Hands-on with Mutant Bash TV, Chazcar Derby racing and more.
Up until now exposures to Rage 2 have been fairly linear affairs; the barren open world expanse of Avalanche Studios and id’s post-apocalyptic shooter sequel has remained strictly off limits in favour of highlighting the game’s overhauled and overcharged combat system. For my latest hands-on with the game I wasn’t quite given the keys to the kingdom, but I was handed the keys to a rusted out bucket of bolts generously referred to as a ‘car’ and allowed to tour a small section of Rage 2’s map.
[I had to become] a reality TV star in a manner so ruthless it would make a Kardashian wince.
My first stop was a return to the city of Wellspring. The ramshackle sprawl of neon and rust from the original game was begging to be reexamined, but since my time with the game was limited I decided to hustle past the bulletin boards covered in job contracts, and various other NPC quest-givers, and instead trigger the main story mission. Wellspring mayor, Loosum Hagar, was locked in a power struggle with an entitled twerp named Klegg Clayton (the wealthy offspring of Mayor Clayton from the original), and I was charged with sneaking into Clayton’s high-rise office in order to plant a bug on his computer. In order to gain access to his domain, I had to first build up my celebrity status by becoming a reality TV star in a manner so ruthless it would make a Kardashian wince.
Bash for Cash
Fans of the original Rage will no doubt be pleased to hear that Mutant Bash TV is back and more brutal than ever. A starring role on the gore-packed game show was my first objective in order to elevate my celebrity status, and I had a great time introducing the freakish inhabitants of the four main arenas to the loud end of my shotgun.
Mutant Bash TV is back and more brutal than ever.
These deathtrap dungeons are similar in setup to the those of the previous game, but Rage 2’s more dynamic combat system manages to spice things up somewhat. For example, in the jungle themed ‘Monkey Business’ arena, instead of just slowly luring the waves of mutant ghouls into the path of the mechanical, blade-covered gorilla that swirls around the room’s perimeter, I was able to use the Shatter ability to forcefully shove the mindless horde to splatter against the animatronic ape’s razorsharp embrace.
Elsewhere huge, spiked wrecking balls pulsing with electricity proved to be the perfect tools to assist me in my mutant extermination, and a muscular, mini-gun wielding ghoul on an elevated stage proved to be a much tougher opponent compared to the machine gun-fodder scrambling in through the pipes in the walls and ceiling. All told, my blast through Mutant Bash TV was a satisfying slice of the relentlessly grisly, constantly in motion shoot-’em-up action of Rage 2 at its best.
Driven to Despair
Unfortunately the second part of the mission, a two-lap race in the Chazcar Derby, didn’t manage to impress to the same extent. This wasn’t so much to do with the circuit itself; a winding dirt track that splintered into alternate routes and shortcuts, heaving the vehicles over undulating straights and flinging them around hairpins carved into red rock. Nor was it to do with the quality of the AI opposition which, despite the absence of any weapons in what was clearly an introductory event, maintained a challenging level of aggression from start to finish.
The most fierce competition sadly came from the inconsistent handling and the constantly fluctuating frame rate.
Instead the biggest buzzkill came from car handling that was at times too slippery and at others too sluggish, and a constantly fluctuating frame rate that made each lap more of a struggle than it should have been. (Note: I was playing the PC version of the game.) As a result, though I managed the podium finish required to meet the mission objective, I crossed the finish line with more of a sense of relief than one of satisfaction. Given how substantial and enjoyable the racing component of the original Rage was, I remain hopeful that the developers will have Rage 2’s racing well-optimised and fleshed out in time for its May release date, but for now it feels noticeably in need of a tune up.
Returning to Wellspring with my celebrity status elevated to VIP levels of prestige (all of the locals acknowledged me as being “the champ” as I walked by), I made my way to Clayton’s office and while he was distracted by the details of his own bad guy monologue I slipped the ‘gizmo’ bug into his personal computer. But just as I was making my exit in the elevator seemingly scot-free, the floor gave way and I was plunged down to the building’s basement to take on Clayton’s ‘pet’, a towering monster perhaps best described as a rancor beast in board shorts, while Clayton escaped the city aboard a hoverbike.
Beyond the Thunderdome
While I enjoyed the Rage 2 story mission I played — technical issues in the racing mode aside — my exploration of the game outside of the story path was slightly less inspiring. In the time remaining in my hands-on session I decided to try out a couple of the side activities on the map, and was disappointed to find that both were fairly bog-standard open world game endeavours.
One was a ‘Pit Stop’, which basically amounted to destroying a number of fuel tanks in an enemy fuel depot. In the other I was tasked with taking down an enormous sentry turret by blasting it firmly in its glowing parts and sheltering myself from its return fire in hollowed out cargo containers. Neither activity was particularly remarkable, and each very reminiscent of similar checklist-ticking side missions that we’ve already experienced in several Far Cry and Just Cause games.
This was obviously a small sample size, and the developers have previously stated that Rage 2’s environment is a huge expanse with a varied terrain that ranges from swampland to high-tech labs. But if the map is just going to be dotted with uninspired, rinse-repeat side activities, it might make Rage 2’s ‘proper’ open world a little less enticing to explore. This latest hands-on certainly reaffirmed that Rage 2’s brand of first-person shooting is fluid, frenzied and fun, but for now it remains to be seen as to whether the world built to house the ultra violence is an intriguing wasteland or more of a wasted opportunity.
Tristan Ogilvie is a Video Producer at IGN AU. He almost never tweets but when he does, you can find him here.