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Read this before you buy Rage 2

"Insanity is awaiting" you in Rage 2, a new dystopian first-person shooter set for release May 14, 2019. The game will serve as a direct sequel to 2011's Rage, expanding on the premise and setting established in the title. Bethesda Softworks Vice President Pete Hines first teased the possibility of a second installment in the series back in 2016, revealing that the first game had performed well enough to merit a follow-up. Two years later, a listing for Rage 2 appeared on Walmart Canada's website, setting fire to the rumor mill. An official Rage 2 Twitter account popped up in the wake of the rumors, poking fun at the retailer in a masterful bit of marketing that allowed Bethesda to reclaim control of the game's launch narrative. The sequel's official announcement arrived May 14, 2018, accompanied by a teaser trailer and a gameplay trailer the next day.

Rage 2 will launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Based on its colorful branding and over-the-top trailers, the game is shaping up to be an adrenaline-soaked joy-ride through the post-apocalyptic genre. The explosions are bigger, the world wider, and the scenarios sillier (in a good way), but with so many first-person shooters saturating the market, is it worth the investment? Here's a rundown of everything you need to know before plunging into Rage 2's neon wasteland.

Previously, on Rage

Rage takes place in 2135, 106 years after an asteroid hit earth, destroying most of human civilization and turning the planet into a wasteland. You play as Nicholas Raine, a former US Marine who awakens from a century of stasis in a cryogenic pod. Raine was one of many people placed in underground shelters, called Arks, as part of a program designed to ensure mankind could rebuild in the asteroid's wake. Discovering the other members of his Ark are dead, Raine journeys to the surface alone, where, with a little unexpected help along the way, he makes it to a settlement. There he discovers that an organization called the Authority is hunting "Arkists" such as himself because of the nanotrites injected in their blood, granting them special abilities. Raine opposes the Authority throughout the game, culminating in the simultaneous activation of the remaining Arks in a last-ditch effort to defeat the faction.

The game released to a mixed reception from critics, who praised the game's intense gunplay and impressive graphics. A mediocre story, underdeveloped characters, and smaller gameplay issues muddied the experience, resulting in a strong concept that seemed to fall short of its ambitions. Despite its shortcomings, Rage won several awards pre-launch and received more nominations post-launch.

An id Software and Avalanche Studios brainchild

A joint development between Avalanche Studios and id Software, Rage 2 combines the power of Avalanche's Apex Engine with the infamous id-style gunplay. Though id Software developed Rage solo, Sweden-based Avalanche Studios is handling the bulk of the work on Rage 2. "We at Avalanche are making the game," Avalanche game director Magnus Nedfors told IGN at QuakeCon 2018. "It's a close collaboration still with the people at id, learning from them when it comes to the shooting and so on … They've taught us a lot about the id-style of combat."

Considered masters of the open-world concept, Avalanche Studios is best known for the Just Cause series and their collaboration with Warner Bros. on Mad Max. id Software brings their own experience to the table; known as the creators of the first-person shooter, they helped establish the genre with Wolfenstein 3D and the Doom series. Both companies have praised the partnership, with id's Tim Willits calling the experience one of the highlights of his career. "We wanted to have much more of an open, dynamic world, but the technology really did limit us," Willits said to VG247 regarding Rage. "So Rage 2 delivers on the promise of the original game."

Good things come in threes

When purchasing Rage 2, players have three editions to choose from: Standard, Deluxe, and Collector's. Pre-orders for all three editions come with Rage-inspired bonus content, including an exclusive mission, Raine's settler pistol and Arkist armor, and the Mutant Monster Truck Skin. Priced at $80, Deluxe is one step up from Standard, and comes with a super weapon, battle standard, and access to the Rise of the Ghosts expansion, scheduled for release this summer. Bethesda has thrown in free cheat codes and a progress booster, both of which will also be purchasable via in-game currency by all players.

Coming in at a whopping $120, the Collector's Edition includes all the Deluxe content with some added perks: a special edition poster and a steelbook "featuring the Goon Squad's finest artwork." The edition's biggest draw (or deterrent depending on your perspective) is Ruckus the Crusher, a wall mountable singing and talking head voiced by singer-songwriter Andrew M.K. "It sings! It jokes! And now it's coming to a wall near you." The Collector's Edition is only available through pre-order from select retailers. If you're looking to add a disembodied head to your friend group, best order now.

Welcome to the "shooterverse"

According to BethesdaRage 2 is a "shooterverse," an open-world first-person shooter hybrid where you can "go anywhere, shoot anything." Separating from the limitations of its predecessor, the game will feature a true open world, free of pesky level-loads. That's not the only improvement Rage 2 has in store: "We wanted to make a statement with the gameplay and the colors and the look to set us apart," Tim Willits told GamesBeat, recalling Rage's expanse of brown. With its splashes of neon pink, Rage 2 certainly stands out from other post-apocalyptic shooters, though it's not too surprising given the game's art inspirations. "Pink was always a punk thing in the '80s," Willits explained. "Some of the art inspiration for Rage 2 came from old comic books, too."

