Rage 2 Preview: Unhinged and In Your Face

by David Sanchez July 2, 2018 @ 10:55 pm

If you played Rage from id Software back in 2011, it’s highly likely you fell into one of two categories. Either you liked the game and thought it was a fun shooter from a dev team that excels at making good shooters, or you were vastly disappointed that this wasn’t id’s take on the Borderlands formula. I leaned more toward the former, except rather than just thinking Rage was pretty cool, I was like, “Holy crap! This game is rad and badass and oh, man, I gotta shoot that mutated dude over there and aaarrrggghhh!”

Naturally, when Rage 2 was leaked by a Canadian Walmart listing, the reception was once again divided. Some people were interested in seeing where the series would go next. Others literally asked, “Why?” And then there was me: Aaarrrggghhh! When I found out Rage 2 was playable at this year’s E3, I had to jump in and check it out for myself. And while the free ice cream that was given out at the Bethesda booth was a nice touch, it was actually playing Rage 2 that stood out as a show highlight for me.

Like its predecessor — and if we’re being completely real here, like Doom, as well — Rage 2 is all about fast, fun, and frenetic shooting tomfoolery. You’ve got big guns at your disposal and armies of enemies in front of you — you do the math. The shooting is frantic and enjoyable, and the enemies range from too stupid for their own good (your typical grunts) to more methodical (the kinds of enemies that actually utilize cover). Whatever the threat you’re facing, though, your goal is simple: Kill it.

During the 15 minutes that I played Rage 2, I really liked the gunplay. Weapons feel sturdy, and there’s just the right amount of kick to keep you from ever going full-on John Wick. That said, you will go a little bit John Wick in Rage 2 as the game is quite clearly meant to fulfill your unstoppable-force-of-death-and-destruction fantasies. You’ve got assault rifles, shotguns, and grenades to keep things from ever getting dull. Oh, and enemies have access to these weapons, too, so tread carefully if you don’t want to get blown to pieces by an enemy grenade.

As if the guns didn’t make you feel like a cool enough badass, you’ve also got the wingstick, which is making its return from the original Rage and is even more useful this time around. You can toss it at bad guys and deal minimal damage, or you can lock on to dudes and send that thing spinning into their skulls. Seeing the wingstick rapidly spin as it stays lodged in an enemy’s cranium is weirdly satisfying and keeps the outrageous vibe of the game cranked all the way up.

If you find yourself especially overwhelmed, you can unleash your special shockwave fist drop to create some space between you and your enemies while simultaneously dealing damage to them. Bringing your fist crashing down after performing a jump is awesome, and if you manage to land right on an enemy, you’ll turn them into ground beef.

As you rack up kills, you’ll fill your Overdrive meter. Once full, you can trigger Overdrive mode, which adds a colorful filter to the screen and makes you even more unstoppable. While in Overdrive, your weapons deal more damage, which means you’ll be able to destroy marauders at an even faster rate. This mode will also help get you out of sticky situations when you find yourself backed into a corner and realize you’ve filled your Overdrive meter.

The trailer for Rage 2 indicated that the game was going in a wild new direction from the original. Playing the game myself, I can definitely confirm that everything is crazier this time around. Enemies look more insane. The action is even more intense and unrelenting. And the combat is borderline cartoon-like — that’s a good thing, by the way. I didn’t get into any driving gameplay, but that was one of the weaker things about the first title, along with the overworld. Here’s hoping the driving and world in Rage 2 are more fully realized this time around.

Admittedly, while Rage 2 looks good, it’s not the leap that the original Rage was for its console gen. In 2011, no other game had realistic character animations quite like Rage, and though there was some ugly texture pop-up, overall, the game looked fantastic. Rage 2 isn’t at that level for modern hardware, but even though it isn’t a technical marvel, it’s still a really nice-looking game in its own right, and its broader color palette is much appreciated when compared to the browns and sepias of the original.

The 15 minutes I spent with Rage 2 flew by in an instant. It’s a shame that the game is scheduled to launch next year, because if it were out tomorrow, I’d run to the store and buy it posthaste. Alas, we’ll have to wait until we can get our hands on the finished product. It looks like that wait may be worth it, though. Rage 2 arrives on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC during the first half of 2019.

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