranger. Rangers wear armor that basically gives them super powers, and they can use extra-powerful weapons. You find new weapons and powers as you visit Arks across the world. I was eager to find those powers and weapons, but in the end they were a little lackluster. The first power, Dash, lets you dash, but I didn’t use it much. The second power, Shatter, is a concussive blast that can tear the armor off enemies and also explode them. I used it a little more, but by the end of the game I forgot it existed. Getting a double jump was useful, but I could also climb pretty much anywhere. I also barely used my fourth power, Slam, which let you slam to the ground and knock out enemies. There were more powers I could unlock, but I didn’t end up looking for them. They didn’t feel worth seeking out.

It isn’t that using these powers isn’t fun. It’s exceptionally fun to explode a man through his armor with my fist. It’s just that more often than not, the easiest and fastest way to get out of a jam is to shoot something until it’s dead.

That wouldn’t be an issue if shooting things until they’re dead wasn’t so dull. You end up with very cool weapons if you visit Arks: I remember when I found the Spitfire Revolver, a gun that sets people on fire. The first time I set someone on fire with my revolver, it was like I had been given a shot of adrenaline to the heart. After sticking to my trusty assault rifle and shotgun for much of the beginning hours of the game, I was ready for things to get Good Stupid.

Rage 2 convinced me it would be Good Stupid during E3 last year, when Bethesda brought out Andrew WK to play “Ready To Die.” Andrew WK is Good Stupid, like early twenties bad decisions you talk about years later or “doing it for the Vine.” His music is unrelentingly positive, urging the listener to go out in search of the unpredictable, violent beauty of life. When I found the gun that sets people on fire, I thought I’d also found where Rage 2 was hiding its Good Stupid.

When you come out of an Ark, after a quick tutorial on the new weapon or power you’ve gained, you’re greeted by a host of enemies to try your new thing out on. With the Spitfire Revolver in hand, I shot some guys, and then lit them on fire by hitting the button you’d normally use to look down the sights. It was hilarious, until I realized that the gun wasn’t taking enemies out as quickly as I needed. I switched to my shotgun, but it was too late. I was swarmed, and I died.

I figured I’d just try again, building on what I’d learned. That time, I lasted longer in the firefight but died again. I tried to come out on top two more times using the Spitfire Revolver, but each time I was overtaken by enemies and died. Reluctantly, I switched to the assault rifle and took down the crowd easily. I never took out the gun that sets people on fire again.

Screenshot: Rage 2

This feeling of having something cool but never really needing it persisted through my time with Rage 2. The way you can move during combat is thrilling, sprinting across the length of the stage and jumping up and down platforms. It’s fun, but it’s much simpler to take down your enemies by funnelling them into a corridor and then hitting them with the assault rifle. Car combat is cool, especially given my fond memories of slamming other cars with mine in Mad Max, which was developed by Rage 2 developer’s Avalanche. But when I went out to take down a convoy in Rage 2, I felt cheated. There isn’t a lot of strategy involved: Your car, which talks though I wish it wouldn’t, helpfully tells you when a semi-truck’s weak spots are visible. You could ram other cars, but it’s more expedient just to shoot them. Like every large enemy in this game, most vehicle battles come down to “shoot the glowing blue thing.”

Want to take down an Authority sentry, an obelisk that shoot lasers at you? Shoot the glowing blue part. Want to take down a Crusher, a huge mutant that shoots lasers at you? Shoot the glowing blue part. Want to take down General Cross, the leader of the Authority? Shoot the glowing blue part. Oh, and you have to do it three times, every time.

This is where Rage 2 is Bad Stupid. Bad Stupid makes me feel condescended to. Boring boss fights are Bad Stupid because they rob me of the chance to use my powers in an interesting way. You’d think boss fights would be chances to learn new strategies for using your powers, or at least moments for the gross out of excessive gore. Instead, most boss battles were simply opportunities for me to use my rocket launcher, which didn’t have much application outside of boss fights. It’s nice to use the rocket launcher, but boss battles still came down to shooting the glowing blue part, albeit with a bigger gun. For the most part, Rage 2 shows that it’s hard by shoving more enemies at you. By the end game I could carry over 400 bullets for my assault rifle and take them down just like every other fight, which is Bad Stupid.

