When the initial Walmart Canada leak dropped last month, I was one of those weird people who yelped with joy at Rage 2. Believe it or not, the original was a game that I fondly remembered from the last generation, albeit with its own set of issues. The official announcement left me excited to get the chance to play it myself, but alas, my 20 or so minutes with it weren't "all the rage" after all.
Rage 2 Preview: Show and Tell
It turns out that the splashes of color and energetic music didn't translate directly from the trailers to the gameplay, at least in the mission I played. My preview with Rage 2 at E3 2018 began with a simple tutorial, detailing all of the new combat features that Avalanche Studios and id Software have incorporated into this sequel.
Immediately, I was forced to sit through a forced tutorial with way too much dialogue unnecessarily thrown in. For some reason, an invisible narrator had to break down every single new ability that protagonist Walker has with excruciating detail. While I did eventually figure out I could skip the unwanted explanations, it didn't help alleviate the boredom.
A large portion of the entire demo was dedicated to waltzing around a small warehouse-like room waiting to test out each ability. The preview did improve some when I was finally thrown into a fairly linear mission afterward. I found myself on the outskirts of a building in the middle of a Mad Max-like desert. Infiltrating this bandit compound was my objective.
Rage 2 Preview: More Like Underdrive
Beginning from the outer walls of the area, I had plenty of choices when it came to making my way inside. There was a large courtyard between myself and the entrance to the building, with dozens of enemies scattered all over it. Here's where Walker's exhaustively detailed abilities came into play.
I began the infiltration by hopping on top of the wall in one corner and onto a cargo container. From here, I had a nice vantage point of where all of the enemies were located. I opted to use Walker's dash ability, which propels you several feet forward to get the drop on a group of bandits, and then use Shatter — a sort of Force Push — to blast them all away into oblivion.
It worked as well as I had hoped, but it did lack that extra oomph that I was hoping for. The dash just sort of happens, with no visual effects or anything to make it exciting, while Shatter didn't look or sound much more different than a normal melee attack. The Overdrive special showcased in the special was even more underwhelming. I didn't feel or seem much different at all with the Overdrive ability, resulting in me not using it again. The visual feedback from my abilities was uninterested, which is a stark contrast to the wackier vibe that id Software and Avalanche is going for.
Rage 2 Preview: Fantastic Gunplay
Fortunately, the gunplay fares much better. Like the original, the feel of shooting is unparalleled. Rage 2's guns are pretty blatant copies of those featured in DOOM, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The preview mission only allowed me to use the assault rifle, shotgun (acquired later on), and pistol, but this limited selection still hooked me in.
While the Nanotrite abilities — including the Overdrive special — felt lackluster, the gunplay was anything but. The feel of each of the three guns was so vastly different from one another. The audio design is also superb, amplifying each satisfying shot, especially for the amazing shotgun.
Once I took out the enemies in the front area and entered the building, I exclusively used the shotgun for the rest of the mission. The impact of it is hilariously over-the-top, with it able to blast an enemy across the room with just a single shell. Like DOOM, using it never gets old. The same can be also said for Rage 2's returning Wingstick. This boomerang-esque weapon can be thrown at enemies as before, but with the added ability to lock on.
Holding down the right bumper allowed me to lock onto an enemy and launch it from across the room, instantly eviscerating anyone it touched. It's just too bad that it's a limited usable item like grenades, especially in this post-God of War Leviathan Axe world.
Thankfully, the gunplay was strong enough to keep me engaged for the duration of that mission, but I am worried about the rest of the game. The story elements featured in the Rage 2 preview were minimal, though the cheesy writing and questionable voice acting didn't sit well with me. It also didn't help that the zanier tone shown off in Rage 2 reveal trailer was completely absent in the slice I played. The outside areas were typical bland desert style reminiscent of the first Rage, while the inside of the building lacked detail and variation. It simply looked like any other generic first-person shooter.
Rage 2 still has a lot to prove between now and its Spring 2019 release window. It has certainly nailed down the feel of its guns and Wingstick, so here's hoping it's able to satisfy players with the Nanotrite abilities and world, too.