With the doors of E3 2018 slowly swinging shut, some lengthy trailers and decent chunks of gameplay footage have left us with a clear picture; RAGE 2 looks to be garish and explosive, a veritable shock wave of colour in contrast to its predecessor. Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits towards creating a more vibrant environment, going into our own hands-on with the game we wondered if there was a greater significance to the lurid splashings of pink and yellow. Turns out that yes, the stunning bright pink haze on the horizon was more significant than we first thought.
Chief Production Officer at Avalanche Studios, John Fuller, takes us right back to the game’s conception, “We had some ideas about what a Rage world could look like, the types of things that could really exploit the Avalanche and id partnership.” Adding, “One of the most exciting prospects [was] if we [took] Rage and then we set it at a time where the world has had a chance to recover from the Authority attack, to [have] a breather, find its legs, develop. We inserted this idea of the Ecopods which have started to come down from space. It was like Phase 2 of this plan to save humanity. They had even more crazy technology than the Arks to irrigate and maybe jumpstart the planet.”
Bridging the 25 to 30 year gap between the two titles’ storylines, we start to see the links forming and how Avalanche Studios’ talent for creating massive open worlds would influence and reinforce RAGE 2 as a fresh and exciting experience. “We had a strong channel for a lot of the narrative from Rage,” John tells me. “But we also had a really open pallete to think about mutations, and new types of biomes, and new colour palettes. And then we have this Nanotrite, Feltrite mysterious mineral substance. Which gave us an idea [for] something that can inject supernatural, or over-the-top abilities. Other ways to take ideas three steps forward.”
“We started to come to terms with, well, how the world has evolved. And it has evolved in richness and colour palette because there’s new biomes sprouting up, and mutations,” John explains. “We don’t really have any of the same constraints on our imagination as they might have had with Rage, or even Mad Max.”
This concept of attempting to propel RAGE 2 forward with an almighty shove is apparent in everything seen thus far. Fuller expresses it further still, “We both [id Software and Avalanche Studios] agreed that we wanted to push it as far as it could go. And then we wanted to play with those colours to represent different types of things. Different types of abilities. This Nanotrite and Feltrite, it’s very important. It has a certain colour representation.”
The penny drops. The bright splashes of pink and yellow not only glitter the environment with sunsets and punked up hairstyles, they are a representation of our hero ranger, Walker’s own set of available biological upgrades he finds scattered through the wasteland. That’s a really tasty artistic connection between character development and the evolution of the surrounding ecology, and has obviously carried through to the design and implementation of the many new Factions springing up in the wasteland, too.
“Factions have started developing and expressing themselves, and evolving, developing technology and developing personality,” John explains, “You saw the Goon Squad, pretty major moves there. They like graffiti. That kind of in your face [attitude]. A very good example of how we took colour, tried to use it to highlight this evolution from factions germinating in Rage, but really evolving into something more buoyant, and more free to exploit the world.”
This freedom to explore a new future from both a visual and ecological standpoint also extends to how these new inhabitants behave in combat. Where, as John describes, each new encounter offers “different sorts of tactical challenges”. Adding that factions will “have their own location, and the way they’ve built up their defenses in their homeland will colour how you approach them, how you fight them, and how they fight you. You’ll have to think about [it], and maybe even work the world to prepare yourself for certain types of encounters.” That last bit in particular hints to a persistent world where player action affects both the environment and those choosing to live the post-apocalyptic lifestyle.
Here, the magic that id Software has brought to the table surfaces, and draws parallels to the push-forward combat from DOOM. “id has tried something very bold,” John continues, highlighting that at its core RAGE 2 is still an id Software shooter. Which as he describes is an experience that will, “push you to not be hesitant and pull back from combat, but to actually reward you for getting as close as possible to the action.” Adding that it’s akin to “a sort of modern, melee shooter combat.”
As more of a stealth player, the hands-on demo was a very quick lesson in the downfalls to this approach. Enemies drop Feltrite, which dissipates over time or disappears. Staying on the outskirts of a really tough encounter in RAGE 2 is a dangerous position to be in, John explains there is “safety in being in the midst of things. Because the more you build that [Feltrite] up, the better buffer you have. You get a bit of a health boost. You also get this Overdrive thing.” Where that little Overdrive ‘thing’ is akin to a super or ultimate, bestowing Walker with all manner of superhero-like abilities. In practice Overdrive feels every bit as powerful and psychedelic as intended, thanks to the wonderful use of colour and, well, drug-induced visual flourishes. Don’t tell the Australian ratings board we said that. But above all, Overdrive will have you throwing yourself haphazardly into the centre of the action.
As our interview with John wound to a close, we couldn’t resist probing him for any morsels regarding possible multiplayer options in RAGE 2. Because an experience like this could be a lot of fun played in co-op. As expected we got the standard response that comes with a debut, in that Avalanche are “totally focused on the single-player experience right now.” He did however offer one small glimmer of hope, “we’re confidently saying there’s a very strong post-launch offering that’s going to include content of different types, and different stems for granularities.” A somewhat ambiguous statement, but nonetheless one we think hints to a lot more than what we’ve seen so far. And with that solid id Shooter core coupled with the vibrant and colourful open world of RAGE 2 - we can’t wait to find out more.
Thanks to Bethesda, Avalanche Studios, and id Software for making this possible.