RAGE 2 is one of those shock titles no-one was expecting to hear, especially after RAGE saw such a small and mixed reception. It came as a surprise to everyone when a sequel was announced to a title that had faded mostly into obscurity back from when the Xbox 360 was still young and fresh!
Nonetheless, it was still a privilege to be invited along to the Bethesda offices in London to go hands-on with an early demo version of id Software’s latest shooter. Coming off the success of the recent DOOM title I was excited to see what RAGE 2 had to offer.
We began with a brief introduction by Tim Willits (Studio Director at id Software) giving a little bit of background and answering the question that had been on everyone’s minds; Why the delay? Technological restraints. Tim explained that the reason that it has been 9 years since the release of RAGE for the sequel to hit our consoles is due to the technological restraints preventing them from developing the game they wanted to deliver.
When RAGE came out it gave the pretense of being an open-world title that was sadly narrowly focused, the technology simply wasn’t there to support a bigger game world at the time and put everything in it that Tim and the team wanted to put into it. Flash forward 9 years and we have vast open world titles in stunning high definition visuals, setting the stage for RAGE 2.
RAGE 2 is being developed in conjunction with the team at Avalanche Studios (Mad Max), making the perfect partners for the RAGE 2 project. Tim explained that the Avalanche Engine was a perfect fit for their image of what they want RAGE 2 to be, supporting the huge open world and the intense action mechanics of driving and ground-based combat.
So after being treated to a short demo showing off some of the abilities and weapons, in a testing site that can be found in game by anyone intrepid enough to track it down, it was time to go hands-on and get balls deep in RAGE 2!
Immediate first impressions? RAGE 2 is pretty! The Avalanche engine is being used to great effect on environmental design. Mad Max and RAGE featured a very dull color palette, something Tim was quick to highlight during the teaser footage intro, this is something they took great lengths to get away from. The world isn’t just a brown and sandy wasteland anymore, but there are verdant green forest areas and swamps, expansive bodies of water and rivers and colorful settlements, cities, and characters.
The upgraded visual aesthetic and expanded artistic palettes are a vast improvement on the RAGE 2’s predecessor. The themes and styles from DOOM are clear for all to see and what’s more, they’re totally in keeping with the tone of the game and style they are going for. Despite a short hour or so play session it was obvious that RAGE 2 is going to be leaving it’s forebears choking on its dust.
Visually it’s spectacular, glory kills and frantic combat scenes are the bread and butter, but how well do they play? At first, it felt a little slow and clunky, combos aren’t tricky to maintain but they didn’t feel particularly fluid. However given time, you quickly become accustomed to it and can begin chaining sweet attack sequences and combos for the most damage and dramatic effects.
My one concern is that the combat may start to stagnate quickly. You have a pretty impressive range of weapons and equipment to draw upon, but there’s only so many different ways you can combine them before you get bored. It could be that we were shown all of the cool high levels, late-game stuff right before joining the game about 25% of the way through and having access to barely any of those cool things though.
Discovering the mysterious Arks and opening them provides your character with some cool upgrades to skills or new equipment which injects a little more life into the fight. It does feel as though it’s missing something though and no doubt when you have everything to choose from you’re going to fall back on the same weapons and combos.
Admittedly we played an early demo build of the title and release is a ways away yet, leaving plenty of time for new additions to be made and the final polishing touches to be added.
One thing that doesn’t need tweaking is the scripting and humor present throughout the short section I was exposed to. Characters are effortlessly fun and there are subtle hat tips and references to various pop culture topics. Stumbling across a degraded wretch of a human called “Brexit” while auditioning for Mutant Bash TV caused chuckles around the room.
Overall for a brief preview of RAGE 2, it sets itself up incredibly well! It’s fun and entertaining with high-intensity action and plenty to discover and do. Considering no-one was expecting to see a RAGE 2, it certainly comes as a pleasant surprise and I can’t wait to get hands on the full game!