The next person we meet on our Wasteland tour is one Loosum Hagar, Mayor of Wellspring. She’s one of the few returning characters from the original Rage in 2011. You might know her as the teenager with the wingsticks from the original:
It’s been 30 years, and she’s now mayor of the town her father founded. She’s added a bit of gunslinging to her arsenal and the wasteland has made her cynical and hard-edged. She wants to help us with Project Dagger, but this is a video game so of course there’s a catch.
Klegg Clayton is some sort of wasteland douche lord. He’s rich, creepy, self-aggrandizing, vain, insecure, and ambitious. He’s trying to oust Loosum so he can run the city himself. Also, he’s somehow managed to get his hands on the super-secret Authority super-tank required for Project Dagger. So you need to deal with him.
In order to get in to see him, you have to gain access to the Winner’s Lounge. In order to do that, you need to win a car race and also win as a contestant on Mutant Bash TV. This kind of reminds me of becoming Champion in Fable 2 so you can get access to the villain’s lair. Like, really? The ONLY people Clayton associates with are dual-discipline ultra-badasses that have become champions in two different unrelated “sports”? It’s not good enough to just win one or the other? As with Fable 2, once you finally get inside it seems like you’re the only ultra-champion and all the other recruits are just regular peasants.
This doesn’t really bother me. Fable 2 took itself obnoxiously seriously and had a plot that featured child-murder, family-murder, pet-murder, and genocide. Rage 2 isn’t really funny per se, but it is aiming for comedy and it seems to be aware of how absurd this whole idea is.
Although just to be clear: In a storytelling sense, this is still technically bad form. Even in a comedy, you’d want to lampshade this or use it as a setup for jokes.
So now we have two sidequests / alternate game modes to go throughOne nice feature is that you’re allowed to do these ahead of time. If you happen to come across one of these activities while roaming around, you can play it right then. You don’t have to get to this point in the story in order to “unlock” them.. Let’s do the racing one first…
The Racing One
The race isn’t hard. It’s mostly an exercise in not crashing. It’s pretty standard rubber-band AI, and as long as you’re familiar with the course by the third lap you should be able to leave everyone in the dust. The interesting thing here is the race promoter Chaz Morass, because he’s a perfect example of the most annoying problem with the writing in this game.
This writer has a really weird tic, and it drives me up a wall. They’ll think of three different ways to phrase something, and instead of picking one they’ll smash them together into a big paragraph of redundancy. This problem goes all the way back to the original Rage. If anything, it’s worse this time around. I didn’t look at the credits so I don’t know if this is the same writer or a new writer with the same bad habit, but it’s damned annoying.
This problem applies both to spoken dialog and text-only datapads. Here’s an example of the latter:
I’ve never seen anyone else complain about this so maybe it’s just me, but this text is so bad it’s kind of angering.
First, the petty complaint: The overall voice is really weird. Is this supposed to be a text summary of an audio recording, or is this a text report that Ranger Goldman wrote? The phrasing doesn’t feel like spoken word at all, except for the bit where it says, “I’ve had several run-ins with ’em now.” It doesn’t make sense that Goldman would WRITE “’em” in a report, but the rest is too stiff to be spoken. “Old Eden is such a place” is a fairly stiff or formal statement, but “I’ve had several run-ins with ’em now.” is very informal / conversational.
The more serious problem is the sheer redundancy of the thing. He says their attacks are random and disorganized three different ways, and then immediately contradicts himself by saying they’re organized, which he says twice. I get that the point is that they seem chaotic in their attacks but you can tell they have a plan if you look for patterns, but he takes five sentences to say something I just said in one, and then he doesn’t even bother to explain what this alleged grand strategy is.
Most of the dialog in the game is like this. People talk for ages while saying very little, a problem which is exacerbated by the slow-ass delivery. Everyone spends a lot of time doing… dramatic… PAUSES! and drawing words out with weird accents and shouting.
This is an action game, not an RPG. The player doesn’t want a lot of exposition. What exposition we do have needs to be as fast as possible, as dense with information as possible, and as entertaining as possible. And if we can’t make it dense or entertaining, then it’s even more important to make it quick.
To do the race, Walker has to meet with Chaz so he can explain the rules and integrate the race with the fiction of the world. Most writers will tell you that dumping exposition on the player is something to be avoided. When you can’t avoid it, you try to make it fun by giving the exposition dispenser some sort of interesting twist like a weird personality, a curious backstory, or a series of running jokes. That way the dialog can pull double duty by delivering exposition and revealing this character. This character flavor is the sugar to make the expositional medicine go down.
