With id delivering the fighting and Avalanche the open world, it truly is a golden Rage.
Holding the trigger down, a punk is jiggling against a graffiti-scrawled wall as every shot lands with a satisfying thud. The screen fills with the orange and pink flashes of muzzle fire and between the pit-a-pat of gunfire and breaking concrete we can hear our enemy giggling – or is he screaming? No, he’s definitely laughing. Or is it us?
If the original Rage was Mad Max 2, Rage 2 is Beyond Thunderdome crushed into Fury Road. It’s Tina Turner bellowing a power ballad as the world burns, inside a rainbow.
Though it is a sequel to the original Rage – which looked stunning, and promised the open world but in the end delivered a linear, if meaty, first-person shooter – this follow-on takes Rage’s core ideas, drags them through a Pantone colour chart and spits out a shooter that will make you smile – a lot. The point that billions had to die to give us this bright, post-apocalyptic carnage is moot.
“It’s definitely much more than a straight-up sequel,” says Tim Willits, studio director at id Software, as we sit down to discuss the return of Rage. “Because the gameplay and the partnership with Avalanche has really shaped it into something unique and special.”
Ah yes, the headline news: id Software is partnering with Avalanche Studios to do justice to Rage 2’s blend of gunplay, car combat, and open world lunacy. One studio is the master of tight, finely-tuned first-person shooting, the other adept at creating vast open spaces – playgrounds of destruction. It’s a super studio team-up that promises Doom unshackled, or Just Cause with better shooty bits; take your pick.
Avalanche has been involved with Rage 2 since inception. It means this is a marriage of equals: “We had an opportunity to partner up with them and bring the id Software first-person-shooter-style combat to a true open world go anywhere, do anything engine,” explains Willits. “So you really have the best of both worlds. You have one of the best open world developers teaming up with one of the best first-person shooter developers.”
It’s a union that merges id’s narrow focus – pondering over frame rates on a melee strike or tinkering with the dead space on the controller – “this millisecond stuff,” says Willits – with Avalanche’s broad stroke ideas and knack for building colourful worlds that demand to be explored.
“It really has been a buddy movie of love working with the Avalanche team and sharing ideas and knowledge,” enthuses Willits.
The partnership with Avalanche ensures this gaudy sequel will be
“DRAGS RAGE THROUGH A PANTONE COLOUR CHART AND SPITS OUT A SHOOTER TO MAKE YOU SMILE.”
the open world id-style shooter the original Rage was meant to be – Doom set free. Willits is the first to acknowledge the original game failed to truly embrace emergent gameplay. “We had the megatexture technology and we had the open world, but it was really kind of two different things – it was the wasteland and you then loaded another level, and then you were in your first-person combat. Well that’s all gone now. You’re now just in the game.”
In Rage 2 there will be no loading between moments. When you discover a sewer, hideout, or settlement and venture inside and tune in your Doom muscle memory there’ll be no pause to the action. “Everything is seamless and together, and you can engage that combat the way that you want. So that promise of Rage is delivered in Rage 2,” says Willits excitedly.
The idea of an id-style shooter taking the balanced, frantic, and emergent combat of Doom’s 2016 reboot, and transplanting it into a freeform playground is a teasing one. You can engage in combat any way you wish, running into a stronghold Doom-style, guns blazing, “tearing everyone apart like a classic id Software game,” or you can choose to hang back and snipe from a distance, or ram a vehicle into the middle of the enemy horde and start shooting.
“The universe of Rage 2 allows you to run around and shoot it up any way you want. No other id Software game has really ever been made like this,” laughs Willits.
Include vehicles – gyrocopters, motorcycles, cars, and trucks – and Rage 2 promises to fulfil Willits’ fevered desire for a free-spirited take on the classic id shooter style. You can be flying around, see a settlement, and drop down to find yourself in some intense first-person gunplay.
“It really is this amazing marriage of everything fun in videogames,” enthuses the dev. “I love, obviously, id combat, and I love playing in these big open worlds – that’s why I wanted to create Rage in the first place – and finally being able to execute on the vision and promise is really exciting.”
BIG COUNTRY BLAST
It’s clear then, this is no corridor shooter. You’re free to explore and engage with the story any way you want. It’s been important, explains Willits, to make sure the flow of the game feels random, with missions
“YOU CAN BE FLYING AROUND, SEE A SETTLEMENT AND DROP DOWN FOR INTENSE FIRST-PERSON GUNPLAY.”
unfolding around a loose structure. In fact the team aren’t even calling them missions: “For us what we really wanted to do is create ‘events’… that you can do or you can’t do, it’s totally up to you, and that affects the bigger picture,” outlines Willits.