Screenshot: Rage 2

Rage 2’s most egregious instances of Bad Stupid are in the writing, which doesn’t seem to like its own plot or characters. After a dozen quests where I was sent to a location to kill some guys, Doctor Kvasir, a mutant-riding mad scientist, summoned me for a mission to get a strand of General Cross’s DNA in order to make a virus that would kill him. After a little back and forth, Walker said to the doctor, “Let me guess, I’ll be able to find it in a heavily fortified base filled with baddies to kill?” She sounded bored, even exasperated. That moment was probably meant to be self aware, but it just made me want to scream. Knowing that the narrative has a problem and putting a lampshade on it is not the same as actually addressing or fixing that problem.

There’s one particularly bad moment with a character called Mama JoJo, who you meet in Lagooney, one of the three Trade Towns in the Wasteland. Lagooney itself is gorgeous, a Floridian wetland full of overgrown bamboo and tangles of weeds. The people of Lagooney aren’t particularly interesting. Like much of Rage 2, Lagooney is a pastiche of other pieces of media, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It’s just that Lagooney is, well, a redneck town. If you think Appalachians are funny, you might like hanging out there. It’s not really my jam.

Mama JoJo is an information trader in Lagooney. His name is Joseph, he told me, but “everyone” calls him Mama JoJo. He has his hair cut in a soccer mom bob and wears a cropped tank top with a slit in the top to show off his cleavage. It registered to me that this was supposed to be funny, but I had trouble figuring out who the joke was on. Was I laughing with JoJo, or at him? I never went back to Lagooney.

Not all the towns are like Lagooney. I really liked Wellspring, the closest thing to a city in the game’s Wasteland. It’s neon and bustling and big, with a nice market area right outside of town hall. I like Wellspring’s mayor, Loosum Hagar, a straight-shooting woman who tells you to watch your back each time you leave her office. I liked the weird dynamic she has with Klegg Clayton, a rich blowhard trying to assassinate her and take over the mayor’s office. He’s all glitz and glam, while she’s more rough and tumble. Her writing was Good Stupid.

There are other instances of Good Stupid in Rage 2. I enjoyed using the rocket launcher, and I really liked driving up to enemy bases and shooting people with my car’s gatling gun. I liked when people’s brains straight up popped out of their heads when they died, and the wet squelching sound when I got a headshot. Though I defaulted to them out of disappointment with the game’s other tools, I really loved how the shotgun and assault rifle felt to shoot. The shotgun is booming and knocks back enemies, while the assault rifle is precise when I need it to be and sprays a nigh endless barrage of bullets for every other time. What all this misses is the sense of earnestness that makes Good Stupid things like Andrew WK’s music so great.

Screenshot: Rage 2

There’s no irony to Andrew WK’s music. It’s not deep. His most recent album, You’re Not Alone, kicks off with the lead single, “Music Is Worth Living For.” It’s not smart, nor subtle, and it doesn’t need to be. It makes you feel good.

When I met characters like Mama JoJo, or when Walker lampshaded the saminess of the quests, or when Rage 2’s interesting intrigue between characters ended up just being another rendition of Go To A Location And Kill Those Guys, I didn’t feel good.

Rage 2 has moments of Good Stupid, but they’re outweighed by moments of Bad Stupid: uninspired and rote enemy encounters, not enouch reasons to use my powers, and a general disdain for its own fiction. For a game about being an overpowered Ranger who can punch people until they explode, I rarely felt powerful. Rage 2 promised me chaos in its lawless world that I alone could save with big guns, super powers, and a bitchin’ car, but by the end, I was still looking for it.


Killing Rage 2’s Enemies Is As Satisfying As Popping Pimples

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

I know something about you that you probably won’t even admit to yourself, a fundamental human truth as undeniable as breathing: You like popping pimples. Slowly applying pressure until those tiny face volcanoes erupt into a gooey spew is one of life’s small pleasures. It is gross, yes, but so are a great many enjoyable things. Rage 2, for example.

