Hands-On: Rage 2

Hands-On: Rage 2

* PS Nation was invited to an event in New York City for a hands-on preview of Rage 2. Travel was paid for by the author and the game was played on PC with an Xbox One controller.


What’s the biggest lesson id Software learned from Rage? “Don’t try to make an open world game in an engine that isn’t open world”.

The original Rage, published by Bethesda Softworks and developed by id Software, was released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in October 2011. It received generally positive reviews but the game was criticized a bit for the disconnect between the driving and first person modes along with the story.

So why Rage 2, and why now? Rage did well enough, but the tech just wasn’t there. id is known for their first-person shooters but the driving element, and moving between the two, never really felt right. They wanted to make a sequel that was a full open world style game with id combat. Who could possibly help them out with that vision?

Avalanche Studios, purveyors of open world mayhem in the Just Cause series stepped in with the Apex engine. Working closely, the two studios have brought each of their particular skills to the fore and for Just Cause veterans, the influence is keenly felt.

At first glance, it looks and feels like a weird offshoot of the Just Cause series. Dig a little deeper though and the id pedigree shines through. Making that happen though took some clever design work throughout the world. One of the first areas I stopped at had enemies at a burned out gas station with some extra buildings. The combat was intense but familiar for a fan of id games like myself.

Hands-On: Rage 2 Hands-On: Rage 2

You’ll be funneled into smaller spaces for some of the combat in a natural and almost imperceptible way. There are switches in those extra buildings at the gas station which need to be turned on and you can expect some heavy resistance. You’ll know before you enter an area whether it’s going to be too much of a challenge because you can see info on it as you approach.

Let’s step back for a minute though. How does the story in Rage 2 connect to the original and why has the “fifty shades of brown” hellscape been replaced with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? In the story, it’s been thirty years since the end of the first game and there will be some minor spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned.

The Authority Wars are over and they lost. You play as Walker, and you have a choice between a male or female version right from the start. Your parents were killed in the Authority Wars when your home, Vineland, was attacked and destroyed. You then set out into the wasteland to avenge your family and put an end to the remnants of the Authority.

The plot revolves around three main characters, Captain John Marshall, Mayor Loosum Hagar, and, returning from the first game, Dr. Kvasir. You’ll be given tasks by the three characters and completing them will give you project points. You can use them to upgrade your weapons, vehicle, items, and nanotrite abilities.

Your parents were Ark survivors so you also have nanotrites and your abilities will grow as you play. Unlike Nicholas Raine, your character from the first game, Walker actually talks in Rage 2 and it makes all the difference in the world. You’ll learn more about the past and that thirty year gap along with much more lore throughout the story. Once the story is complete, the rest of the world continues on for more open world gameplay.

Hands-On: Rage 2 Hands-On: Rage 2

All weapons have normal fire and iron sights or an alt fire mode and we had a chance to mess around with some of Walker’s abilities. Using L1 as a modifier, you can then hit a button to trigger the Slam, Shatter, Vortex Grenade, or Barrier abilities. The real fun comes in when you drop one after another in a combo to decimate your opponents. There’s even an Overdrive meter which charges up as you take down enemies quickly.

As for the upgraded color palette, the development team wanted to create a different wasteland experience for Rage 2, to advance things and give the world more life and more color, even though the screenshots here don’t show it.

Part of pushing the story and environment forward was to not take themselves too seriously. The new biomes led to more life and color and drove the personality of the game, so one fed off the other during development. The desert is still there, but there’s also a large forest, swamplands, and much more.

Your main vehicle, the Phoenix, has a Gatling gun, machine guns, a mortar, and missiles. Once the garage is unlocked, any vehicle you’ve stolen will show up there. The vehicles handle much like Just Cause 4 and the transition from vehicle to foot combat is seamless. Both methods of combat feel great so it’s really nice to see the talents of both teams highlighted in a tight collaboration.

Factions are a part of the story in Rage 2 and they control different areas all over the map. As for their interaction with each other, some faction fights are scripted for the story, but others will roam around the wasteland and fight accordingly if they come across each other, whether you’re there or not.

Hands-On: Rage 2 Hands-On: Rage 2

The game will be running at 60fps/1080p on the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, while the standard models of the consoles will be locked at 30fps. The team decided to focus on nailing a solid framerate rather than pouring resources into 4K and HDR.

Speaking of the team, while some post-launch content is already on the board, they’ve made sure that they’re agile enough and the world is flexible enough for them to be able to steer into what players want with free and paid DLC based on feedback, so be sure to make your voices heard once you get your hands on the game.

From what I played, Rage 2 feels like the best of both worlds for a fan of id Software and Avalanche Studios. The gameplay blends the calling cards of each team into something exciting and fun, yet comfortingly familiar. I really need to play more, like right now, it’s that much fun.

Rage 2 releases on May 14, 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $59.99.

* All screenshots used in this preview were provided by the publisher.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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