Em­brace the Rage

We take a spin through the waste­land of Avalanche and id’s stun­ning and in­sane new shooter, and quiz the team about how it’s up­ping the ante with Rage 2

Games TM - - CONTENTS -

“If you make a good game, if it’s fun and if you of­fer good value for money, then peo­ple will play it,” Tim Wil­lits be­gins to ex­plain as we ru­mi­nate on the widely held per­cep­tion that sin­gle-player games are be­ing suf­fo­cated out of ex­is­tence by the mul­ti­player be­he­moths of the world. “You know, I’ve been in this in­dus­try long enough that I know how this stuff goes… I’m not go­ing to stress about it.”

id Soft­ware’s long-run­ning stu­dio head isn’t go­ing to stress about such a con­sid­er­a­tion be­cause he couldn’t be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to re­buke it. He is, af­ter all, over­see­ing a stu­dio that’s driv­ing the qual­ity of sin­gle-player shoot­ers up across the in­dus­try, not to men­tion the be­gin­ning of what is be­ing la­belled an “un­prece­dented part­ner­ship in gam­ing”.

Rage 2 is best capped as a wild fu­sion of id Soft­ware’s bestin-class FPS me­chan­ics with Avalanche Stu­dio’s mas­tery of open-world chaos. This is the de­vel­op­ment out­fit be­hind such in­dus­try main­stays as Doom, Wolfen­stein and Quake jump­ing into the sack with the stu­dio re­spon­si­ble for the likes of Just Cause, Mad Max and Rene­gade Ops. A pic­ture of what that looks like and how it plays should form in your mind with ease, and

your heart rate should rise in an­tic­i­pa­tion. But with ev­ery high­pro­file part­ner­ship comes the all-im­por­tant ques­tion: will this be a match made in heaven or a recipe for dis­as­ter?

If our time with the lat­est demo build of Rage 2 was any­thing to go by, then it would look as if this un­likely col­lab­o­ra­tion is fir­ing on all cylin­ders. The 2019 shooter is primed and ready to take the world by storm, bring­ing ex­plo­sive ac­tion and un­prece­dented scale to­gether in a way that, frankly, we never truly be­lieved ei­ther stu­dio was ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing. Hell, if ei­ther of them were ca­pa­ble of do­ing so, Rage 2 would likely be a dif­fer­ent beast en­tirely. That’s just it though; Rage 2 is the re­sult of two ex­pe­ri­enced and in­flu­en­tial teams work­ing dili­gently to seek out the other’s best qual­i­ties, bring­ing all of it to­gether into one in­tox­i­cat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

That’s im­por­tant to note, be­cause the two stu­dios do in­deed need each other to make some­thing like Rage 2 a pos­si­bil­ity. id Soft­ware – as ev­i­denced by Rage’s de­but in 2011 – strug­gles with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of open-ended de­sign struc­tures, the power-punch com­bi­na­tion of its weighted weapons and re­ac­tive ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence los­ing its bite when ex­tracted from the metic­u­lously crafted com­bat are­nas it is so fa­mous for es­tab­lish­ing. Avalanche, on the other hand, has proven it­self to be the mas­ter of physics-based emer­gent game­play cast out across awe­some open-sand­box worlds, even if its com­bat and AI sys­tems leave a lit­tle to be de­sired. So per­haps now you can see why this part­ner­ship has so much po­ten­tial.

“I like to joke that it’s like peanut but­ter and jelly, it just works!” Wil­lits laughs, though we do quickly ad­mit that the al­lure of such a com­bi­na­tion is likely lost to many of us here, east of the At­lantic Ocean. That’s where Avalanche’s se­nior games de­signer Loke Wallmo jumps into the fray that is quickly emerg­ing in this in­ter­view: “I like to joke that when we first met these guys it’s like we were at a bar. We were at a bar and we looked over, they looked over and some­one smiled,” he says, laugh­ing. “That re­ally got us to where we are to­day.”

It’s a cute anec­dote, but we would posit that it is far eas­ier to main­tain a lin­ger­ing smile across a crowded room than it is to make a suc­cess­ful game, let alone one built col­lab­o­ra­tively be­tween stu­dios thou­sands of miles apart. For id, suc­cess­fully re­viv­ing the Rage IP af­ter let­ting it spend more than half a decade on ice meant seiz­ing the right op­por­tu­nity when it pre­sented it­self. “We have had a de­sire to go back to Rage for a while. A bunch of peo­ple played the orig­i­nal and it was a suc­cess­ful game for us,” Wil­lits main­tains, and he would know – he was the direc­tor of the bloody thing back in 2011.

