RAGE 2 is a carnival of carnage DOOM fans should not miss

RAGE 2 is the unexpected sequel to 2010's post-apocalyptic shooter from id Software. RAGE 2 takes place decades after its predecessor, following a global catastrophe. An asteroid impact has wiped out virtually all civilization, leaving earth in a dilapidated state. Many of the survivors banded together to form enclaves, some passive, others violent, as lawlessness and chaos grip the land.

RAGE owes a little more to Mad Max than some of the other post-apocalyptic titles out there, due to its focus on wasteland vehicular combat. To continue that tradition, id Software enlisted the aid of Avalanche Studios, known for its chaotic sandboxes like Just Cause and the criminally underrated take on the Mad Max universe, which in my opinion, has the best vehicular combat in an open world game, maybe ever.

We went hands-on with RAGE 2 at Gamescom 2018, and we talked to id Software Studio Director Tim Willits and Senior Game Designer Loke Wallmo from Avalanche Studios.

Setting the scene for mayhem

Players take control of Walker in RAGE 2, a descendant of nanomachine-enhanced humans who used advanced technology to escape the asteroid impact. Walker also has these nanomachines, dubbed "nanotrites" in-game, and he can wield them more effectively than Nicholas Raine from the previous game, complete with superhuman strength. The tutorial narrator refers to you as a Wasteland Superhero, and that very much sums up RAGE 2's core gameplay premise.

Taking place 30 years after the first game, RAGE 2 will feature an all-new cast and self-contained story, although it will feature nods and returning characters for fans of the original.

RAGE 2 will also ditch the "50 shades of brown," as described by id Software's Willits, in favor of brighter colors and a wider variety of biomes. The orbital "Arks" used by humanity to avoid complete annihilation also came equipped with terraforming equipment to repair the world's ecology after the asteroid impact. Their descent to earth has created forests, swamps, and other types of terrain not present in the original. This gives RAGE 2 its own personality, as the world recovers from the desert wasteland of its predecessor.

RAGE 2 doesn't have an RPG-like "EXP" system or anything of that nature, but there are characters and quests scattered throughout the world that will give you upgrades for virtually any weapon or system tied to your character. RAGE 2 will also feature some vehicle customization and grant you the ability to collect vehicles. Any vehicle in the game can be hijacked and driven, too, including the hulking war machine big-rigs.

While you will be fighting plenty of Mad Max-style primitivist bandits in RAGE 2, you will also be battling twisted mutants, deranged cultists, and the game's central antagonist, The Authority, who are all attempting to take over what little remains of civilization by force. Devoid of morals, The Authority utilizes an army of twisted cyborgs and bastardized nanotrite technology, so they should prove to be more difficult to battle than your average road warrior.

Chaotic combat with elegant execution

RAGE 2 retains some familiarity from the original title. Notably, the Mad Max-inspired boomerang-like "wingsticks" return, with some brand new homing technology. And RAGE 2 is still the fast-paced shooter that you remember.

RAGE 2's combat flows with an elegance the original RAGE simply couldn't achieve.

The demo we played took place in an abandoned space facility, where the player is tasked with overseeing the landing of a satellite. The base, naturally, has been taken over by bandits and crazies, and the demo gave us a multitude of violent toys to play with.

RAGE 2 isn't a cover-based shooter by any means. In keeping with titles like DOOM, you're supposed to be fast on your feet, moving from area to area with a shotgun in hand and nanotrite superpowers in the other. RAGE 2 will have a wide array of weapons, so we're told, but in our demo, the shotgun stood out as particularly unique.

One of RAGE's signature features was the realistic and unpredictable way enemies moved. They could vault over objects, parkour along walls, and swing from bars. id Software seems to have continued this tradition in RAGE 2, but now it works both ways. The shotgun isn't only incredibly satisfying to use simply from a first-person-shooter (FPS) standpoint, but now, it also has impact. Hitting an armored enemy in the chest might not kill them, but the force will knock them flying across objects, splattering onto the corners of tables or hanging over railings. You can also use it to push them off ledges or out of windows, when not killing them outright. The sheer force of a weapon is something often overlooked by other shooters, and it simply felt tremendous in RAGE 2.

Nanotrites in the first game only allowed the player to resurrect in the field with an internal defibrillator, but their implementation in RAGE 2 goes far deeper. Walker can quickly dash left and right, to escape bullet fire. He can also do a force punch, reducing unarmoured and low-health enemies to piles of bloody chunks. You can also leap into the air and forcefully strike the ground, creating a wave of devastation, knocking enemies flying away when you're surrounded.

You can feel the touch of Avalanche at every level in RAGE 2, with the way the game's physics-based systems interact with one another. Perhaps you punch someone across the room with the Shatter nanotrite ability, and they might slam into a gas canister and cause an explosion, which might then chain react with other nearby explosives in a scene wholly reminiscent of Just Cause. The organic nature of these gameplay mechanics creates dynamic events that are far more memorable than any scripted sequence. As a result, every weapon and every ability I tried in RAGE 2 was incredibly infectious to use, creating unpredictable sequences that were awe-inspiring. RAGE 2's combat flows with an elegance the original RAGE simply couldn't achieve.

RAGE 2 is the result of a match made in gaming heaven

RAGE 2 looks like its shaping up to be a match made in gaming heaven, as id Software and Avalanche Studios' unique skillsets intersect and complement each other like few gaming partnerships have. The industry-leading shooter expertise of id Software is on full display in RAGE 2, and merging it with Avalanche's open-world tech and vehicular combat from Just Cause and Mad Max holds a tremendous amount of promise.

RAGE 2 is a completely single-player experience, although id Software teases some connected "community" features and some post-launch content. The game world will be "massive," completely free of loading screens or artificial sector gating, allowing players the freedom to explore the wastes, jungles, and ruins as they see fit.

RAGE 2 doesn't have a fixed launch date as of writing, but it should drop sometime in 2019 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!