I’ve played a few hours of Rage 2 at this point, and I largely agree with Gita Jackson’s early assessment: it’s fun, but lacking the sort of over-the-top moments that knock my socks into the stratosphere trailers promised. Still, I can’t stop coming back to it, because it just feels so darn good to play. But as I transitioned from video game adrenaline mode to pre-sleep anxiety mode while laying in bed last night, it struck me that in other games, I would be vehemently opposed to some of the game’s enemies. Some of Rage 2‘s early enemies, you see, wear thick armor or hide behind tall shields that you’ve got to chip away at with your assault rifle and pistol (the game’s starter weapons) in the middle of howling-mad bandit melees. This is nothing too crazy in the grand scheme of shooters, but usually, these sorts of baddies annoy me. In Rage 2, I love them. So then I got to thinking about why.

I despise shooter enemies that can be described as “bullet sponges,” especially when a good headshot won’t reliably do them in. It’s one of my biggest video game pet peeves. It doesn’t make enemies more challenging or interesting, just tedious in a way that strains what little credulity first-person shooters have in the first place. I realized, though, that there’s a difference between bullet sponges and what I’ve taken to calling “bullet pimples.”

Bullet sponges suck down ammo like your gun is a smoothie straw. Landing single shots on them is not particularly satisfying, either because they barely react, or every shot is a reminder that you’ve still got a long way to go before they get on with their journey to digital hell already.

Uncharted 2‘s enemies were all a little too bullet-spongy, but the hulking purple-blue Shambhala Guardians near the end of the game were the worst of the bunch. They charged at hero Nathan Drake through hailstorms of bullets, repeatedly shrugging off death’s grasping clutches and forcing you to clumsily break cover and flee. It wasn’t fun, just a cheap, repetitive pattern you had to perform until they died. Gone were the rudimentary tactics of earlier encounters with regular humans, replaced by ugly bullfights against monstrous ape-men who didn’t even need to take cover. Shooting them produced hardly any feedback. A full clip would stun them, sure, but just for a moment. When they finally went down, their death animation was perfunctory. No interesting reactions or sounds. At the end of these fights, I felt far more relieved than satisfied.

The bullet pimple is a different animal altogether. In Rage 2, armored Mad-Max-like bandits, mixed in with more vulnerable enemies, still react to shots with surprise and anger. Each shot you land on them sends shards of charred scrap metal flying. You might not be doing much damage, but it still feels like you’re doing plenty. A few well-placed shots to the head, and their helmets come off. Or maybe you just drill them with enough shots to the sternum that they compress like they’re going through a junkyard trash compactor. Or you use your armor-stripping super suit power to send them flying. Regardless, you land a killing blow, and the result is an insanely satisfying squishing sound accompanied by an eruption of unidentifiable body fluids. It’s glorious. Weaker enemies, too, die with an intoxicating squish after you’ve clamped down on them just right. This is in no way revolutionary, but Rage 2 gets the look, sound, and rhythm of it all just right. I cannot get enough of these screaming, pus-filled pimple people. Even when I’m driving across the wasteland to reach a mission, I get out of my car to fight randos. I must squish more, more, more. Just before going to bed last night, I found Rage 2‘s shotgun, and given that it’s a perfectly calibrated pimple-person-popping machine—a revelation—it’s a wonder I slept at all.

The process of applying consistent pressure to these enemies over time and receiving a triumphant ooze of audiovisual feedback really is hilariously akin to popping a pimple. In both cases, it begins with tension. You identify a pimple, and you squeeze it, but nothing happens. Instead, the tension just builds and builds. You have to find the right angle, get the right grip, and wait for the right time before you can blow the thing sky high. Maybe it’s not ready to pop yet. Maybe you’re not good enough. Maybe you have to come back later. You’ve got to do something about it, though. It represents a lack of equilibrium in an otherwise unmarred space. So you poke and prod and fixate until you finally pull it off, and—crucially—it’s worth it. The pimple goes pop, and it’s a disgusting little party on your face and fingers. It is tactile and horrible and wonderful all at once.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that I’ve always been drawn to shooters that follow this flow, going all the way back to the original Halo. Yeah, many Halo enemies are shielded and difficult to faze with a burst of regular shots, but when their shield bubbles pop, it’s like you’re the kid at the party who busted open the pinata. Fortnite takes this analogy literally; everybody’s got Halo-like shields, and when you kill them, they shower colorful loot in all directions. It’s little wonder to me that those are some of the most popular shooters of all time. They’re drawing on something intrinsic, after all: popping pimples owns.


