Earlier this month Thumbstix were lucky enough to be invited to Bethesda in Central London in order to get an early glimpse of Rage 2, the sequel to the 2011 original, developed by id software (Doom), the masters of the first person shooter. Tim Willets, Studio Director of id had made the journey over the pond to give the amassed media their first hands on. Rage 2 has actually been developed by Avalanche Studios (Just Cause, Mad Max) in conjunction with id, so there is plenty of experience and pedigree involved to make this an improvement on the original game. It has been quoted that id were impressed with the Apex engine used to power the open worlds of the Just Cause series, and this was key in approaching Avalanche to develop the sequel.

Rage 2 is another unashamedly single player first person shooter, gory as hell, and set in a futuristic wasteland and although published by Bethesda Softworks, any similarities to Fallout are in setting alone. Rage 2 takes a more Borderlands approach in style, with its copious use of neon. In his briefing, Tim Willets stated that previous games in this setting had “too many shades of brown”. In fact, this Wasteland has signs of a return to normal life, with plenty of green foliage on show, alongside a warmer red colour palette throughout.

The lead protagonist in Rage 2 is Walker, a character that can be either male or female via a character selection at the start of the game, whose parents have been killed in the Authority Wars, the events during and after the original game. It is now 30 years since these events and Walker is out for his revenge against the oppression of the authority.

My ninety minute playthrough started around 25% into the game so I had access to the Nanotrite powers, which are not present at the start, but are discoverable through finding Arks, previously buried underground colonies. The abilities are crucial in combat when used effectively. The ones I had access to were Shatter, Slam, Barrier and Vortex. No more were shown in the gameplay I saw, so there may still be more to be revealed, but all of the above are upgradeable in an RPG-eque skill tree. They can also be used together, for example, jumping into your own Vortex can launch you up into the air enough for a powered up Slam.

Once you leave the initial area the wasteland is fully open for the player to explore. I had a number of main missions available to me, one of which was to go and meet one of the three main NPC characters in the game, Loosum Hagar, major of Wellspring. All the vehicles in Rage 2 are driveable, so I hopped in a car to drive the short way to the town of Wellspring. The car handling was OK, especially as this isn’t the smoothest experience in the Just Cause games. When I reached the objective obviously there was a combat sequence, and this is something that really did excel in this engine, and it reminded me a lot of Wolfenstein 2 and the recent remake of Doom, as there was a great deal of blood and splatter to be seen, head-shots being particularly satisfying. The trusty wingstick is back from the original game and there are loads of guns to pick from, my favourite being one where you shoot small charges into an enemy that makes them shoot off in the direction you choose! The combat sequences can be approached with gunplay alone, but it was a lot more fun and a lot more satisfying to use a mixture of abilities and weapons! There is also an overdrive meter can be built up and activated that makes you unstoppable for a brief period of time.

After a brief cut-scene I was off on a mission to help out the Major, by planting a bug on the computer of local celebrity Klegg Clayton, but first I had to prove my celebrity skills by winning two local competitions. The first was the ChazCar derby, a local stock car racing tournament. Now, as the car control isn’t spectacular it was a bit iffy at times, but I still managed to win and prove my status. We have to remember that this was a pre-beta, so this mechanic could still be improved before the final release.

I then proceeded to the second event, Mutant Bash TV, which is a live TV show hosted by the intriguing character of Desdemonya and her weird baby-masked helpers. The weird and wonderful character design was one of my favourite elements of Rage 2, as some of them (including Desdemonya) did make me feel uncomfortable and amused all at the same time! Mutant Bash TV was a horde mode style event set across different rooms which increased in difficulty. The ammo soon runs out, and although there are refills between each room the abilities should be used to prevent running out completely. The culmination was a rather large gentleman on a pedestal with a mini-gun who took some bullets in order to be defeated. The return to meet Klegg Clayton was another moment of disgust at the character design, as he was a cross between a certain US president and future Biff from Back to The Future! Soon after was a mini-boss battle against a similar character – no spoilers here – and this was a good example of the importance of the use of the abilities, as without Walkers dash ability the fight would have been impossible to win. The boss continually charges you, and although his routine was easily worked out, avoiding him was a bit harder.

Roaming the wasteland in free play seemed to open up a multitude of events. There were small encampments to take over by killing everyone, naturally. I discovered another car on the road where I could tap a button to start a race, and heavily armoured convoys that can be attacked. Tim Willits has stated that “I like to say that RAGE 2 has a high ‘distraction factor’ when playing, I often get sidetracked by something as I drive past, or something happens dynamically in the world. I find that I can spend hours just driving around or flying”.

Rage 2 is released on May 14th 2019 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, and it’s currently looking like it will be a fun, exciting first person shooter for fans of the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein. With interesting character design and style, its aimed squarely at the more mature audience. Unfortunately there is no co-op or multiplayer to be found here, as Tim Wiletts states “Rage 2 will have no multiplayer because the game is so damn big – the sheer scope of the game’s single-player experience discouraged the Rage 2 team from expanding it into multiplayer”.

Keep an eye on Thumbstix for the review coming in May.