RAGE 2 - A Mutant Blend of High Octane Shooter and Open World Adventure
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 12:30pm 31/01/19 | Comments
We go hands on with RAGE 2 which has the combat feel of DOOM inside a huge post-apocalyptic open world.
Before now, and in the eyes of the masses, Rage 2 was still sitting in the proof of concept realm. Glimpses of a vast, vibrant, and detailed open world to explore – one drenched in neon colours, desolate sun-damaged ruins, and roaming gangs vying for, something. Control perhaps. More likely though, a shiny new set of wheels or whatever passes for currency in the future. Which, no doubt, they’ll probably waste on booze and betting on arena fights and dirt-track races. Anyway, the point being, as with all open-world games, even ones of the shooty variety – it all comes down to finally sitting down and playing the thing.
Prior to this open-world session of Rage 2, outside of the promising trailers and fantastic art direction seen in the media so far, we only got to play through a tightly structured combat scenario in a small contained space. What they call a ‘level’, or ‘stage’ -- in videogame speak. As a collaboration between Swedish developer Avalanche Studios and ‘the house that Doom and Quake built’ id Software, the impressions were good. The action even better. Fantastic even, with the following slice of prose describing Rage 2’s combat to a t.
The combination of traditional weapons, including the id-staple powerful shotgun, and Nanotrite abilities that sort of veer off into the realm of Force abilities – present both fun and challenging tools in the right sort of over-the-top way. Being able to send enemies flying against a wall and then splitting them apart with a shotgun is insane. And cool. And then following that with a version of a leap attack meets ground stomp, and then using a charged ultimate ability to melt enemies in a haze of neon pink lighting – awesome.
A slice that still resonates after getting to explore even just a small part of Rage 2’s vast wasteland. Where we got to walk around a surprisingly detailed city – one with power, a hierarchical structure of haves and have-nots, retail spots to stock up on post-apocalyptic gear and threads, and what we assume is plumbing. Translation – we walked past a toilet. We also got to become part of a truly strange television show called Mutant Bash, where the name just about spells out the Smash TV like premise. Translation – we got to kill mutants both large and small. For post-apocalyptic ratings, we think.
We also drove around in dune-buggies or whatever those cars that are all roll-cage and suspension are called. Vehicles that also had mounted guns. We even raced in one around a makeshift track.
"We got to walk around a surprisingly detailed city – one with power, a hierarchical structure of haves and have-nots, retail spots to stock up on post-apocalyptic gear and threads, and what we assume is plumbing."
Then there was that bit where we decided to walk away from allure of the glowing quest marker to venture into a nearby sewer, only to find out that it was the home of a large mutant. And by large we mean it was like a post-apocalyptic version of that time Luke fought the Rancor beast in Return of the Jedi. Well, the second time it was. We died the first time, like an unlucky Gamorrean guard.
Putting the push-forward, ability, and weapon-based combat that we got to experience in the context of an environment where all the above is there, ready to explore and discover – adds immeasurably to the enjoyment. As does the overall neon aesthetic and the fact that the world is detailed and full of, well, if-not life then things to look at and do. Rage 2 is not a sombre time to contemplate the destruction of a world, it presents a theme park of attractions in the form of player-controlled destruction and a surprisingly engaging cast of characters and oddities.
Now, although the words ‘engaging characters’ is borderline market-speak – it definitely rings true here. In Rage 2 just about every character we came across not only looked interesting, weird, freaky, or crazy, but they were also people we wanted to learn more about. Like the crazy old bag that runs Mutant Bash.
The structure though, is not entirely original. In that Rage 2 follows, say, the setup of an open-world RPG of sorts. Towns, hubs, places to gather resources, quests, side missions. A world broken up into various regions, each looking different, and featuring its own little microcosm of nasties to take out and landscape to navigate. A landscape where discovery can lead to an intense firefight at a gas station, in a canyon, or even stumbling onto an Ark. Which in the world of Rage 2 are high-tech pods that have landed on the planet’s surface accessible only to those with presidential clearance. Thankfully you, Ranger person, happen to fall into that category.
In our play-through the Ark we discovered was home to a rocket launcher. But, in keeping with the high-tech nature of the premise a rocket launcher that could lock onto enemies and fire off a barrage of projectiles in a manner reminiscent of the fireworks scene from the first Lord of the Rings movie. That bit where rapscallion hobbits Merry and Pippen discover Gandalf’s secret stash of magical fireworks. Okay, so they look exactly like a barrage of rockets – but in the guise of Rage 2’s fast and responsive combat, there’s a sense of the fantastical. In part, thanks to the Nanotrite abilities at your disposal.
"Towns, hubs, places to gather resources, quests, side missions. A world broken up into various regions, each looking different, and featuring its own little microcosm of nasties to take out and landscape to navigate."
Which as per that earlier snippet, can take on the form of a ground slam, a dash and smash, putting up a plasma shield of sorts, as well as a gravitational pull along the lines of Zarya’s Ultimate in Overwatch. Plus, no doubt, others we’ve yet to see. With quests and missions and even levelling, progression in Rage 2 also feels a lot like a modern day open-world game, with skills and abilities and weaponry available to improve the more you play and the better you get at sliding, jumping, and shooting at various gang members, mutants, mechs, vehicles, and giant monsters.
Like the open world structure, the progression is stuff we’ve seen before, and by this point kind of expect. To be perfectly honest without quests, missions, various activities, and skills to learn and places to explore you’d probably feel a little let down with Rage 2.
What separates Rage 2 though is its combat, which is responsive and fast and intense in a way that is reminiscent of DOOM. Combat in Rage 2 has the make-up of a well-executed dance; fire off a few rounds, slide in, swap out to a shotgun to blast a foe in the face, turn, jump, ground slam, activate your ultimate, and let the neon pink battle-rage bring the dancefloor to a standstill. The sort of good time where there’s virtually no situation that calls for you to simply stand there in one spot frantically unloading clip after clip into a Level 26 bullet-sponge.
"What separates Rage 2 though is its combat, which is responsive and fast and intense in a way that is reminiscent of DOOM."
The way this plays into the open world is kind of brilliant too. With traversal of any notable distance requiring a vehicle, it keeps the intense and involved combat mostly in the realm of skirmishes. Variety, as they say, is the key to something. Vehicle combat is also plentiful, but a very different beast. Like racing or flying around in a copter-bike it adds another layer to total Rage 2 package, and with the absence of load-screens a seamless transition to the sandbox shooting and ability-dispensing dose of carnage you might find next in a mission that has all the bombast of a more linear shooter.
Rage 2’s open-world isn’t merely a vibrant mix of colours there to grab your attention, and the combat isn’t simply a fast-paced run-and-gun affair. The driving not simply a means to riff on the whole idea of post-apocalyptic car battles. Rage 2 is not simply a return to the original. It’s the Rage it was always meant to be.