We got to play Avalanche Studios and id Software's upcoming sequel to gritty 2010 action game Rage at PAX East in Boston and even though we didn't get oodles of time with it we thought we'd share our impressions of what we did get to see. id Software's original was a post-apocalyptic first-person shooter set in a pale grey desert environment that had come about due to an asteroid impact sometime before. Rage was praised for its mechanics and visuals but seemed to lack in the story department, and while it seems like Rage 2 has evolved quite a bit and in many different ways, the narrative direction doesn't seem to be a priority, at least not from the short slice of the game that we got to experience.
This, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the essence of Rage 2 seems to revolve heavily around gameplay and the different mechanics at play (we'll get back to that in a moment). The one thing that really stood out for fans of the first game and newcomers to the now-series when the game was revealed last year was, of course, the visuals. The id Software combat mechanics and the Avalanche-crafted open world go together really well, combining the best of both worlds. Avalanche's Mad Max comes to mind when looking through the many armoured vehicles as well as the massive, explorable game world, albeit one that's a little brighter and more colourful this time around. The reason for the change of scenery is the fact that the world in which you find yourself is evolving through the hardships of the aftermath of the massive asteroid impact that caused so much destruction - life finds a way, after all. During our talk with id Software's Tim Willits, he told us that the idea behind the change stemmed from a simple question: what would happen to the world once enough time passes post-apocalypse? The more colourful setting also brings plenty of open-world storytelling, or so we're told.
Instead of roaming a dusty desert, players will be exploring a colourful, almost neon-clad game world that's flourishing, resembling the recently released Far Cry: New Dawn in a way. The player will explore either on foot or by vehicle and there's plenty of the latter. We drove around in a huge, badass monster truck with a mounted machinegun, killing bandits along the way, and it was a glorious hunt on the road. Later we drove a smaller, equally badass, lightning-fast buggy and the two vehicles had a significantly different feel. The player can also get airborne, but we didn't get to experience anything that glorious, but we do know about the gyrocopter known as the Icarus and we have to say we're eager to check that out in the future. One thing we did do was randomly call out to an NPC who was going past us when we were exploring the lands, challenging him to an impromptu street race, and he accepted. He also won, but that's not important.
While roaming, we went through a hub of sorts and were told there would be more than one of these, where players can interact with friendly settlers to gear up before heading out to a bandits lair or a main mission, however, we couldn't really talk to anyone on-site at the point in the game. We then moved on to our only marker on the map which turned out to be that of a bandit site and, naturally, we went in to cause some mayhem. When we got close, a mission prompt guided our actions, telling us to kill everyone in the small settlement and so we rushed straight in, guns blazing. Speaking of blazing guns, the weapon handling felt absolutely incredible, which isn't surprising when you think about the id Software connection. We blasted heads off with shotguns, slashed our way through enemies, and power-kicked bandits into a bloody mushy on the floor, all while in an incredibly satisfying, fast-paced combat environment.
Another satisfying aspect of the combat is the skill tree and what it does for your character. When playing, we had a drone of sorts with us that, with a press on the right bumper, helped us out by firing at the enemies rushing our location. It wasn't just helpful in that regard, we also used it as a decoy against the bigger, tougher enemies in the strongholds, and we met two of them. These boss-type enemies prompted us to play the game tactically and the two we faced were completely different from one another. One had a massive shield, covering them from the front while they were throwing grenades in our general direction. Meanwhile, the other had dual flamethrowers attached to its mech-like suit that you could destroy, leaving it defenceless. The abilities, although we didn't get a good look at what the rest of them could actually do, seemed to target specific playstyles when we browsed through them quickly, and it looks like they'll give the player more say in what their character will end up doing in the game.
To upgrade your abilities, stats, items and vehicles you have to pick up blue asteroid fragments from the bodies of those you slaughter. These fragments also heal your character when you pick them up so you won't be as helpless within a set of settlement walls. As for obtaining new abilities and gear, however, you need to unlock arks. Unlocking an ark isn't just like unlocking any old bunker, only special people, or "chosen ones" can do this deed and inside lies endless power. The ark that was shown during the id Software stream from PAX East showed the ability "Slam" being obtained, which is a sonic slam that pushes enemies away and deals massive damage. The higher your altitude, the more damage you'll end up inflicting and to get high enough you can combine the ability with the vortex grenade, pushing you up into the air. We were told the game doesn't end after the story concludes, instead the world will remain open, giving players the chance to complete side missions and activities. More content will also be added in the future.
We know there is plenty of content, both narrative adventures to explore and new systems that we didn't get to try out at PAX, such as deployable barriers and ammunition-altering powers. We're excited to see all this and more when Rage 2 launches on May 14, at which time it'll be racing onto PC, PS4, and Xbox One.