Still, he con­tin­ues, Rage is im­por­tant for id be­cause it has the po­ten­tial to fill the open-world ac­tion game void in id Soft­ware’s oth­er­wise ex­pan­sive li­brary of dom­i­nant shooter ex­pe­ri­ences. That’s some­thing he hopes to fully re­alise this time around, keenly aware that per­haps its id Tech 5 en­gine wasn’t up to the job, and that per­haps the team wasn’t quite ready to deliver this type of ex­pe­ri­ence in a genre quickly evolv­ing thanks to the ar­rival of games like Border­lands, Fall­out 3 and Bioshock, not to men­tion a litany of oth­ers… it was a wild time for the FPS.

un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the needs of the au­di­ence and over­es­ti­mat­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of id isn’t a mis­take he planned on mak­ing twice. “We just never re­ally had the right tech­nol­ogy and the right ex­pe­ri­ence to make what we wanted to do with Rage orig­i­nally a re­al­ity. So when Avalanche be­came avail­able, well, we were al­ways big fans of Just Cause, Mad Max, their Apex En­gine and their ex­pe­ri­ence, so it was a per­fect fit for what we wanted to achieve. We are very for­tu­nate that they were will­ing to work with us and I think we’ve made some­thing cool, right?”

“We have a lot of f Irst-per­son shooter fans here at the of­fice and they Were su­per-stoked to get to Work on some­thing like this” LOKE WALLMO SE­NIOR GAME DE­SIGNER, AVALANCHE STU­DIOS

Wil­lits turns to Wallmo as he says this, the two shar­ing a know­ing laugh be­fore they be­gin to trade sto­ries from their time in the trenches of de­vel­op­ment. That ques­tion was re­ally meant for us, even if both de­vel­op­ers are too proud to come out and ask it of us di­rectly. The duo is aware that, de­spite Rage sup­pos­edly meet­ing in­ter­nal ex­pec­ta­tions at pub­lisher Bethesda to war­rant a se­quel, this is a re­vival that still feels like some­thing of a curve­ball for many of the per­spec­tive play­ers out there. We can’t help but shake the feel­ing that id and Avalanche are in search of af­fir­ma­tion, of word from the press and play­ers alike that its ef­forts haven’t been in vain – wasted on a fool’s er­rand. Well, if it’s af­fir­ma­tion that the stu­dios want, then af­fir­ma­tion they will have. We have now qualms be­ing to­tally hon­est with you, the teams re­ally have made some­thing pretty damn cool.

Why is that? Well, it’s dif­fi­cult to say with any real cer­tainty. Rage 2 is one of those ex­pe­ri­ences that feels right in your hands; it’s a shooter that is pos­i­tively puls­ing with en­ergy and con­fi­dence. Dis­till­ing that down is dif­fi­cult, though if we had to pin it on any one el­e­ment, our in­stinct would be on the chaos it con­stantly es­pouses, as if by in­stinct. Rage 2 is a re­fresh­ing change of pace when com­pared with any­thing it is com­pet­ing with in the genre space right now. Its com­bi­na­tion of ac­tion and scale is le­git­i­mately awe­some to be­hold, as too is how smooth and seam­less the en­tire pack­age feels.

This is largely down to the stu­dios’ in­tent to make you feel em­pow­ered at all times, ramp­ing up the dif­fi­culty by pump­ing the screen full of a, at times, frankly ridicu­lous amount of smart and deadly en­e­mies – it’s rare to see a game work so dili­gently to in­crease en­emy counts in this way, par­tic­u­larly in this day and age as de­vel­op­ers chase other av­enues of fidelity. Wallmo tells us that Avalanche was fo­cused from the be­gin­ning on mak­ing you feel like “a su­per­hero of the waste­land”, and that’s some­thing that it has driven home all through­out de­vel­op­ment. “We’ve played around with this idea quite a bit. I think the Nan­otrite pow­ers in par­tic­u­lar give the player in­creased dy­nam­ics, in­creased move­ment and a way to fight with­out the weapons.”

