Look, I know Rage wasn’t most raved about game of 2011, its engine was too clever by half for the consoles and PCs of the day, it fell into the trap of forgetting to bring more than one colour to the table (brown, of course), and its post apocalyptic setting was thoroughly overdone at that point, but maybe there’s hope for Rage 2?
Things have changed an awful lot since the early days of Bethesda’s ownership of id. The developer has gone back to its roots with Doom, the Wolfenstein series is singing with MachineGames at the helm, and now they’ve brought in the purveyors of all manner of bombastic open world action at Avalanche Studios to co-develop Rage 2. Why go to anyone else when you want to turn your overly brown FPS into something much more vibrant and over the top?
Perhaps the biggest contribution to this shift in tone is the injection of colour and variety to the environments. You’re not trapped solely in dusty, Mad Max-esque wastes anymore, but will venture to swampy wetlands, will show you greens, blues, and quite a lot of pink, which helps take the edge off those golden brown hues you’d expect to see in a desert.
Playing through the slice of game at Gamescom, the first thing to understand was that this was basically just a tiny taster of the larger game. There wasn’t any of the vehicular combat here, none of the open world, hardly any of the environmental variety or stunning vistas, just the bare first person gunplay as Walker has to fight through to a satellite control computer.
That doesn’t make it any less fun though. It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s got a little of Doom’s modern day pace to it, but with the flexibility and thought that might go into an encounter in Wolfenstein. It’s built on the foundations of some great feeling weapons, like a really nice and impactful feeling shotgun and a good all round assault rifle, but alongside that is the original game’s distinctive Wingstick which can lock onto enemies and track them around corners.
Walker is augmented by Nanotrites, giving him plenty of extra abilities and a path to some all important upgrades, possibly courtesy of stuff that’s being slightly inconveniently stored in outer space in EcoPods. However you got them it’s these that give Walker his dodging Dash ability, the ground-pounding Slam attack which is more effective the higher you launch him at the floor from, while Shatter force pushes things you don’t like away from you.
All of the combat is geared toward powering you up the Ranger armour’s Overdrive, which can be unleashed at your will, amping up your speed, giving you more strength, adding extra pizazz to your gunfire, and inserting no small amount of death metal screaming to your internal monologue. Make the most of it, because it won’t last forever, but I do hope that a few upgrades down the road it will start to highlight enemies for you, which can be a little tricky to spot when you’ve cut their numbers down to the last few and when you’re dealing with the oversaturated distorting screen effects of an Overdrive.
Battling through Eden Space Centre – with the building’s AI conveniently tricked into thinking you’re the president to give you full access – you’re not fighting the game’s big bad, the resurgent Authority, but rather the dumb wasters on the Goon Squad. They’re not the brightest bunch, but they do have the benefit of being able to throw the odd Mutant Crusher at you, a hulking big freak of un-nature.
While there might have been a great deal of indifference after the first game, Rage 2 feels like a completely different beast. Sure, it’s set in the same universe, the Authority are still the same bland-sounding enemies, but this game seems to be picking and choosing its inspirations much better than before, creating something that’s fast, fun and hopefully a lot more varied and interesting than before.