Playing Rage 2 gave me flashbacks to taking part in Doom (2016). And that’s an excellent factor.
Remember after we had been lukewarm about Doom? Remember when that mission was caught in countless growth hell, and the franchise’s unimpeachable heritage was left to journey on the more and more bitter style that Doom three had left in our mouths? Remember that dispiriting multiplayer beta, and Bethesda’s refusal to ship out evaluate copies, and those morbid quotes from Tim Willits?
Remember how that sport still managed to blow the roof off the place, wrapping us all in a giddiness that appeared completely not possible just a few years again? I’m making an attempt to remain grounded, but when I’m being trustworthy, I bought a glimmer of that very same miraculous feeling from taking part in a demo of Rage 2 at E3 this week.
Rage isn’t even probably the most audacious reclamation mission Bethesda has enacted this decade. That honor goes to Prey. Still, saying a sequel to Rage in 2018 was fairly confounding. I’m not even certain that Rage has the cultural cachet to name itself the red-headed step baby of the Id household. It’s more like a distant second cousin that periodically reminds you of its existence by its everlasting presence in Steam seasonal gross sales. Why resurrect such a nonexistent legacy when you might break floor on a brand new IP? Or make a brand new Quake? Or do one thing extra colorfully audacious, like a gritty Commando Keen reboot? The reply, as I came upon within the 15 minute demo I performed, is easy: You make Rage 2, as a result of you can also make Rage 2 really feel like Doom.
Rage 2 isn’t solely an Id mission. The firm is engaged on the sport along with Avalanche, which is superbly serendipitous when you think about that Avalanche put out a reasonably successful Mad Max game just a few years in the past. The PR liaison at my demo described Rage 2’s design as a mashup of Avalanche’s exploration sensibilities and Id’s FPS tuning, and at the least the second half of that proved to be true from the second I entered the tutorial. The liquid-fast circle strafing, the large, broad-shouldered weight of the firearms, the heavy, heavy industrial soundtrack—all of that was in place, and all of it felt simply as great as earlier than.
I’ll provide you with an instance: The stage I performed befell in an deserted authorities area base in the midst of a crusty desert ridge, rife with mohawked jamokes raiding the wreckage. I whipped out my assault rifle and began firing, which crammed up a God of War-style combo tally within the nook of my display screen.
Eventually, I used to be instructed to launch into one thing referred to as “Overdrive.” Functionally, this was a normal “enrage” meter that elevated my harm whereas additionally regenerating my well being. But it’s the aesthetics that make it stand out: Overdrive sends a purple wave of artificial power over your display screen, makes your bullets bodily bigger, and ratchets up the gore to esoteric ranges of extra.
After the demo I talked to a developer who informed me that you may additionally air juggle dudes together with your gunshots in overdrive, and if that’s true: Jesus. It’s the Doomguy button. It’s additionally liable for the one most satisfying sequence I’ve had with a shooter this yr.
Every artistic resolution I seen in Rage 2 felt prefer it was extrapolated out of the Doom wheelhouse. Your character is outfitted with a collection of “Nanotrite” skills, which have one thing to do with nanomachines and clarify the superhuman motion within the fiction. The quick-dash mapped to the left bumper helps you to flank and counterflank with ease. There’s a seismic, leaping ground-pound factor referred to as Slam which flattens whole squadrons without delay. And there’s a fast melee bash referred to as Shatter that sends goons in your approach flying backwards.
I think about that Rage 2 will can help you do a good quantity of customization with the Nanotrite outfit you carry into battle—at the least, it appeared that approach, given the empty areas left on the HUD. As far as the traditional arsenal goes, I had entry to that assault rifle, a ridiculously loud shotgun, and these outstandingly ghastly shurikens that helicoptered via the air earlier than embedding themselves in an unfortunate thug’s cranium. All of it was introduced in a deliriously cyberpunk taste of the standard Dune-ified post-apocalypse: neon tattoos, graffiti, spiked leather-based jackets. If the largest grievance in regards to the first Rage was its lack of fashion, Rage 2 is making up for misplaced time.
But right here’s the factor. This is just one half of Rage 2—the Id half. There is a complete car-combat open-world exploration system—the Avalanche half of Rage 2—ready underneath the floor that I didn’t get an opportunity to the touch. I left the demo praying that the studio manages to refine the concepts they introduced in Mad Max into one thing much less janky. Hopefully, Avalanche will come out the opposite finish with a considerable narrative crunch and an fascinating mission construction that may give the standout capturing mechanics a pleasant residence. If they will stroll that tightrope, Bethesda may need one thing actually, actually particular on its palms, and this mercurial, tertiary franchise may reinvent itself as a basic.
Luke Winkie is a author and former pizza maker from San Diego, at the moment dwelling in Brooklyn. In addition to Kotaku, he contributes to Vice, PC Gamer, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and Polygon.