Rage 2 Hands-on Preview: A Trip to the End of World with Bethesda

Pink is a vital shade on the subject of Rage 2. According to id Software studio director Tim Willits, the colour represents the sport’s ’80s hardcore punk aesthetic, one of many some ways Bethesda’s newest post-apocalyptic title separates itself from its drabber older brother over at Bethesda Game Studios. 

“That color resonated well with the personality of the game,” Willits explains throughout a behind-closed-doors demo occasion in New York City in January. “It’s a fun color, it’s a fun game.”

Rage 2, the sequel to id’s well-received 2011 first-person shooter, is definitely a collaboration between the legendary FPS developer and Avalanche Studios, the workforce behind the Just Cause sequence and the superb Mad Max. In truth, it is the latter recreation, with its attractive recreation of the Australian wasteland, colourful characters, and beautiful muscle automotive motion, that ought to actually excite gamers about this match made in heaven (hell?). 

Still, the intense colours — the pinks and yellows that permeate the sport’s trailers and Rage 2‘s world itself — are a little bit of a departure for this franchise, which in 2011 dealt in a muddy brown extra akin to these beloved George Miller films. The newfound brightness in Rage 2 acts as a form of mission assertion for this over-the-top, action-packed romp by a hellish panorama.

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“When we set out to make the game, we wanted to have it stand apart from the original,” Willits says. “The very first thing I wrote on a whiteboard after I met the Avalanche workforce was ‘extra loopy than Rage.’ Which led to extra of a enjoyable punkish vibe.”

After spending greater than an hour with a pre-beta construct of the sport, finishing quests that took me from the set of a televised mutant-killing competitors to a lethal raceway the place there are not any guidelines, there is not any doubt that id and Avalanche held nothing again on their quest to attain “extra loopy than Rage.” For probably the most half, this method works, even when sure facets of the sport come off a bit muddled within the title of creating Rage 2 as additional as attainable. 

You play as Walker, a super-science enhanced ranger with particular talents, 30 years after the occasions of Rage. While my demo started about 25% into the sport, Willits defined that the story truly opens with the destruction of Walker’s settlement, Vineland, by the hands of the Authority, which has returned in any case these years to retake the Wasteland. Walker, fueled by a thirst for revenge, decides to take the battle to the Authority and bury the militaristic faction as soon as and for all. 

Along the way in which, Walker meets acquainted faces and visits a number of recognizable places, corresponding to Wellspring, a walled secure haven that is taken care of by Mayor Loosum Hagar, a personality gamers first met in Rage. (Interestingly sufficient, Loosum dies within the Rage novelization by Matthew Costello. I assume id and Avalanche determined to kick that from continuity.) This is the place my play session started. 

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Both studios have put some actual love into build up this world. Willits says that in Rage 2 the world has moved on from the fundamental struggles of discovering water, meals, and shelter within the aftermath of the Earth-shattering asteroid crash that left civilization in ruins.

“What happens after we no longer have to search for water? What does the world look like once we’re not so desperate to survive? What’s the next step?”

That query is answered in Wellspring, residence to a bustling market, a cantina, a personal lounge owned by the wealthiest man within the Wasteland, and even a skyscraper that overlooks the city. It’s right here the place I first encounter the numerous quirky survivors of Rage 2.

Since I had restricted time to expertise the little bit of story content material featured within the demo, I did not get to discover the numerous facet missions, outlets, and factors of curiosity at my disposal inside Wellspring. But even in case you’re somebody who likes to get to the following goal as shortly as attainable, id and Avalanche do an admirable job of distracting you with enjoyable items of environmental storytelling.

Walking by city, I encountered two males arguing as a result of they had been sporting the identical revealing outfit. Another man was banging on the door of a port-o-potty as a result of he actually wanted to go. There was a line of individuals begging a guard to allow them to into the aforementioned lounge, however he was having none of it. There had been a number of NPCs ready to offer me facet quests, too. Talking to them revealed different tidbits concerning the world past Wellspring.

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Not lengthy after my tour of Wellspring, bullets and bandits began flying. id and Avalanche have actually centered on making Walker really feel as highly effective as attainable. You have loads of methods to homicide folks throughout fight moreover the basic assault rifle, shotgun, pistol combo. In phrases of latest weapons, there is a gravity gun known as the Grav-Dart, which helps you to tag dangerous guys by taking pictures darts into them after which launch the tagged enemies into the air with a press of a button. It’s an entertaining little bit of carnage that can most of the time see your opponents ripped to items. 

There’s additionally the return of the Wingstick, which serves as each a assist software and a ugly medieval weapon that may scalp or decapitate bandits. (Have I discussed that this recreation is gory as hell?) When dealing with armored opponents, you can too use the Wingstick to knock off their helmets, leaving them weak to headshots. Of course, merely chopping their throats open with stated boomerang is far more satisfying. 

