‘Rage 2’ Hands-on Preview

‘Rage 2’ is a chaotic, apocalyptic melee, and we’re dying to play more

Rage 2 takes the fast-paced shooting gamers loved in Doom, then sprinkles it with Mad Max flavor.
Rage 2 takes the fast-paced shooting gamers loved in Doom, then sprinkles it with Mad Max flavor.
Rage 2 takes the fast-paced shooting gamers loved in Doom, then sprinkles it with Mad Max flavor.

Highs

  • Great gunplay
  • Fast combat
  • Lots of fun abilities
  • Cool aesthetic

Lows

  • Unanswered questions about open-world structure

Never in my life did I expect to write the following sentence, but…

I want to play more Rage 2.

Sequel to a middling 2011 open-world first-person shooter by Doom developer Id Software, Rage 2 would have been the most shocking announcement of E3 2018 if word of its existence hadn’t leaked just a few weeks before the show. Despite losing the element of surprise, developer Avalanche Studios has given us reason to be astonished. Rage 2 is a completely different game from its predecessor  – and that’s for the best.

Smash and grab job

Rage 2 is an open-world shooter with some crafting and other RPG-adjacent elements. It is a true sequel, set many years after the events of the first game, once humanity “put the apocalypse in the rearview.” The world is still an unstable mess, though, teeming with rival marauder gangs and bloodthirsty mutants. You control Walker, the last “ranger” of the wasteland. While the story remains mysterious, we know your mission will involve fighting General Cross, leader of a new version of the “Authority,” which was the prior game’s big bad.

In our demo, Walker was tasked with clearing out an old government facility, the Eden Space Center, to call down a pod from space. Unsavory characters have overrun the facility, of course, and had to be dealt with. If that sounds kind of vague, well, it is. We don’t know a ton about Rage 2’s narrative.

But it doesn’t much matter. Like the Doom remake, every element of Rage 2 pushes you to play aggressively — to go after every enemy with everything you have. Ammo is always in great supply, so you can use the weapon you want to use. Your special nanite-powered abilities, including a quick dash, telekinetic “shatter” push, and jumping “slam” attacks, all refresh quickly.

We still have a lot of questions about the structure of Rage 2, but from what we’ve seen, it is built on a strong foundation.

You never need to hesitate to use any weapon or ability. We constantly jumped from assault rifle to shotgun to ability to “wingstick,” a bladed boomerang that can lock onto far away targets. Do what feels natural and let the chaos flow from your fingertips.

The game gives you incentive to take enemies down rapidly. Killing in rapid succession builds up a killstreak, which increases the charging rate of your “overdrive meter.” Overdrive increases the damage you inflict, and allows you regenerate your health. It is an excuse to go buck wild and take out large groups of enemies.

Of course, none of that matters if simple, repetitive actions aren’t satisfying. Luckily, Avalanche has teamed with Id Software on this game, presumably to perfect Rage 2’s shooting, and you can feel that contribution in every assault rifle burst and shotgun blast. The guns have a weight and force of effect that make you want to keep using them, to pick a fight and keep fighting. The same is true of the abilities, especially the slam attack, which becomes more powerful when you drop from great heights

But… What is ‘Rage 2’, exactly?

Rage 2 will let tool around the wasteland in a desert buggy, as well as other vehicles, including a low-flying vehicle that looks like an oversized tri-rotor drone. The roads, like everywhere in the game, will be treacherous. Marauding gangs terrorize drivers, which you’ll need to fend off or destroy enemy vehicles with rockets and any other ordinance you can strap to your car. Avalanche has some experience with crazy vehicular spectacles from making Mad Max and the Just Cause series, so there’s reason to hope that the car combat will be just as compelling as the on-foot combat.

A shooter can take great gunplay, interesting abilities, an intriguing aesthetic, and go a long way.

That said, we can’t speak to how the open world works, as that was not a part of our demo. Bethesda boasts that Rage 2 will be a load-screen free experience, so one can infer that moving around the world will be seamless. We found crafting materials in our demo, so it stands to reason that scavenging will play a role, but it’s hard to say whether that will amount to turning resources into ammo, or something more substantial.

We still have a lot of questions about the structure of Rage 2, but from what we’ve seen, it is built on a strong foundation. A shooter can take great gunplay, interesting abilities, an intriguing aesthetic, and go a long way. We’re looking forward to learning more about Rage 2 before it rides out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in Spring, 2019.

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