With­out weapons. We can see Wil­lits prim­ing him­self to leap into the con­ver­sa­tion, be­wil­dered as to why any­body would want to play a game bear­ing the id brand­ing with­out us­ing the weapons it is so famed for im­ple­ment­ing. Wallmo quickly course cor­rects in an ef­fort to calm his coun­ter­part. “You will do the ma­jor­ity of your fight­ing with weapons, of course,” he laughs as Wil­lits be­gins to set­tle back into a com­fort­able lean on the sofa. “But the Nan­otrite pow­ers add a lot to the mix; they help im­prove crowd con­trol, move­ment, phys­i­cal­ity and play­ful­ness. It took us a long while to get that right, but I think – as you’ve seen to­day af­ter playing it, hope­fully – that you’ll feel like they re­ally work very well to­gether.”

“It’s all about get­ting you into the ac­tion a lit­tle bit faster,” Wil­lits jumps in, fin­ish­ing Wallmo’s sen­ti­ment. “Be­cause Rage 2 has such a big open world you can ap­proach com­bat sit­u­a­tions from any­where and in any way that you want to. For ex­am­ple, we re­ward you for us­ing abil­i­ties – it charges your Over­drive, you get dif­fer­ent drops – it’s one of the many ways we get you into the ac­tion and keep you there.”

That di­rec­tive per­me­ates all through­out Rage 2. It gets you into ac­tion quickly and tries its level best to keep you there, with waves of ma­raud­ing packs of en­e­mies con­stantly test­ing your abil­ity to crowd con­trol, nav­i­gate spa­ces and gun down fast-mov­ing tar­gets. Re­gard­less of whether you are stalk­ing across the sur­pris­ingly var­ied biomes – from deso­late deserts, lush jun­gles and pop­u­lated makeshift towns – that make up the open-world sand­box on foot or be­hind the wheel of a ve­hi­cle that is primed and ready for war.

you can feel it too as you take to stomp­ing through the metic­u­lously de­signed in­te­ri­ors that en­cour­age you to blast bul­lets at just about any­thing that moves, in spa­ces that feel like they could have been ripped right out of Doom and given a makeover by a de­cid­edly an­ar­chis­tic land­scaper and dec­o­ra­tor. Im­pres­sively, you also feel it in the wider com­bat are­nas that you’ll be pro­pelled be­tween as you com­plete main quests, side sto­ries and ex­er­cises in sur­vival across the open roads; emer­gent in­stances of vi­o­lence are a com­mon threat in Rage 2 as the var­i­ous, var­ied fac­tions bare down on you – these sit­u­a­tions will push you to utilise ev­ery­thing in your back­pack to evis­cer­ate swaths of en­e­mies and huge hulk­ing beast crea­tures ea­ger to cut you down. It’s fun, it’s in­vig­o­rat­ing and it’s ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect from the com­bi­na­tion of these two stu­dios. The gun­play is tight and mea­sured; the ve­hic­u­lar com­bat looks to be mad­cap by its very na­ture, a huge step up from what Avalanche pre­sented in Mad Max; the world a vi­brant play­ground that ef­fort­lessly drives per­son­al­ity in the game, a place where car­nage fol­lows you on ev­ery step of your jour­ney. In many re­spects Rage 2 seems hell bent on sat­is­fy­ing an im­pos­si­ble ar­ray of de­mands from FPS fans. Want a piece of id’s clas­sic, elec­tric com­bat feel? You got it. Want to en­gage in high-oc­tane ve­hic­u­lar com­bat that feels like it would have a place in a Ge­orge Miller pro­duc­tion? Yeah, that’s cov­ered. How about mak­ing use of an ar­ray of ki­netic abil­i­ties to send the physics sys­tem into a tizzy, stretch­ing an ar­ray of ridicu­lous sit­u­a­tions out into your cy­cle of per­sis­tent pain in­flic­tion. Rage 2 han­dles that with ease.

There’s a sense that any­thing can hap­pen to, and around you in Rage 2. That’s in­her­ently ex­cit­ing as a set-up for a shooter, par­tic­u­larly one as bois­ter­ous as this. That’s a feel­ing that is shared by the folks over at Avalanche, and it’s a cre­ative chal­lenge that the team, as Wallmo tells it, re­ally grav­i­tated to through­out de­vel­op­ment. “What’s so great about Rage is that you can pretty much drop any­thing in there and you can kind of make it make sense within that world. We are al­ways push­ing

our­selves to do more, and to do cra­zier things. The amount of free­dom we have work­ing in the Rage world is amaz­ing; we don’t feel very con­strained at all.”