Shiny, new weapons are nice and all, however Walker’s Nanotrite talents are the true stars of the present. Physics-based assaults corresponding to Shatter, Vortex, and Slam provide you with a significant edge towards the heavily-armed psychos roaming the wasteland. Vortex, which prompts a form of mini-black gap that sucks up your enemies, is a specific favourite, as is Slam, which sees you fly into the air and cannonball again to the bottom, sending a shockwave that turns thugs’ our bodies into little meaty bits. Shatter works as a “Force push,” however the place a Jedi is glad to see your head and arms come out of their sockets while you hit a wall. There’s additionally a Dash capacity that lets you dodge assaults shortly.

There had been even some Nanotrite talents that did not make it into the sport for one cause or one other, based on Willits: “We had all kinds of abilities. We had the pull ability, which didn’t quite work.”

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Needless to say, I by no means actually felt overwhelmed throughout fight. Even when dealing with off towards a horde of mutants or Goon Squad raiders, killing sufficient enemies prices up your Overdrive meter, which buffs up your assaults and regenerates your well being. You’ll wish to use loads of combos throughout fight to cost up your Overdrive meter as shortly as attainable. 

There’s an open-endedness to the fight that appears to trace at loads of methods that even Willits hasn’t considered: “I really expect to see some crazy YouTube videos of people doing stuff that I did not realize you could do.”

All of those weapons and skills are totally upgradeable by a branching talent tree. You can achieve expertise by finishing missions for 3 particular characters, together with Loosum, who offers you Engineering factors. Working with Sheriff John Marshall and Dr. Antonin Kvasir will earn you achieve fight and Nanotrite upgrades, respectively. 

To unlock new weapons, clearing out enemies surrounding technologically-advanced Arks scattered throughout the map is a should. The rocket launcher, for instance, is positioned in one in all these Arks, which of them protected the fortunate few members of humanity chosen to outlive the apocalypse. The secrets and techniques hidden with these Arks are sufficient to make them fixed sources of battle within the Wasteland. 

Overall, the fight is usually fluid, though I discovered the controls to be a bit stiff at instances, particularly as fights with a number of opponents turned extra frantic. Nanotrite talents must recharge each time you utilize them, so spamming these powers is not actually an choice. I discovered the recharge timer to be a bit too gradual at instances, which typically broke up the tempo of a battle. But you continue to have all these different typical weapons at your disposal, together with a rocket launcher I used to explode a tank guarding a bandit camp, even when they play second fiddle to the Nanotrite powers. 

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Driving, however, leaves a lot to be desired, sadly. After a battle within the mayor’s workplace and a fast little bit of mission exposition from Loosum, I used to be despatched out past the partitions to finish a set of challenges with a view to get into Wellsprings “champions” lounge, owned by the rich Klegg Clayton, son of the previous mayor of the city. Klegg has ties with the Authority and Loosum desires to show it. Happily leaping in a closely armored tank-like car, I anticipated to zoom by the map as I had in Mad Max

That wasn’t actually the case, not less than not on this pre-beta construct, which suffered from glitchy controls and dealing with. Vehicles had been usually gradual to reply to my instructions and had been sluggish. Trying to show a nook, even at a gradual tempo, usually despatched me skidding off the street and right into a rock wall. Forget making an attempt to problem assailants on wheels. They’re sooner than you and can outrun you, even in case you’re spamming the increase button, which is able to hurtle you into an much more troublesome to maneuver path to self-destruction. 

The foremost car additionally got here with a number of weapons, together with a turret that sprays bullets at bandits on foot. (I used to be actually hoping for a harpoon.) Even the weapons lack oomph and are arduous to regulate. After some time, merely working over dangerous guys appeared like a better option…when this deathtrap on wheels wasn’t on fireplace from taking a lot fireplace. (It had a surprisingly quick lifespan for an armored trip.) 

I discovered driving and vehicular fight to be probably the most disappointing a part of the demo. A racing part I needed to full at ChazCar Derby additionally felt uninspired, extra of a method of attending to my subsequent goal than an pleasant facet exercise I’ll return to once more. Willits did tease a cool little function the place a race is dynamically created wherever on the map in case you run right into a race automotive driver and honk at them. I did not encounter one in all these actions, although.

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It’s attainable that my expectations had been a bit too excessive attributable to my love of Avalanche’s Mad Max, to not point out the studio’s masterful traversal mechanics within the Just Cause sequence, however what I performed on this construct shouldn’t be going to chop. Fortunately, there’s nonetheless loads of time for Avalanche, which is definitely taking level on this venture, to sort things. 

That stated, driving is not the primary focus of Rage 2, even when it is a main element that, to my estimation, will take up a really massive chunk of your time within the recreation.

“We didn’t want to make a car driving game,” Willits explains after the demo session. “This is a first-person action shooter with cars.”

Indeed, Willits spent plenty of time serving to Avalanche design an id-style shooter inside an open-world setting: “They call it ‘Willits University.’ The level designers come in and we sit down and we talk about what all good levels need. How to build corners and turns and places where you can have cover.”

But it isn’t simply Willits educating class. The id man has discovered loads from Avalanche’s experience in open-world video games, too.