This cutscene seems to be structured as though the “character flavor” is the point of the conversation. This conversation doesn’t advance the plot, explain the setting, or fill in any backstory. The conversation exists just for the sake of telling jokes.
Chaz’s personality quirk is that he uses lots of food-based metaphorsSUPER-trivial nitpick: His food references don’t make a lot of sense in this setting. Like, does anyone in the wasteland even know what a pancake is?. His dialog lasts for an excruciating minute and a half, and most of that time is just awkward pauses and food-based “jokes”. It feels like the writer came up with a couple dozen food-based lines of dialog, and instead of just picking the best three they used them all whether the scene needed them or not.
How I’d fix it:
CUT IT. Chop it down to the essentials. Spend the voice / animation budget somewhere that matters. For example, we could use Chaz’s dialog to convey…
The Missing Joke
The best idea in this scene isn’t really communicated to the player. The whole point of the scene with Chaz is that he has you sign a contract before you can race. According to this article, this is actually part of the joke of the world. There’s nobody in the wasteland that can arbitrate or enforce contracts. Chaz has you sign a contract not because it’s needed, but because he’s heard that this is how people did things before the apocalypse. These people don’t know how the Old World worked, but they’re sort of copying it anyway, as if the whole Wasteland is one big cargo cult.
That’s a great idea! I love it. It gives you a way to excuse any random Old World anachronisms you like. It’s funny, and it makes the world a bit lighthearted.
The problem is that this idea is never established in the minds of the audience. There’s nothing in the game to suggest that this contract-signing is based on a misunderstanding of the Old World. This is a punchline without the setup.
How I’d fix it:
Just lampshade this. Lampshadding – the practice of drawing attention to elements in the story that might seem like a plot hole, inconsistency, or simply something confusing – is a fantastic tool. Without it, you risk ejecting the audience from the story with something that makes them go, “Hey, waitaminute! I thought you said kryptonite would make Superman powerless and maybe kill him, but now he’s HOLDING some of it?!? This writer doesn’t know what they’re doing!” From there, the audience is on their way to story collapse.
But if you lampshade this – if you specifically have a character in the story point out this apparent oddity, then the audience understands that the writer DOES know the rules and IS paying attention. Instead of being ejected from the story, they become curious. The inconsistency then becomes a setup that can be paid off later. Maybe it will be a reveal, or a joke, or a plot twist.
“Oh! I get it! Clark Kent wanted to show he wasn’t Superman, so he held a chunk of glowing green plastic. Ha ha. Superman is so clever!”
Intent is the difference between a plot hole and a setup, and it’s nearly free! It can usually be established in a single line of dialog. Here in Rage 2, all we’d need to do is have Walker question the need for a contract, and then have Chaz explain why he’s doing it.
Walker: A contract? I don’t get it.
Chaz: Back before Apophis, everybody signed contracts.
Walker: Yeah, but without a court system to arbitrate, a contract doesn’t-
Chaz: (Interrupting.) Slow down, chickpeaI’m just copying the existing gag where Chaz calls you food things. I don’t think it’s a great gag, but I’m trying to make my dialog fit.. Civilization might be destroyed, but that’s no excuse to be uncivilized.
Walker: Okay fine. Whatever.
(Signs the contract.)
Do this a few times with different peopleYou’d need to do it at least twice to show that this is a quirk of the world and not just a quirk with Chaz., and the joke will sustain itself without needing to be explained. Then you can put random silly crap in the game and it all becomes part of the ongoing meta-joke. You just need to give the audience the proper setup so they know this is intentional. Your character then becomes the straight man in this giant wasteland circus.
Next time we’ll get back to the job of getting in to see Klegg Clayton…
 One nice feature is that you’re allowed to do these ahead of time. If you happen to come across one of these activities while roaming around, you can play it right then. You don’t have to get to this point in the story in order to “unlock” them.
 SUPER-trivial nitpick: His food references don’t make a lot of sense in this setting. Like, does anyone in the wasteland even know what a pancake is?
 I’m just copying the existing gag where Chaz calls you food things. I don’t think it’s a great gag, but I’m trying to make my dialog fit.
 You’d need to do it at least twice to show that this is a quirk of the world and not just a quirk with Chaz.
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