We did, of course, re­quire an ex­am­ple… we wish we hadn’t asked. “Well, if we wanted to put a gi­ant squid in the game we could have it; a gi­ant squid with lasers on top of it, and as it starts climb­ing out of the wa­ter it starts blast­ing you with…” Wallmo be­gins to ex­cit­edly ex­claim be­fore be­ing cut off by Wil­lits mid­sen­tence. “Wait, is that not in the game? Why is that not in the game?” he says, laugh­ing. “It’s the ten­ta­cle physics,” Wallmo responds, de­fi­antly. “That is true,” con­cedes Wil­lits. “Ten­ta­cle physics are tough.”

Ten­ta­cle physics are tough. We’ll be straight up with you, folks. This isn’t how we thought this con­ver­sa­tion was go­ing to go. Then again, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Wallmo and Wil­lits are easy in con­ver­sa­tion; the pair have clearly spent a lot of time to­gether over the years as id and Avalanche col­lab­o­rated to piece this be­he­moth ex­pe­ri­ence to­gether – for the record, we did press the pair on whether this squid be­he­moth would ap­pear as fu­ture DLC, but the answer was, you could say, in­con­clu­sive.

Still, for Avalanche this was a rel­a­tively new ex­pe­ri­ence. Cre­at­ing a FPS, that is. The stu­dio has typ­i­cally built out third­per­son ac­tion ti­tles, those of the sand­box va­ri­ety where the game is of­ten only as fun as you can make it. How has the stu­dio found build­ing out some­thing as tightly paced and metic­u­lous to de­tail as a game cast from a first-per­son per­spec­tive? It has rel­ished the chal­lenge and jumped at the op­por­tu­nity. “There are a lot of things that you need to deliver in this type of ex­pe­ri­ence; the in­ten­sity of the ac­tion is one thing that first-per­son lends it­self re­ally well to. It’s dif­fer­ent and re­ally re­ward­ing to work with,” says Wallmo. “I like how close we are able to get play­ers to the ac­tion when they move through our spa­ces. You know, we have a lot of first-per­son shooter fans here at the of­fice and they were su­per-stoked to get to work on some­thing like this. It’s hon­estly been re­ally, re­ally fun for us.”

This was some­thing we were ea­ger to clear up with the two stu­dios. The lines of col­lab­o­ra­tion haven’t been clearly de­fined, and that’s some­thing we dived straight into. Lis­ten, the game is rad­i­cal, but this is games™ you’re read­ing; if we didn’t get right in there be­hind the scenes, talk a lit­tle pro­pri­etary tech­nol­ogy and oth­er­wise be a lit­tle bit of a nui­sance for stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives who were hop­ing to talk about shot­guns – and don’t worry, we’ll get around to that in a bit – then we wouldn’t be do­ing our jobs prop­erly.

So, let’s do this thing. What’s the bal­ance in terms of col­lab­o­ra­tion? Was it, we won­dered, Avalanche build­ing out the base of the game with id then lay­ing its ex­per­tise in FPS de­sign down on top of it? Is id han­dling the weapons and Avalanche han­dling the world? How does this work, Wil­lits? Tell us, please. “Okay, no. So the Avalanche guys do the work,” says Wil­lits with a smile. The ver­sa­til­ity and power of the Apex en­gine – the new tech and toolsets driv­ing Rage 2 and Just Cause 4 – was a big fac­tor be­hind Bethesda’s de­ci­sion to bring Avalanche into the fold, so of course the engi­neers of it are driv­ing pro­duc­tion.

And, con­sider this for a sec­ond… that Apex en­gine must be some­thing spe­cial if it has pushed id – a stu­dio that built its

“fo­cus­ing on one player al­lows us to do crazy stuff. We can lit­er­ally break the game If We Want to”

tim wil­lits stu­dio head, Id soft­ware

rep­u­ta­tion around ex­pres­sive, evo­lu­tion­ary tech­nol­ogy – to avoid us­ing its own pro­pri­etary id Tech 6 en­gine (Doom/wolfen­stein II: The New Colos­sus) or, you know, that hot new id Tech 7 en­gine, the one pow­er­ing 2019’s Doom Eter­nal. This is be­cause Apex will let the teams utilise Avalanche’s pen­chant for de­liv­er­ing speedy world-stream­ing, per­fect for when you’re blis­ter­ing across open spa­ces with a bit of gusto, and cre­at­ing com­plex al­go­rithms that keep the ever-bend­ing physics sys­tems in check, nec­es­sary when ma­nip­u­lat­ing re­al­ity with your ar­ray of Nan­otrite pow­ers or be­ing thrust into a va­ri­ety of mad­cap sit­u­a­tions. On top of all of that, it also lets the team es­tab­lish de­tailed in­te­rior en­vi­ron­ments with­out sac­ri­fic­ing fidelity out in the broader out­door en­vi­ron­ments.

