RAGE 2 Hands-On Preview – Gory, Gruesome and Awesome
RAGE, when it was first released in 2011, wasn't entirely the game that people expected. It wasn't quite as open as first expected and there were too many, frankly terrible, driving sections. This doesn't mean it was a bad game by any means. With RAGE 2, id Software is partnering with Avalanche Studios. This partnership, unlikely as it may be, looks to deliver on any missed promises and less than great parts from the first game. From the part of the game I played at Gamescom, the shooting and powers are living up to the promise.
If any game from my host of appointments was going to disappoint me, it was going to be RAGE 2. Why? Because even though I think the original was a good game, it was still disappointing. There was always a risk that this, like the first, wouldn't deliver on the promise of an Id Software title in an open world where you can wreak havoc on any unsuspecting - or suspecting - enemy.
Following a short tutorial that taught me how to use the new abilities found within RAGE 2, the game was happy to let me wreak this havoc. There's no doubt that Id has learned well from their previous outing with DOOM. Shooting here in rage is fluent, frantic and incredibly satisfying. This is only enhanced further with a selection of special abilities and other items to use, including grenades and the return of the wing blade.
Of course, the new nanotrite abilities are the features that everybody is really interested in. The ones I was introduced to are Shatter, Slam and Overdrive. The first two of these abilities can be used at will, and to fantastic effect. Shatter unleashes a blast of energy from your hand, sending any enemy in front of you flying backwards, with a satisfying thud should they hit something solid. But then you may want to use Slam, where you launch yourself high into the air, coming down and fiercely slamming the ground, letting out a shockwave that scatters the enemy.
For every enemy you kill, your Overdrive meter will fill up. Once this is full, that's when you get to enjoy the fun, visceral combat in a way that should almost be illegal. It's that fun, I had a grin on my face. You become faster, your attacks do more damage and you recover health. You effectively become invulnerable, allowing you to rack up an impressive amount of kills. It's also where the game shows off a vibrant, almost psychedelic, selection of colours. It's fantastic to both look at and play.
You will combine these abilities with some incredibly strong weapons that will tear the enemy to shreds. Quite literally in the case of your wingstick, which has advanced abilities of either locking onto an enemy and chasing them - which is hilarious to watch - or targeting an enemy around a corner. If you so please, you can have it target an enemy and effectively bore into them before it blows up. The boomerang has nothing on this excellent piece of equipment.
Of course, adding to your arsenal are regular pieces of equipment like grenades, medkits and more. You'll need your full arsenal as well. Outside of Overdrive, enemies are far from being a pushover. The AI has been improved, so they're more than happy to flank you, pressure you when you're in trouble or take cover when needed. Of course, you can still use this to your advantage and trick them into coming out into the open.
It's some of the enemies that also add a level of difficulty by being well armoured. They may have a helmet that protects them from initial headshots. Some may be in almost full body armour, meaning they can tank your shots initially. Smart targeting does mean you can blow away sections of this armour and then just aim for the flesh parts. The mixture of these human enemies makes me look forward to what should be considerably more challenging and interesting enemies in the mutants.
Much like with DOOM, the sound design here is fantastic. The thud of an enemy as they are sent hurtling into a solid object, the pure power from your assault rifle or the clink as the next round is loaded into your shotgun. It all sounds visceral, nevermind looks it. Though it really does look fantastic too. The enhanced colour palette really sells the gore as your wingstick bores into an enemy before exploding, turning them into a fine spray of blood and viscera.
Set 30 years after the original, RAGE 2 from an introductory video I watched and was later told by a member of staff at Gamescom, will feature other major boosts. First and foremost is the inclusion of a true open world. Built through the partnership with Avalanche Studios it uses the Apex engine. Knowing the quality of Avalanche's open worlds, this is a positive sign if there was any. If anything, it could have been the internal locations and shooting that would suffer. This is something that's better than ever, as we've seen first hand.
What the change to the Apex Engine, and a partnership with Avalanche, has allowed is a creation of a world with variety. The world will feature multiple factions for you to interact with, across a seamless open world. An open world with as much variety as you could want, with multiple biomes ranging from arid plains to deserts, forests and wetlands - to name a few.
That's what inspires me the most. I'm confident that this won't be another brown-fest. The first game was rather bland, whereas this will likely have its dull areas, but even these are livened up by the effects of battle. Particularly so when you enter the vibrant purple shock to the system that is Overdrive. It's a range of colour that far exceeds the beige, khaki, Umber and all the other shades of brown from the original. I genuinely can't wait until I'm exploring the varied scenery within the game.
Sadly, I didn't get to see how travelling around in vehicles in the new open world will work, nor do I know how big the open world will be. I don't even know how good or detailed the story will be. What I do know, though, is that this is already an incredibly satisfying shooter that will have you gleefully bathing in the blood and guts of hordes of fallen enemies.
You can see my hands-on gameplay session with RAGE 2 below and see exactly how fast, fluid and simply enjoyable the game is. Sadly, I do look downright terrible at it because I've always been physically unable to play with inverted controls (up should be up!) on an Xbox controller. Still, I loved what I played. RAGE 2 is penned in for a Q2 2019 launch on the PC, PS4 and Xbox One. If the section of the game I've played so far is anything to go by, it's one to add to your wish list.