“As an id guy, I think, ‘Well, I’m gonna start here, something’s going to happen here in the middle, and I’ll end over here.’ And they’re like, ‘What if you drive the tank into the back door, what if you approach it like this?’ I never thought of that. So while I’m teaching them classic id-style level design, they’re also teaching me how to not make classic id-style levels.”

“The single biggest focus of development for us has been trying to ensure that this feels like an id-style shooter that also has some of the playfulness and emergent behavior and unexpected results and crazy physics from Avalanche,” John Fuller, the chief manufacturing officer at Avalanche who beforehand served as senior producer on Mad Max, says of hanging the fragile stability between an id shooter and an Avalanche open-world motion recreation. (He arrived halfway by the post-demo Q&A to reply our Avalanche-specific questions.)

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This transition between id and Avalanche was showcased throughout the Mutant Bash TV part of the demo, the place I confronted hordes of rabid mutants in a televised gauntlet hosted by the raunchy Desdemonia, a blood-drinking mistress who has intercourse slaves to do her bidding and many individuals keen to die for an opportunity to develop into well-known. 

This battle for survival, which was made up of various rooms filled with baddies and obstacles corresponding to buzzsaws, provided up the very best show of fight and stage design, as I shot and smashed my method by mutants whereas dodging the sharp blades prepared to tear me to shreds. All the rooms provided up an environmental problem in addition to sudden spawn factors for enemies. At one level, mutants rained down from tunnels above one of many rooms and I needed to shortly carry out a Slam to get them off me. 

If I’ve one gripe with these id-style sections, it is that the fights lacked the problem you have come to count on from video games like Doom and Wolfenstein. You really feel so overpowered in Rage 2 at instances that you simply begin to marvel if the problem will ever come. Perhaps that is only a cocky journalist speaking after he received to start out the sport with a number of talents already at his disposal?

Even a battle with a large mutant monstrosity named Rukkus within the sewers of Wellspring — a lure sprung by Klegg Clayton after I received into his penthouse and planted a bug on his pc — wasn’t sufficient to make me really feel like my again was really towards the wall. Rukkus turned out to be a little bit of a bullet sponge that you may take down with a number of shotgun rounds to the face. 

It’ll be fascinating to see what the talent curve is like at launch. I believe that you simply will not be roaming the Wasteland like a god proper from the beginning, particularly when unlocking all the completely different weapons and upgrading talents means that you will have to finish a mixture of foremost missions in addition to different actions, whether or not or not it’s securing Arks, clearing out bandit outposts, attacking a convoy, or simply amassing issues.

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Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of various things to do in Rage 2 and Fuller hopes that you will take your time with the sport as an alternative of speeding by the story. 

“One of the hallmarks of an Avalanche game is that, if you do it in the shortest amount of time possible, you’re not really playing the game as its meant to be played,” Fuller says. “Imagine you just did the shortest route of the main missions, it’d be like you missed all the fun. You missed what makes it systemic, what makes it emergent, and what makes you able to create scenarios yourself by what you do. It’s a sandbox.”

But Fuller additionally acknowledged that not each gamer desires to go down a guidelines of goals after they play video games. I, for one, abhor fetch quests and collectathons, and I nearly all the time refuse to finish them…except they’re pivotal to progressing by the story. According to Fuller, Avalanche is working to seek out the appropriate stability between foremost missions and grinding a purchasing record of actions.

“I think grinding feels like grinding if it’s the only place you can turn. Once you get sick of something, you want to be able to go over and do something else. So what we tried to do is cater for different playstyles,” Fuller says. “We’re not over-engaging. That’s one of the things that makes people sort of backfire a little bit. ‘If I like it, I’ll do it. But if I don’t, don’t force me.’ We’ve been careful about that as well.”

Different environments all through the map ought to supply up a little bit of selection, too. While I spent most of my time within the desert surrounding Wellspring, a presentation earlier than the demo additionally promised us forests, swamplands, and even snowy mountains. A day and night time cycle must also affect the way you method sure actions.

One factor that is nonetheless up within the air is whether or not the sport will embrace any microtransactions. While Willits confirms that Rage 2 will obtain each free and paid content material updates, the studios are nonetheless deciding how greatest to ship that paid content material. 

“We’re looking at that. We will have paid content. We just have to make sure we deliver value for the people who are buying it.”

Bethesda is without doubt one of the publishers that is confronted backlash over microtransactions in its video games, significantly the net multiplayer sandbox Fallout 76, which hasn’t actually paved a straightforward path for Rage 2. id and Avalanche are each nonetheless in our good graces, although, and I’m optimistic about their newest venture. 

There’s so much to love about Rage 2: its over-the-top characters (besides Klegg Clayton, who may fairly probably be probably the most annoying NPC in latest online game historical past), insane physics-based talents, open-ended fight, and efficient world-building. It does stumble at instances, particularly throughout the driving portion, however these are kinks that these studios nonetheless have time to iron out. Let’s hope they do. 

Rage 2 is out on May 14 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. 

John Saavedra is Games Editor at Den of Geek. Read extra of his work right here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9 

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