In fact, ac­cord­ing to Wil­lits, en­sur­ing that Rage 2 func­tioned as one open ex­pe­ri­ence with­out any load screens be­tween its var­i­ous biomes or ar­eas was a huge pri­or­ity, some­thing that had to be achieved be­fore this project got off the ground. “We wanted it to all fit to­gether in one world,” he con­tin­ues. “Rage had some re­ally awe­some things about it that were pil­lars of Rage 2 – the gun­play, the AI, the rac­ing – but now we can ac­tu­ally make it hap­pen in one open world with­out hav­ing it run level by level with a feel­ing of dis­con­nec­tion be­tween them all.”

That’s where Avalanche came into the pic­ture, tak­ing the lead on this hugely am­bi­tious project. “We work with these guys ev­ery day. It wasn’t like, ‘hey, here’s some code; go have fun with it!’ Be­cause ev­ery en­gine is dif­fer­ent, it’s the magic sauce and lots of di­als… and these guys have lots of di­als, which is re­ally

nice,” Wil­lits con­tin­ues, al­though we’re not en­tirely sure that this anal­ogy is playing out the way he wanted it to, and so we crossed over to Wallmo to get his per­spec­tive on the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“We can use the Cloud for shar­ing as­sets, and of course video con­fer­enc­ing, that re­ally worked for us. It’s been an easy col­lab­o­ra­tion, even though we are thou­sands of miles apart,” he says, be­fore get­ting to the heart of the process. “We’ve been learn­ing the first-per­son ac­tion game for­mula… well, it’s not re­ally a for­mula. It’s more like a lot of hard work. But it has just been so awe­some for us to have this col­lab­o­ra­tion, be­cause it means that we have been able to learn about FPS de­sign from the masters.”

“We talk to id all of the time. We have a com­pletely open struc­ture; it’s all about get­ting their feed­back con­stantly, about fo­cus­ing on get­ting the feel­ing of the game right. On get­ting the move­ment right and the weapons right,” Wallmo con­tin­ues. “Cloud tech­nol­ogy and good com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­ally worked for us. It just re­moved a lot of those bar­ri­ers, and that al­lowed us to be con­stantly up­dat­ing each other.”

once you get your hands on Rage 2 you im­me­di­ately un­der­stand the pull of it. It feels packed, as if it is a world brim­ming with life and ac­tiv­ity. Its world is chaotic and the peo­ple that in­habit it are bom­bas­tic, all of this only help­ing to tie each of the game’s var­i­ous el­e­ments to­gether. It also helps that Rage 2 is set a con­sid­er­able amount of time in the fu­ture from the orig­i­nal, feel­ing en­tirely de­tached from any­thing that has come be­fore in a way that only helps serve the story and en­vi­ron­ment. That’s some­thing Wil­lits was keen to ex­press, by the way. “We have a more open-story struc­ture this time… it’s very im­por­tant for me to note that if you’re not fa­mil­iar with Rage, don’t stress about playing Rage 2. We’ve set it far enough ahead (30 years) that it has its own kind of per­son­al­ity, a new story and new com­bat styles that re­ally make it stand out.”

It re­ally does have its own per­son­al­ity and, like we said be­fore, it re­ally does feel like any­thing could and likely would hap­pen in the course of playing the game. It’s easy to won­der what might have been cut along the way with games like these, in games that are just ex­ud­ing con­tent and per­son­al­ity at ev­ery corner. Wallmo ad­mits that this has been a prob­lem with Rage 2, al­though that’s largely true of ev­ery­thing that he has worked on.

“For ev­ery ten crazy ideas that you have, nine don’t work. I think that’s the soul of game de­vel­op­ment right there; you try a bunch of things, many of them sound great on pa­per and you build them out and it just doesn’t work… or there is just some ob­vi­ous flaw you can’t fix. But we have some re­ally, re­ally tal­ented de­vel­op­ers at Avalanche that love to try stuff out and, if you do that enough, you find a bunch of stuff – sys­tems and me­chan­ics – that re­ally work well to­gether, and then we pol­ish that. We have a lot of fun do­ing it.”

