Words by Mark Foster
You approach a seemingly abandoned gas station in the pits of a desolate, barren wasteland. Rusted and covered with a litany of sprayed-on gang tags, you approach the entrance with your gun cocked, ready for what might lay inside.
Suddenly, a pink haired apoco-punk comes screaming out of the darkness yelling a whole arsenal of insults and bullets at you, quickly joined by a small army of her pals. Luckily you’ve got a shotgun shell with her name on it, and proceed to add your own brand of tag to the covered wall. With her brains.
Welcome to Rage 2.
Like many people, I was lukewarm to the announcement of Rage 2 at E3 2018, where the news the game would be coming on May 14th passed over me like room temperature apathy. Luckily Bethesda asked me down to their London office to get some hands-on time with the game, and I have to admit my head has been turned.
The story picks up 30 years after the end of the first game and you’ll again be asked to traverse the desolate wastes in search of stuff to do and people to murder. Pretty meat and potatoes. What Rage 2 gets right though, is the the way in which it tells its story through the exposition of the various colourful characters asking you to do the stuff and murder the people.
My favourite character in the 2 hours or so I had with the game was a wealthy man-blob called Klegg Clayton. You’ve to track him down in order to find out who’s backing him and where the stolen property he took from the mayor is. Clayton looks like a cross between Guy Fieri and WWE’s Rikishi, complete with wrestling belt and a frosty blonde quiff. I am a fan of this.
The parallels with games like Borderlands are apparent, and if you’re a fan of that kind of humour then you’ll likely feel right at home in Rage’s world from what I can tell of the story segment I played.
What you perhaps won’t feel so welcome in, is the game’s open-world which you must traverse between quests. You’re given a vehicle in which to bomb around the wastes, but the driving felt distinctly average, and I never felt particularly persuaded to interact with the various going’s on. It’s like wandering Mad Max’s wastelands but without any kind of authentic character. Like Norwich.
On the plus side, there’s minimal loading screens so everything is seamless, but it just feels like big batches of filler between the meat when you’re out there.
Combat, however, is an entirely different beast when it’s allowed to take centre stage. It’s gloriously fast paced and gory, with enemies exploding into mists of blood and entrails as you dance around them using your skills to traverse the varied battlefields.
Skills take a hot minute to get to grips with and will take a little while longer to master, but once you get the hang of them, you’ll be a harbinger of death, able to dish out visceral kills to satisfy your blood lust.
Abilities are Shatter, Vortex, Barrier, Slam and Overdrive, and each bring a new dynamic to the fight. For example, Vortex pulls enemies together so they’re easier to deal with, but if you couple that with a well timed Slam (a shockwave style jumping ground pound) you’ll obliterate a group of foes in one.
It’s in using these that the combat really comes alive and mastering them make you an unstoppable juggernaut of death.
The hours I played served as an intro to the base mechanics of the game, and it’s safe to say that the combat is by far and away Rage 2’s shining feature. Driving feels a little too clunky at this point and those open-world sections certainly need to be looked at, but there’s enough potential here for some serious interest to be registered.