In a separate interviewRage 2's art director, Jeremy Willer, weighed in on the game's art concepts. "A core part of the Rage world is wasteland cyberpunk. It's not the cyberpunk world where you go into a desert, it is a post-post-apocalyptic world with a wasteland that is sometimes lush that also has a strong cyberpunk layer." You can see this concept at work in Rage 2's diverse range of environments, including jungles, swamps, deserts, and settlements, a pleasant break from the endless dust of the first game.

Singles who mingle

Marking another change from RageRage 2 will not include multiplayer or cooperative play components. "We feel like we're delivering enough value for what players get," Tim Willits explained. With no other modes to entertain players after completing the main storyline, id Software hopes post-launch content will help fan the flames. "We'll have some post-launch updates that will add experiences so you keep playing. You can finish the main story –- if you want to finish it fast, which I encourage people not to do -– and you can go back and do other projects. We'll have some free content and we'll have some paid content."

In an earlier interview with Eurogamer, Willits said Rage 2 would contain a "social component," rather than a typical multiplayer. "We're not quite ready to talk about it but we understand community is important, and we understand connecting with other gamers is important." The developer has yet to clarify what this social aspect will entail. As mentioned before, they've already announced the first DLC, the Rise of the Ghosts expansion included with the Deluxe and Collector's Editions of the game.

Insanity-fueled "post-post-apocalypse"

id Software and Bethesda describe Rage 2 as a post-post-apocalyptic game. Set about 30 years after the events of Rage, the story picks up in a time when mankind has started to recover from the asteroid that ravaged the earth. More settlements have formed, buoyed by the rise of new factions, each with their own personality and combat styles. Ecopods, released when Raine activated the Arks in Rage, have terraformed parts of the planet, creating purified water and fresh vegetation. The environment continues to evolve and change, an important factor in Rage 2's take on what comes after the post-apocalypse. 

Even with the planet in recovery, there is still a prevailing sense of disorder. "The world has a lot of resources, but no one knows how to use it all and people are crazy," mused art director Jeremy Miller. According to Willits, that's exactly the mark they were aiming for. "We have no limits. From the environment to the weapons to the foliage to the colours, we are not constrained by a script, we're not constrained by any set parameters," Willits told GameCentral. "I literally wrote on the whiteboard, when I met with Avalanche the very first day, 'More crazy than Rage.'" 

Last Ranger of Vineland

Rage 2 continues the story established in Rage. This time around you play as Walker, the last Ranger of Vineland, an unfortunate figure left for dead in the wasteland. Like Raine, Walker is an Arkist, imbued with special abilities by nanotrite technology. The Authority returns as the game's central antagonist, accompanied by some other familiar faces from the first game. Unlike Rage's protagonist, Walker has a voice and provides a running commentary on the setting as the plot unfolds.

"There's more personality in some of the environments, there's much more dialogue, there's much more going on, there's sub-stories, so yes, story is very important," Willits told PlayStation Magazine, expanding on what he calls "world storytelling." Hopefully, this will translate to a more fleshed out main character than Rage's Raine, even though the two have similar origin stories. If nothing else, you're in for an explosion-filled revenge story in which the entire world is out to get you.

Wasteland superhero

Walker's nanotrite powers, potent kinetic abilities that allow you to control the flow of battle, are a distinguishing feature between Rage and Rage 2. "We went through a number of iterations to ensure that we got abilities that complement and synergize with the weapons, not replace them," explains lead combat designer Peter Johansson. "The key to survival in Rage 2 is to get up in your enemies' faces, and the abilities are designed as tools to encourage that." 

Slam lets you pound the ground with devastating force, raining destruction down from the sky. Shatter blasts an enemy away from you with a sometimes head-exploding burst of energy. Vortex acts as a gravity anomaly, pulling nearby enemies towards a specific point. You can use Barrier in both defensive and offensive situations, erecting a shield that blocks incoming fire and instantly kills most baddies who touch it. The culmination of these skills is Overdrive, an ability powered by your rechargeable Overdrive meter. Fill your meter through attacks and special combos, then activate it to supercharge your weapons and abilities. This pushes them past their normal limits, unlocking unique attributes. "If you learn how to master Overdrive, it can quickly become an integral part of combat, allowing you to take on harder enemy locations with less powerful equipment," advises Johansson. "On higher difficulties, playing in a way that charges Overdrive fast becomes a key to survival."

The gun show

Critics and players praised Rage for its shooting system and host of weaponry, a legacy id and Avalanche appear to have honored in the sequel. With the open-world experience in mind, the duo has created several new weapons to join more familiar options like the Ranger Assault Rifle, Smart Rocket Launcher, Sidewinder Pistol, and iconic Wingstick. The new Grav-Dart Launcher shoots barbed, graviton-charged darts at your enemies, sending them flying into the air. The Firestorm Revolver, a distant relative of the grenade launcher, features rounds that light enemies on fire with a snap of your fingers. King of range and penetration, the Hyper-Canon builds up a magnetic charge before unleashing a punishing, high-speed rail at your target.