With games get­ting larger and larger, and more and more packed with con­tent – Rage 2 is a game on a scale far greater than any­thing ei­ther stu­dio has put its name to in terms of raw con­tent, of that we’re cer­tain – does it ever feel like this is time wasted, that could be bet­ter spent else­where? “I don’t think I’ve

“for ev­ery ten crazy Ideas that you have, NINE don’t Work. I think that’s the soul of game de­vel­op­ment right there”

loke wallmo se­nior game de­signer, avalanche stu­dios

ever re­ally worked on a project where this hasn’t been true in some sense,” ad­mits Wallmo. “You can maybe feel like you’re wast­ing time some­times, es­pe­cially when you re­alise you can’t use some­thing af­ter in­vest­ing in it, but there could al­ways be some­thing in it that could be used else­where or it can, in turn, give you an­other idea that ac­tu­ally does work. I think that’s just par for the course…”

“We’ve been pretty good at not crea­ture creep­ing too much,” Wil­lits jumps in, laugh­ing. “But there’s al­ways that risk when you work with a bunch of cre­ative peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly a group that, like this one, comes up with some great ideas. But I think we struck a good bal­ance.”

“Ob­vi­ously we’ve been fo­cus­ing on the core,” says Wallmo. “The gun­play, the Nan­otrite abil­i­ties, how you jump, how you move, how you fight. That’s been our num­ber-one pri­or­ity, and then we are work­ing with the ve­hi­cles and the worlds and lo­ca­tions and ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on in there.”

It’s easy for the pair to look back on this now, af­ter so many years of work­ing dili­gently to strike the right bal­ance. Wallmo, when pressed on what he con­sid­ers to be Avalanche’s pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on this col­lab­o­ra­tion, is caught. He’s keen to note that the stu­dio ap­proached Rage 2 with what he calls an “open mind”, giv­ing the re­la­tion­ship with id the space to breathe, which in turn al­lowed the two to work out what was and wasn’t im­por­tant for the game. “We re­ally tried to use our ex­pe­ri­ence and tried to lis­ten to what id wanted out of the game.”

Some­thing that id had at one time con­sid­ered, we were sur­prised to learn, was bring­ing mul­ti­player to Rage 2. Thank­fully, the stu­dios quickly came to the re­al­i­sa­tion that keep­ing the game con­tained within a sin­gle-player cam­paign would give the teams more flex­i­bil­ity to play with con­ven­tion, more scope to fo­cus in on fidelity and more time to pol­ish its open world and the con­tent that in­hab­its it. “Of course we talked about it. It’d be great to do ev­ery­thing all of the time. But we do feel that we are of­fer­ing a lot of con­tent and play­time for what you get in the base game,” ad­mits Wil­lits, who coyly dances around ques­tions of ru­moured com­mu­nity el­e­ments be­ing in­tro­duced post-launch along­side both paid and free DLC con­tent to help add a tail to Rage 2’s game­play for the com­ple­tion­ists in the group. “More im­por­tantly, fo­cus­ing on only one player al­lows us to do crazy stuff. We can lit­er­ally break the game if we want to. If you’re hav­ing fun, who cares! Right? So that’s kinda been our men­tal­ity through­out de­vel­op­ment.”

“I think that has al­lowed us to fo­cus a lot more on that core ex­pe­ri­ence,” adds Wallmo. “That core Waste­land Su­per­hero ex­pe­ri­ence. When you don’t have to think about bal­anc­ing mul­ti­player, or all the net­work­ing, or how all of the con­tent in the world is go­ing to stream in for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent clients… re­ally, it’s al­lowed us to fo­cus down on the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

We be­lieve him, and Rage 2 is so much bet­ter be­cause of it. Of that we are cer­tain. There are core el­e­ments of the game that sim­ply wouldn’t be as good had the fo­cus be­come di­luted, had the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two stu­dios been any­thing less than rock solid. There’s one part of Rage 2’s de­sign that sells it; the col­lab­o­ra­tion, the con­cept, all of it. It’s the gun­play. Avalanche has dropped into the realms of first-per­son ac­tion with ease, and it has a bright fu­ture in this genre if it should feel so em­bold­ened to em­brace it.

