RAGE 2 is An Unhinged Avalanche of Anarchy - Preview
Released more than seven years ago to a somewhat mixed reception, the original RAGE wasn't that bad. A fairly robust shooter with some gentle open-world leanings, it boasted a narrative that just sort of stopped and didn't really have a proper ending. And with such a long gap since the first game, we figured that was that, and RAGE would forever live in infamy as a game that had no satisfying conclusion and didn't quite manage to live up to expectations.
Enter Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios, who, under the guidance of original developer – and DOOM overlords – id Software, is developing the long-awaited (assuming anyone was actually waiting for a sequel) follow-up. As such, there's a clear shared DNA on show in RAGE 2, with both developers' grubby fingerprints all over it. You need only look at the game's Gravity Gun, tethering enemies in mid-air, or the vortex grenade, which sucks everything into its powerful epicentre, to see that the spirit of Rico Rodriguez has wormed its way into the game's raucous post-apocalyptic arsenal.
As far as the 'gun-feel' is concerned, however, this is very much id Software's rodeo. Weapons are uniformly meaty and satisfying, blasting enemies into oblivion with each and every pull of the trigger. This remains Avalanche's game, of course, and with an entirely new storyline, set 30 years after the original, there's a fresh cast of oddballs and weirdos to acquaint yourself with, in familiar locations like Wellspring, where your journey as rugged wasteland Ranger Walker (great name) begins in earnest.
At the behest of the mayor, Loosum Hagar, Walker is tasked with having to prove him or herself (your choice) to the leader of The Goon Squad and local oligarch, Klegg Clayton, by earning the title of 'wasteland celebrity'. Becoming a famous face in RAGE 2 is fairly simple, as it happens, so long as you're willing to put yourself through a series of potentially fatal situations – like a death race or a few rounds of Mutant Bash TV. Still the two most popular wasteland bloodsports, racing and Mutant Bash introduce you to the meat and drink of RAGE 2: vehicle-based mayhem and brutal gunplay.
Both are insanely good fun (despite some slightly floaty vehicle handling), but it's RAGE 2's 'nanotrite' abilities that mark the game out as something a little different from the usual FPS fare. As Walker, you can assign four different nanotrite skills and unlock new ones by infiltrating and raiding Arks, the shelters designed to protect the last vestiges of mankind amid the apocalypse. Skills like the violent 'shatter,' a push which explodes enemies on contact, or the earth-shaking 'ground slam' inject a sense of anarchic fun to proceedings. Combined with the likes of the shield wall, which proves fatal when enemies run through it, or the aforementioned vortex grenade, RAGE 2 presents you with a plethora of options with which to purge marauding bandits or mutants.
Each gun also has a secondary fire when aiming down the sights, effectively doubling your arsenal, and you can not only double jump to easily traverse environments, but aim in mid-air to temporarily hover and pick off baddies from above. Or you can wind up for an even mightier ground slam. Then there's the formidable Overdrive ability, sending Walker into a state of nigh-invulnerable frenzy, making you faster, stronger, and almost impervious to damage for a short period: perfect for crowd control. All of these abilities can be upgraded with skill points you'll earn, and you may also be happy to learn that the head-lopping wingstick is back too, in all its razor-edged, boomerang-esque glory.
There are plenty of toys to play with in Avalanche's latest sandbox then, and married to id's know-how when it comes to crafting beefy weaponry, there's ample fun to be had in beating a bloody path through the wasteland's gallery of undesirables. In terms of narrative, RAGE 2 is also looking to have a little more to it than the first game, and setting it 30 years on distances it somewhat from the events of RAGE 1. Following the Authority Wars that erupted in the wake of your actions in the previous game, as newcomer Walker you'll find yourself thrust into the middle of 'The Dagger Initiative' when your home town of Vineland is attacked by the Authority. That's about all we know for now, but you can expect to encounter more of the wasteland's bizarre power players in between slaying humans and monsters alike, while carving out your own fearsome rep.
Seemingly boasting a great deal more depth than its forebear, and an infectious sense of unhinged mania, RAGE 2 looks set to make good on its promise of providing a hefty dose of explosive open-world FPS mayhem. Post-apocalyptic deserts will be joined by other biomes such as swampland and jungle, and you'll be able to explore it all via the air while piloting a gyrocopter, if you so wish. There's clearly more to RAGE 2 than we've seen thus far, but after all is said and done, we're keeping our fingers crossed for a well-orchestrated ending this time around. Please.
RAGE 2 is out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on 14th May 2019.
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