"We love to add weapons that are physical and affect things in weird ways," Johansson explains. "We love to create synergies between different weapons, skills, enemy types, and the environment to enable them to be used in combos or in emergent and fun ways." Like Walker's nanotrite abilities, you can upgrade your weapons using Feltrite, available in chests scattered across the wasteland or from looting enemies. By upgrading, you'll gain access to new modifications which you can unlock with Weapon Cores. You can only perform one modification per level, so choose carefully.

See it, steal it, drive it, love it

Rage 2 lets you drive any vehicle you see in the game. The Phoenix, an upgradeable all-terrain vehicle, comes loaded with Hellfire Missiles and Pulse, a unique ability that functions similarly to Shatter. Classics, such as Monster Trucks and Walker's signature Dispatch Chopper, provide other options for getting around the wasteland. Some vehicles shine best in specific environments, such as the water-bound Airboat which lets you traverse the swamplands with ease (if you consider getting shot at by the locals easy). If you see it, you can steal it and take it back to your garage, allowing you to use the vehicle later.

Convoys, "massive, heavily defended fortresses on wheels," roam the wastelands, surrounded by smaller vehicles. With enough driving skill, you can take these units down and make off with their vehicles and resources. Players can also win cars by taking part in races at the Torn Plains Racetracks; alternatively, you can challenge racers you encounter while traveling to quick pickup races. Though driving looks like a big part of the game, it seems to be the roughest feature based on early previews. "I'll admit that I'm glad the driving is optional," says USgamer's Kat Bailey, "Because right now, it's probably the roughest part of Rage 2. The Phoenix feels stiff while at the same time lacking a sense of weight, and many of the secondary cars drive even worse."

The Wasteland Wizard

Rage 2 will incorporate a new Cheat system, designed to achieve weird, over-the-top fun. Several Cheats will release with the game, with others appearing in post-launch updates. The initial lineup includes options such as "Git Gud," which causes all enemies to go down in one hit, and "Son of Thor," which electrifies enemies who get too close to Walker. Tim Kitzrow, a video game voice-over legend, provides running commentary in the "He's on Fire" Cheat, taking the absurdity to new heights.

Bethesda continues to assure fans that all players will have access to Cheats, no matter the version of the game they purchase. At present, they've presented three options for getting Cheats. The primary method involves hunting down the Wasteland Wizard, a mysterious, wandering sage who will sell you Cheats for in-game currency. Players who purchase the Deluxe Edition will unlock three Cheats automatically, while all pre-orders come with the "He's on Fire" Cheat included.

Loot box-free zone

Loot boxes have been a hot topic in the gaming industry in recent years, with some politicians and lawmakers even launching investigations into whether they should classify them as gambling. Intent on sidestepping this landmine, Time Willits assured Game Rant that Rage 2 will not have any loot boxes. "We have this novel approach: You buy the game and then you play it," Willits joked. A smart move on Bethesda's part, as the game will not suffer from any loot box-related lawsuits that rear their heads in the future.

Even though loot boxes will not appear in the game, that doesn't rule out the use of microtransactions. Willits revealed that Rage 2 would use a games as a service approach, an increasingly popular tactic that focuses on extending the life of a game through post-launch content. "One of the problems that [developer] teams have is they line up all this DLC content and then they find out that everyone wants something else and [they become] stuck," Willits said. "So we're still working through that." He reaffirmed that Rage 2 would have both free and paid updates, though they were still hammering out the details as of January 2019.

"Survey says"

Though vehicle combat could still use fine-tuning, early hands-on previews have painted a bright picture. TechRadar praised the game's fresh take on the post-apocalyptic genre, including the breathtaking scenery and funky, neon-colored navigation system. They described the combat as "visceral, tight, and satisfying," with the convoy battles and races standing out as wild and fun side activities. "It feels like a crock pot filled with the meat of Rage 1, a dash of Just Cause flair, and a sprinkling of that 2016 Doom bullet-storm mayhem. Whether it'll be a recipe for success remains to be seen, but after the small taste we've had we're anxious to try more."

Trusted ReviewsJade King applauded Rage 2's weapons and combat, saying, "Every weapon, whether it's the standard pistol or assault rifle, unleashes bullets with a delicious weight that makes every hit you execute a bloody moment of satisfaction." Buoyed by crude humor and its cast of wacky characters, King noted that the only downside was the game's occasional lack of imagination. Mike Epstein of Digital Trends echoed King's sentiments. "You never need to hesitate to use any weapon or ability. We constantly jumped from assault rifle to shotgun to ability to wingstick, a bladed boomerang that can lock onto far away targets. Do what feels natural and let the chaos flow from your fingertips."

Based on early previews, it sounds like Rage 2 may live up to its promise to let players "go anywhere, shoot anything, explode everything."