The original Rage was released all the way back in October 2011. That’s more than seven years ago – seven years since Rage launched to a decent (if somewhat muted) reception and now exists as a competent peculiarity in id Software’s back catalogue. When news of a sequel leaked and was subsequently confirmed before E3 2018, there was a murmur of excitement mixed with disbelief that the series would continue.
When Rage 2 officially burst onto the gaming scene it was a kaleidoscopic sight for the eyes replete with fluorescent pinks and garish greens, all mixed in the with shouty angst of Andrew W.K. and an ear-smattering of gunfire and explosions. It looked barmy.
Now, after some hands-on time with Rage 2, it’s easier to get a sense of where all that chaotic energy has been focused. Namely, there’s a mad post-apocalyptic world full of kooky characters, a whole bunch of ludicrous activities to get up to and that familiar brand of id shooting that the developer is now synonymous with thanks to years mastering the genre.
So, yes, Rage 2 is a terrific shooter, as you would expect. The weapons – whether you’re wielding a little pistol, meaty shotgun or devastating rail gun – all have a significant heft to them. It mainly comes back to the sound work that makes the impact of every shot clear, but you also feel it in the way enemies crumple or explode into a puff of red mist from some hits.
And, thankfully, id has taken through all the positive lessons it learnt from Doom and employed them for Rage 2. Guns and the game’s new powers all encourage you to push forward and get into the fight. You’ll want to rush in with the shotgun, bash enemies aside with a shoulder charge or knock them flying into the air with a ground slam before picking them off as they pirouette through the air.
“There’s no cover. Cover is for babies,” says id Software’s Tim Willits, just about summing up the approach to combat in Rage 2. “The success of Doom was pushing you forward into combat and rewarding you for getting into the fight to do the Glory Kills and to get drops. So, in Rage 2 that id style combat includes powers that are designed in such a way to get you into the combat. The faster you kill people, the closer you are you get the loop on the Overdrive. All those things get you into the fight.”
So, there’s the combat, but Rage 2 still has areas to improve upon more significantly if it wants to stand above its predecessor. One step id Software has taken to help achieve that is by partnering with Just Cause 3 developer Avalanche Studios. Not only do they bring their open-world expertise but also the Apex engine, which is much better suited to handle the type of game Rage 2 wants to be while avoiding the problems faced by the original.
“Don’t make an open-world game in a non-open-world engine. That’s the first lesson,” Willits says of the issues faced by the original Rage. “I’d like to say that Rage 2 delivers on the promise of Rage because in Rage you had the level loads and you had to go into a mission and you had to load into racing and load into driving and switch discs. So, this will give players more freedom.”
Freedom to explore the world is a key point for Rage 2 as well. It’s a crazy place, undoubtedly post-apocalyptic but not a world where people are struggling to survive. There are multiple biomes too, so it isn’t all just browns and greys, but there is also vegetation and water that makes the world more interesting to explore. “They see buildings and roads but it’s different enough to give us the flexibility and creativity to make sci-fi weapons and mutants and monsters and crazy factions and you can drive muscle cars,“ explains Willits.
That variety is especially important to when there are so many post-apocalyptic games out there now, so a bit of flavour and personality goes a long way. Adding to that is the world’s many off-beat characters, some of which Willits says are returning from the original game. You’ll be able to improve your relationships with some of these key figures in the wasteland too as you venture out in order to clear out encampments or find additional weapons and resources at hotspots across the map.
All of this does give you more of an impetus for all the carnage, though what really drives it is a shooter that’s simply fun and exciting to play. For a while now the genre has been bogged down a little by the ongoing tussle between Call of Duty and Battlefield. Meanwhile, the likes of Destiny 2 continues trundling along with more updates and content to support its own satisfying shooter loop.
Rage 2 doesn’t quite have the same purity or focus as the terrific Doom, yet there’s a solid shooter at the core that should do more than enough to scratch the itch until Doom Eternal later this year. If you’re looking forward to that sequel, then Rage 2 has the gunplay you’re after, plus it offers a whole host of ridiculous over-the-top mischief that should appease shooter fans who are looking for a game that breaks out of the current mould.
Developer: id Software, Avalanche Studios
Release: 14 May 2019
Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Price (RRP): £49.99