“rage 2 has such a big open World you can ap­proach com­bat sit­u­a­tions from any­where and IN any Way that you Want to”

tim wil­lits stu­dio head, Id soft­ware

When we men­tioned the sump­tu­ous weight of the shot­gun Wil­lits im­me­di­ately shot up in ex­cite­ment, not for the first time in our lengthy chat. “Yeah… id is very par­tic­u­lar about the shot­gun,” Wallmo says, laugh­ing as he at­tempts to tem­per the ex­citable stu­dio head sat to his right. “No, no, no, trust me. We talk about weight all the time,” Wil­lits ex­plains. “The weight is im­por­tant – our guns have to feel meaty and pow­er­ful.”

We ask whether Avalanche felt pres­sured to get such an iconic weapon – one of the all-time-greats – right; is it aware that fans are go­ing to be scru­ti­n­is­ing this thing more than any other weapon in­cluded in a videogame? Of course it is. “Here’s a great ex­am­ple of our col­lab­o­ra­tion,” says Wil­lits. “Some of our an­i­ma­tors look at ev­ery sin­gle frame of an­i­ma­tion on the weapons and where they are in the screen. They see stuff that we don’t see. They’re like, ‘If you move this one frame’ – and remember, we have 60 frames in a sec­ond and they are deal­ing with just one frame – ‘it’ll make it bet­ter. Trust me, it will help.’

“And I’m say­ing, we’re all say­ing, I don’t know… I don’t see it,” Wil­lits con­tin­ues, laugh­ing, this process clearly a worth­while labour of love for the folks at id. “But when we spend the time chang­ing it and it’s like, ‘oh, that feels much bet­ter!’ There’s some magic there in the process.”

The shot­gun isn’t the only place where you’ll feel a lit­tle magic in Rage 2. It’s an ex­pres­sive first-per­son shooter that seems to take great joy in the sheer act of ex­ist­ing. It’s fu­ri­ously fun and sur­pris­ingly clever, util­is­ing bru­tal­ity and vi­o­lence to push you to ex­per­i­ment with the tight me­chan­ics thrown your way. It’s in­cred­i­bly gory, with­out mak­ing that a part of its per­son­al­ity. It’s all played for smiles in a mad­cap world that’s as un­re­lent­ingly dan­ger­ous as it is gor­geous to be­hold.

This is what you get when id meets Avalanche: a won­der­fully smart sin­gle-player FPS that pulls no punches, set in a sprawl­ing open world in which it feels like any­thing can hap­pen. This is Rage 2, the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic game that no shooter fan should pass up.

Rage 2 is set 30 years af­ter the orig­i­nal game, so no previous knowl­edge is re­quired to fol­low along with the story, the world or the ac­tion. As Walker, the last ranger, you will fight to sur­vive in a dan­ger­ous post-apoc­a­lyp­tic waste­land.

The orig­i­nal Rage had ex­cel­lent gun­play and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, but it al­ways felt a lit­tle re­stricted in its world and scope. That’s some­thing id has sought to fix by team­ing up with Just Cause and Mad Max cre­ators Avalanche Stu­dios.

While Rage 2 will have a main quest, you’ll be able to duck in and out of it as you please. Sto­ries will be scat­tered across the open world, side quests and points of in­ter­est that you can in­ves­ti­gate to learn more about the land and the peo­ple that in­habit it.Nan­otrites re­turn from the orig­i­nal Rage, giv­ing you an ar­ray of spe­cial pow­ers and abil­ity boosts that can com­pletely change the com­po­si­tion of com­bat.

While any ve­hi­cle in Rage 2 can be com­man­deered, you will also have a cen­tral ve­hi­cle that you can up­grade and cus­tomise to make it bat­tle ready, nec­es­sary for when you en­gage in ve­hic­u­lar com­bat and deadly races.

id worked closely with Avalanche to en­sure that the de­tails were nailed. You see that re­flected across the game, from its in­cred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing and weighted weapons to its smart and deadly en­e­mies.

With its vivid colour pal­ette and ir­rev­er­ent tone, Rage 2 is a sur­pris­ingly fun and evoca­tive shooter that’s just pos­i­tively burst­ing with per­son­al­ity. If you feel like there’s an open-world hole in your heart that Border­lands used to oc­cupy, this is go­ing to be the game for you.

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