'RAGE 2' Hands-On Preview: An Imperfect Wasteland

On the coldest day of the year (so far) for New York City, RAGE 2 hosted a hands on demo event. After trekking through the frozen tundra of Times Square, I hoped to be warmed by some intense gameplay. Unfortunately, what I found was lukewarm at best.

RAGE 2 blends a version of the automobile combat from the surprisingly fun Mad Max with id Software-style combat (think DOOM, but with a few changes). On paper, it seems like a smart marriage. The first-person combat is fast and frantic, while the vehicle combat and exploration help break up the pace. Unfortunately, the boring world of RAGE 2 kills any interest you'll have.

A look at some enemies from the Mutant Bash reality show you find yourself a contestant on Bethesda

Combat for RAGE 2 involves big guns and lots of gore. Players also have access to special abilities, including a "Force Push" type attack and an AoE ground-pound that sends waves of damage. The demo began roughly 25 percent of the way through the campaign, so my character had an assortment of unlocked weapons and skills, but nothing was maxed out.

The powers didn't feel that powerful or lethal, although it could be some kind of leveling issue. The cooldown timers for the abilities also felt a little long. It is surprisingly easy to miss enemies with special abilities, which makes you feel like you really put yourself in a bad spot in the middle of combat if you do. Almost all of my kills came from shooting guns or using the Wingstick. It's a cool throwable that can lock onto enemies and makes picking off hard-to-reach baddies a breeze.

In a world of big guns, the Wingstick is the weapon that stuck out the most to me Bethesda

There's also a dose of car combat. Players have a main vehicle that gets upgrades like stronger armor and more speed boost. For those that played Mad Max, car combat will feel familiar if a little more toned down. Players have access to two types of guns while driving, but don't have the grappling hook from Mad Max. And car combat was a very small part of my demo, so I'm not sure how important it will be to the overall game.

The world of RAGE 2 is broken up similarly to Mad Max. There are major areas, smaller forts or dungeons to raid, and even smaller outposts to sack. Each has its own difficulty level, with more difficult areas hiding better gear or bigger piles of resources. There are also areas known as Arks, which in the world of RAGE are fallout shelters that house advanced weapons and items. Raiding these Arks is a must if you want a big arsenal of the best guns.

Gameplay is fine, and if I started with a fresh character and molded it into my playstyle, might be very enjoyable. RAGE 2 is a mix between a Borderlands ripoff and the concept of "edgy," if edgy was something a 45 year-old who watched an hour or two of Fortnite streams thought a 15 year-old would think is edgy.

Vehicular combat plays a role in RAGE 2, but we aren't sure how big the role is Bethesda

Characters walked around shouting phrases that started with "hashtag." There was a character that gave me very similar Mad Moxxi vibes from Borderlands, but an old woman instead of a busty clown lady. I heard bad guys shout the same line about how "nobody fucks with" them about a hundred times. Granted, that last one could simply be because they haven't recorded more lines for enemies yet, but still. It didn't quite get over the hump of campiness the way Borderlands did. It all just felt a little too try-hard for me.

And since RAGE 2 has been forcing comparisons between itself and Far Cry New Dawn, the choice for me about which game to get more excited about is clear. New Dawn releases next month, has great gameplay and doesn't feature "wacky" characters and dialogue. There isn't much of a contest for me.

Could RAGE 2 be a fun game? Absolutely. The gun play was fast and hectic and the exploration was something I could see myself spending hours on as I cleared every major and minor icon on the map. I would like to spend more time in the world of RAGE 2, but wish all the other characters weren't with me, or at least wish they would tone it down a little.

RAGE 2 releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 14.

So what do you think? Are you interested in learning more about RAGE 2? Will you pre-order a copy or wait for full reviews? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.