The First Hours Of Rage 2 Are Fun But Repetitive

Screenshot: Rage 2 (Bethesda)

I’ve played a few hours of Rage 2, and so far it’s as loud and delightfully dumb as an Andrew WK song. I’m just afraid the fun will end soon.

When Andrew WK showed up at E3 last year to perform “Ready To Die” at Bethesda’s conference, I freaked the hell out. I love Andrew WK and the wild stupidity and joy of his music. In the first couple of hours I can feel that same wildness from Rage 2, but I can already tell where the joy may wear thin.

The opening of Rage 2 gets straight to the point. Your character, Walker, can either be male or female, and they become a member of a faction known as Rangers at the start of the game after they steal some armor from a Ranger who got his head bitten off. What is a Ranger? Doesn’t really matter, honestly, and Rage 2 gives you the present of not having to worry about that detail. You’re in the Wasteland, which is a wasteland. You’re trying to defeat the Authority, which for all intents and purposes are science fiction desert nazis. Your mentor? Dead in minutes. The rest of the soldiers you fight with? Mostly also dead. You’re apparently the only one left with this powerful armor, which Walker notes to her friend Lily with some delight. “Dude, I’m the only Ranger left,” your character says with a giggle. The comedic tone of the scene, despite the carnage, gave me shades of Beavis and Butthead.

The opening cutscene and gunfight of Rage 2 introduce you to a word full of deadly mutants, big guns and a lot of blood. It’s a world with roaming traders that you can flag down with a honk of your car horn, bandits and mutants fighting each other as you make your way to the next destination, and neon blue and purple flares sending smoke up into the sky. Sometimes the design of this world is beautiful in its ramshackle, used future kind of way. I was ready and waiting for it. But the game is not as wild as it appears so far.

As soon as I ventured off into the game’s open world, I felt like it wasn’t the neon soaked gorefest I had been anticipating. Sure, I stumbled into fights while on the road, and stole some cool vehicles to make my trek through the desert a little easier. But the mission at hand feels very formulaic, and the fun combat doesn’t quite make up for the lingering feeling that I’ve played a game nearly identical to this many times before.

Screenshot: Rage 2 (Bethesda)

In order to take down the evil General Cross, you have to find three people to help you, in three different locations on the map. On your way, you come across Arks, buildings that can give you special abilities if you can fight off enemies and get inside them. So far I’ve unlocked a double jump and an ability that allows me to break through armor and sometimes just explode dudes. It’s incredibly fun to use, but the repetitive gunfights make using my powers feel more like habit than an exciting tactical advantage.

In the three hours I’ve played, I’ve driven in the desert, found an Ark, killed off the bandits guarding it, gotten a new ability, killed more bandits, and then gotten back in my ride. Rinse, repeat. It’s a formula that works, but sometimes it blends in my brain with a whole bunch of other games. I could be playing Horizon Zero Dawn, or Far Cry 4, or even Avalanche Studios’ own Mad Max, with its own dystopian desert and wild vehicles. Rage 2 doesn’t do a whole lot to differentiate itself from those kinds of games, and the copy and paste feeling takes away from its world.

I’ve breezed through the early gunfights. So far, Rage 2 makes fights harder simply by throwing more guys at me. As I keep upgrading my skills, more bodies feel like less and less of a challenge.

I’m hoping continuing to upgrade my abilities will keep my interest for the entirety of the game. I’m here for the anarchy and bombast Rage 2 has promised, but unfortunately I’m still in search of it. I did have a moment early on that made me feel like I was truly fun and fancy free in a world unlike our own. I was driving to the next Ark when I came upon some enemies in the middle of the road. I had just hopped in my first vehicle and decided to try to run them over, saving myself some bullets. I did run them down, and they did die, but my car also exploded in a fiery wreck and I died. I laughed, having found some of the chaos I was looking for. Hopefully there’s more to come.