The progression, upgrades, and rewards you earn for completing these ‘moments’ help you progress. There’s no order to complete events in, but any wins will affect the wider world, in what Willits alludes to as Rage’s 2’s central pivot: warring Factions that control areas of the world.
“We try to give the player a lot of choice and we encourage them to do the really important things but they don’t necessarily have to do them,” hints the id developer, tantalisingly. “There are things that change based on what you accomplish. That’s always been an important aspect of the game and the storytelling. It’s not a formulaic world that just kind of repeats itself and you engage in it. You will see things that you do affect the world, and we think that is definitely part of the storytelling.”
GOOD LUCK CHUCK
This time you play as Walker, the last Ranger. Robbed of your home and left for dead in the wasteland, you’re on a revenge mission against the Authority – the returning big bad from the original game. Willits teases more links to the original story, with Doctor Kvasir and Captain John Marshall (leader of the resistance against the Authority) making a return, if older. John Goodman’s Dan Hagar never made it. Presumably he wasn’t “one lucky son of a bitch”.
This new game will have what Willits calls ‘world storytelling’. “There’s more personality in some of the environments, there’s much more dialogue, there’s much more going on, there’s sub-stories, so yes, story is very important,” he says.
The world of Rage 2 is the payoff for the events of the original game. Having brought the Arks to the surface, the Authority War raged for years, and now it’s Walker’s task to rebuild himself and take the fight back to the totalitarian regime.
Quest aside, id is using the premise of the resurfaced Arks to alter its Rage universe in a dramatic way. Each Ark contained ‘ecopods’ with distinct environmental signatures, which reshaped the land. Willits explains: “The first game was the postapocalyptic world. But now we have areas that are more than just a brown, dusty wasteland. This is more of a
post-post-apocalyptic world where society is trying to rebuild and we have different environments, different landscapes, there’s vegetation and swamps, and rivers, and lakes, so the world is really evolved.”
What this means in-game is colour. Every wood and wasteland is awash with a signature tone used to draw out emotion as you enter another frenzied skirmish. Even in the heat of battle it doesn’t let up – explosions erupt with orange and pink hues, enemies bob around in bright yellow rad suits, and that truck gunning for you is caked in neon graffiti. It’s like Jamie Hewlett doodled Doom’s concept art.
Willits explains that from the outset the team wanted Rage 2 to have a signature look, one that’s “over the top and a little odd, it’s fun and inviting,” and demands you explore its blue misty glades and red-hued valleys.
“The world has evolved from that dry, dusty wasteland and we really wanted to showcase that,” says Willits. “We spent a lot of time working on some really cool environments and even had some long debates about the colour of water. Players want these rich environments as it’s easier for them to understand where they’re going, it’s easier to get a context for what you’re doing.”
GOOD TO BE RAD
Of the gameplay we see, one battle catches our eye: a skirmish with a dozen enemies on screen, explosions, muzzle flare, and debris littering the scene, and a monster truck storming across the battlefield swiping away a handful of Faction foes – it’s chaos.
Willits explains the anarchy: “There are Factions that don’t like other Factions, there’s AI that don’t like other AI, there’s independent AI that’s in the vehicles, there’s friendly vehicles, there’s bad guy vehicles, so the world is really dynamic.”
The combat flows, and in our mind we build up everything that happens around us, creating our own stories.
“You really find yourself engaged in this world because stuff isn’t really staged,” says Willits. “In other games you go to a checkpoint and now this guy’s going to run over that guy, but in this world you’re in the wasteland, you’re driving around, you see a bunch of mutants, then some other guys jump out…” Rage 2’s promise? You’ll never know what’s around the next corner. But it will be colourful.
“RAGE 2’S PROMISE? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT’S AROUND THE NEXT CORNER. BUT IT’LL BE COLOURFUL.”
 These large ‘Crusher’ mutants will support smaller enemy squads, but they are also loose prowling the world.  Rage 2 is so pwetty.  Mechs are drivable and look like they’re cobbled together from left-over parts of Optimus Prime.
 Doctor Kvasir is back to fiddle with your Nanotrites.  It’s not all dusty grey deserts this time around – look at this moody woodland.  Explore the world to discover massive jumps, just for fun.  The Wingstick is back and can be modded to pack a hefty punch, including igniting any enemies it makes contact with.