Hands-on Preview: Rage 2

Avalanche Studios is doing a solid impression of id - in all the best ways.

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Hands-on Preview: Rage 2

So you take Borderlands and you drop the cel-shaded graphics and hitpoint fountains. You take dash of Fallout. You get one of the best game engine devs on the planet to make everything look shiny, and you then inject the results with a BRO DO YOU EVEN LIFT levels of steroids.

The result of this melange of influences would, I think, look and play a lot like Rage 2.
There was a significant pre-roll video I watched before going hands on, which focused on the open world, the different biomes and environments, and the vehicular side of the game - but the demo was pure run-and-gun, following a brief introduction to the powers on offer in the game.

To call these bombastic and over the top is rather an understatement - they're silly-powerful and a lot of fun to use. You can leap into the air before smashing down into your opponents, you can dodge around with handy speed, and as you keep up your kill count and general sense of ongoing carnage, you can unlock a special Overcharge mode - turn this on and you heal up, deliver crazy damage with all your attacks, and generally charge around like a high-energy deathdealer on the 'good' speed.

And there's the Wingstick, which is still fun, but now even more useful - it can lock onto targets and - even if they break line of site from you - still take them out.

The demo began in an open area before a satellite control tower, with you charged to run in, shoot all the badguys, and bring some kind of bioreactor down from orbit. Frankly this isn't a 'plot' kind of game - everything happens to move you from one scene of devestation to another.

And ho boy... I am not a fan of this hyper-kinetic style of shooter (I'm old - get off my lawn!), so it took some getting used to, and while we were at least playing on PC, the game's not yet keyboard-and-mouse-optimised - so I was grappling with a lot of controls packed into a Xbox controller and that sure did cramp my style some.

Thankfully, even with all the shiny options for blowing badguys and gals into gibs, good old running around like a madman and shooting people in the face works just fine. Keep it up enough and Overcharge kicks in and that is super fun - though it's worth holding onto for those moments when you're either outnumbered, or about to go down to your last smidgin of health.

There's clearly a lot more in the game than we saw - the components we kept picking up throughout the level suggest some kind of crafting or economy to trade in - but otherwise it feels delighfuly id-like, especially once I cleared the outside area and got into the facility. Movement is as smooth and kinetic as you'd expect, and the weaponry on offer relatively satisfying. The assault rifle and pistol do what they say on the tin, but it's the shotgun that is the most fun - almost id-like in its gleeful intensity of damage-dealing.

... even with all the shiny options for blowing badguys and gals into gibs, good old running around like a madman and shooting people in the face works just fine.

The combat loop is pretty solid, and while it did get rather... old in the first game, this is looking like there's more to play with both in the environment and in your player toolkit. Close range shots and bullets to the head can drop a badguy instantly, but otherwise time-to-kill is relatively long - but with each blast you're taking off armour and other bits of costume, spinning people around or knocking them back, so you can either keep pumping in rounds or close in for a swift butt-stroke.

There's very little precision on the game, but spotting a group of enemies clumping too close together, throwing out a grenade, and then knocking them off balance with a single shotgun blast before ducking back around the corner to avoid the explosion is one of those pure shooter moments that can't be denied.

When Rage 2 was announced, it really felt like the sequel that no one was asking for, but it looking as though it may just justify itself. With so much of the game - the open world and vehicle combat - still a mystery it's hard to judge at this stage, but I will say:

I'm looking forward to seeing those components in action.

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