Game development is hard. Creating a well-paced and inviting experience over hours and hours takes years and years of hard work. Even on a micro scale, this can be difficult, and it sometimes just doesn’t work out. This is where I stand with the time I spent playing Rage 2 at the latest E3 expo. Taken on their own, the various parts and systems the game implements should be right up my alley. DOOM was an easy choice for game of the year in 2016, and Avalanche’s Mad Max is on par with Fury Road. Combing these two great tastes into one game should be a no-brainer, and it’s probable that it still is. While everything I’ve seen still holds great promise, what I actually got to play isn’t the crackerjack experience I was hoping for.
Don’t get me wrong, Rage 2‘s combat is pretty satisfying. The guns feel weighty, and my shotgun/assault rifle combo felt transplanted right from Hell. In addition to that, your ranger has some Nanotrite superpowers, letting you slam fools into the ground or push them closer to an explosive barrel. The fools in question are the same post-apocalyptic punks from the first game, and they’re much more expressive in 2018.
Speaking of, Rage 2 assumes you’re at least somewhat familiar with what came before. Story beats and characters return, at least in the setup phase. This can be a bit offputting for someone who had never finished the original. Just being dropped into the game without context can work, but what I played of Rage 2 so far doesn’t have the reckless abandon required for that trick. One hopes that there’s some sort of recap built into the game’s introduction that solves this issue.
This is all completed with the wingstick, a razor boomerang that’s still more fun in concept than execution. You see, the ideal spot for a razor boomerang to land would be the neck. From what I’ve played of the first game, getting that easy stealth decapitation is satisfying as heck. Unfortunately, it’s also hard to do in the midst of combat, especially if set combat encourages you to rush forward all the time. Rage 2 tries to emulate DOOM‘s structure by giving you a meter that charges as you deal strings of successive damage. Once you fill up, you can initiate Overdrive, which makes your guns fire faster and heals you up. Since you’re always working towards this burst of adrenaline, I found few opportunities to aim carefully at the neck. It’s much more efficient to shove a shotgun into their face.
Of course, the basic wingstick I had access to isn’t all that Rage 2 has to offer. The preview video I watched before I played the game, I saw plenty of upgrades for my arsenal, including a homing wingstick that sought out foes around corners and into cover. This is a small example of the problems with this demo. A brief early firefight is just not a good example of what the final game is promising, and it’s hard to judge what’s coming based on that sample.
On the same note, I wasn’t able to drive at all during my time with the game. That mechanic seems to be a vital part of the overall puzzle. I love the convoy missions from Mad Max, and I’m pumped to see a new iteration of that style of combat. The driving in the first Rage was subdued and felt auxiliary to the experience. Simply put, I trust that we won’t see many racing missions in the sequel, but I can’t say for sure.
So yes, what I’ve seen of Rage 2 still has me believing in the game. Any new iD shooter is worth a look, especially after 2016’s masterpiece. Still, I can only give a tentative recommendation, as the demo I played just didn’t have enough substance to judge. Its a cruel tease of what’s coming in early 2019, and I’d hoped there was more to show. That date isn’t so far away, and February looks like it might be a graveyard for games that aren’t killer apps. Here’s hoping that Rage 2 can rise to the challenge.
Rage 2 was sampled at Bethesda’s booth at E3 2018. The full game releases on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in early 2019.