E3 2018 Hands-On Preview: RAGE 2 is Pure Open-World Crazy
It’s a marriage that simply doesn’t seem possible, yet it works incredibly well. Avalanche’s open-world expertise paired with id Software’s particularly visceral brand of shooting is a pairing no one even knew they wanted. RAGE 2 already had a steep hill to climb. People were confused when it was announced. A sequel nobody asked for to a mediocre game from 2011? My first gut-reaction to RAGE 2 was “why do we need another over-the-top post apocalyptic shooter?” Then I got some hands-on time with the game myself, wised up, and changed that thinking to “why don’t we need another over-the-top post-apocalyptic shooter?”
To be fair, RAGE 2 has its own special brand of crazy. I’ve seen it compared to Borderlands, and while the similarities are there, it also retains influences from a number of different places, enough to make it feel like its own thing. It’s actually so different from the first game in tone and gameplay, only the setting and some crossover characters really warrant the “2” in its title.
Set some years after the events of the first game, RAGE 2 is about humanity accepting the apocalypse and beginning to move forward. It’s still a massive wasteland full of violent factions, but it’s a bright and colorful world where people have accepted that this particular brand of violence and chaos is more or less life now. The splash of color helps to set it apart from other drab brown post-apocalyptic games like Avalanche’s own Mad Max. It’s also what earns it the comparison to Borderlands.
In my hand-on time with the game, I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the open-world aspects of the game (Avalanche says there will be no loading screens in the completely seamless environment). What I did get a chance to play with was id’s special brand of gunplay, a fast-paced, visceral shooting I can only describe best as “quick and chunky.” The guns feel great to use, and the special character abilities are a lot of fun to play around with, splattering enemies into bloody chunks of flesh. If there is anything id is known for, it’s their desire to get you into the fight. Aggressive play styles are not only encouraged, but rewarded.
Kills in quick succession will increase a multiplier on the screen, which will in turn fill your overdrive meter even faster. Activating overdrive will increase your damage output and health regeneration for a short period. If you thought RAGE 2 was aggressive before, just wait until that overdrive kicks in. It pushes players to get right up in enemies’ faces with massive guns and a range of destructive nanite-powered abilities.
Each of the abilities–including a telekinetic push and a ground-shaking slam–cool down quickly, so I felt comfortable using them at any point in the fight. Often games will create a feeling of wanting hold onto special abilities, waiting for bigger enemies or tougher parts, but RAGE 2 wants you to use them all the time. The bladed boomerang–called the wingstick–is back too, and has more abilities than the first game’s iteration, including tracking targets around corners. RAGE 2 feels like a chaotic dance of bullets and blood, and it feels great to fall into a rhythm of movement and attacks for each skirmish against groups of enemies.
The E3 2018 demonstration was just a short look at how Avalanche and id are transforming what we think we know about RAGE 2, and it was enough of a taste to make me want to keep playing. There are still a lot of pieces of the game that we have yet to see firsthand, including the open world and traversing through that environment. If Avalanche is pouring the same kind of expertise into that side of the game that id Software is into the first-person combat, RAGE 2 could be the best kind of wasteland wedding between two powerhouse developers.