FORMAT PS4 / ETA JUN 2019 / PUB BETHESDA / DEV ID SOFTWARE, AVALANCHE STUDIOS On the road with the gonzo shooter
Everything in this game is splintering, exploding, and fizzing. Enemies erupt into bloody, flailing body parts and sparks fly from armoured goons as you empty a clip into them. Even the moon is broken. Seen from afar as we gaze out over Rage 2’s starry sky, the once-gleaming lunar lantern is severed into pieces, dangling precariously in orbit.
Back on terra firma the latest from the ‘super-dev’ combo of Id Software and Avalanche Studios is living up to the hype. The game is one huge open world crammed with variety – grassy wetlands, hot deserts, and abandoned ‘old Earth’ technology. Drive or walk, whichever direction you go in will be a seamless, load-free riot of colour and blood letting.
Our latest demo sees our protagonist Walker, a former Ranger now out for revenge against the Authority (one of Rage 2’s factions), team up with Dr Kvasir from the original Rage. We’re tasked with bringing the Eco 15 module out of Earth’s orbit and recovering the data inside. Between us and this simple recovery mission is the Goon Squad, a band of punk-inspired nut cases who will happily punch themselves as well as us in the face.
Beside the Goon Squad, factions shown to date include the Immortal Shrouded (a clan of bandits who use old technology to create new gear, such as invisibility cloaks, to gain the edge), the River Hogs, Abaddon Mutants, and, of course, the aforementioned Authority. The latter are the real big bad of the wastelands, cyborg mutants who have had their weapons surgically embedded into their decaying bodies.
To get to the Eden Space Center (its control room will enable us to bring the module out of orbit), we need to hop into the Phoenix, “an all-purpose death machine,” according to Dr Kvasir over the intercom.
If you’re familiar with Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max then you’ll be itching to get your fingers on Rage 2’s vehicle combat. Like that game this is a loose and aggressive take on driving, one where a powerslide on loose sand is common and every pit-a-pat of gunfire results in enemy buggies cartwheeling apart in balls of flaming debris. We see some of the Phoenix’s tools of destruction in action, including the Hellfire mortar, which rains fiery devastation down on groups of enemy vehicles. As with Mad Max mopping up small trucks is easy, but tackling convoys takes tactical nous. You need to break through defending buggies, the rear guard, before taking on the rolling behemoths up close.
The attention to detail, even at speed, delivers spectacle. Thick smoke realistically billows over our whirring wheels, and bullets ricochet off the ground and enemy armour.
When we reach the Eden Space Center Rage 2’s shooter side reveals itself as pure Id. Walker’s abilities include Slam, which sees your character leap into the air and come down on top of his enemies, exploding them into kibbles. Open world aside, this is a distillation of Id’s FPS heritage. Like in Doom, the emphasis here is on fast gunplay. Link enough kills and you enter Overdrive mode: the screen turns a satisfying pink and your weapons become more powerful. In some cases Overdrive unlocks new fire modes, resulting in enemies splattering the screen in grisly body parts.
Even refined weapons like the Wing Stick, which was introduced in the original Rage, bring the blood as the gadget decapitates its targets. Hidden enemies can’t dodge your Wing Stick 2.0 as it can track them around corners – a red, arcing beam shows the gizmo’s flight path.
When the Eco 15 pod is finally back on firm ground, going inside unlocks a new ability called Splatter – a kind of Force Push psi-power. Given what we’ve just witnessed is essentially a side-quest, we’d be over the fractured moon to play the entire game.
“THICK SMOKE REALISTICALLY BILLOWS OVER OUR WHIRRING WHEELS.”
Each clan has a unique look. The Scorchers have a Tank Girl feel; they’re cyberpunks who aren’t afraid to wear pink.
Giant purple mutants, monster trucks to discover and revamp, plus crazy psi-powers to unlock and upgrade. We. Can’t. Wait.
Above The Authority is back from the dead and look like they’ve just been ejected from a Quake remake. Who doesn’t love a mutant cyborg?