Is a Sequel More than a Name: The Curious Case of Rage 2

Is a Sequel More than a Name: The Curious Case of Rage 2

STARTING SCREEN | If an IP dies in the woods, should a publisher still slap a 2 on it?

Starting Screen is the USgamer staff's weekly column. Check back every Monday as we share our thoughts on the news as well as our favorite game music, movies at the box office, and more.

Today, the not-so-secret Rage 2 was revealed by Bethesda. It wouldn't be surprising if the big Walmart leak that hit last week forced the company's hand a bit, probably banking on a shocking E3 reveal. Tomorrow we'll get a look at the gameplay beyond the shiny live action reveal we saw today—and from what we know so far, it's an open world FPS from id Software and Mad Max and Just Cause developers Avalanche Studios.

Tonally, Rage 2 already looks very different from its predecessor. Folks are already comparing it to Borderlands and Mad Max, like the two creative properties had a baby with weird facial tattoos and post-apocalyptic swagger. It's a more lively tone than the original Rage, which released way back in 2011. The original Rage subscribed to an all-beige everything color palette, wherein Rage 2 is embracing a neon pink to clash against its otherwise muted scheme.

Reactions to the brief trailer, which again has no inkling of the actual gameplay, seems mixed judging from social media. The trailer, some are speculating, gives off multiplayer vibes with the magnitude of wild characters shown. Given that the first Rage also had multiplayer modes, it wouldn't be completely surprising to see similar versions return. Some fans are even hoping that a battle royale-type mode could make an appearance. Of course, these are all just hopes and dreams, with nothing concrete leaking through yet.

On Bethesda's website, the game is described as "a dystopian world devoid of society, law, and order. Rage 2 brings together a true open world FPS experience where you can go anywhere, shoot anything, and explode everything." With Avalanche Studios, the team behind the wacky antics of the Just Cause series, the "explode everything" portion of that description reads like a perfect match for the studio. With id Software's obvious knack for first-person shooters, Rage 2 has a solid chance to be a roaring good time.

But is that true to the first Rage? A sequel that seems almost completely unlike its predecessor is nothing new for video game sequels and reboots, or even for publisher Bethesda. Last year in fact, Bethesda released Prey, a reimagining of the original Prey from 2006 from Human Head Studios. Before that, Square Enix rebooted Thief under a new creative eye. The only similarity for Prey was basically in the name, with Bethesda inheriting the rights to it. The 2017 Prey, from Dishonored developers Arkane Studios, was a first-person shooter with Metroidvania elements, giving players an eerie space station to explore.

One of the many teasers for Rage 2's official reveal today.

And yet, while what I played of Prey was an endearing spin on the "you-can-pick-up-shit" subgenre of FPS (aka "immersive sims"), I wished it didn't have the Prey name at all. It only held it back to comparisons and more "what if" questions, like "what if Prey was actually more tied into its predecessor after all?" Considering the game's known lackluster sales, I wonder if a fresh different name not tethered to an old IP would have actually helped it rather than hurt it. With the Rage 2 reveal and how dissimilar its vibe is compared to its grittier predecessor, I can't help but wonder if it will fall into the same trap, especially with a rumored Borderlands 3 right around the corner. (Although, Rage 2 still carries at least a mild-aesthetic similarity.)

It's hard for games to forge unique identities, especially when there's large sums of money involved. It's the reason why we're plagued with prestige games that slap a grim tone and a dad figure for drama onto familiar properties—it's a familiar way to take things in a serious, mature-inclined direction. Rage 2 seems to be doing the opposite approach with its renewed flair, and already some core fans of the original are speaking out against it online. Though, with a renewed approach, maybe Rage 2 can claim an identity it never really had outside of its unique gunplay and dusty apocalypse to begin with.

What video games need most, now more than ever, are original IPs. Obviously, we see this across indie games, with their unique tales and characters and art direction. With smaller teams and even smaller budgets, they're able to finesse upon the medium more than a traditional blockbuster game might be able to with a looming budget and hundreds of developers and finger-wagging investors under its belt. Rage 2, for all we know, could be chasing the usual multiplayer and open world trends of late. But hopefully, it can innovate on them too.

This Week's Notable Releases

  • Forgotton Anne [May 15]: Forgotton Anne is the latest game to be published under Square Enix Collective, the publisher's indie initiative. It's a charming, fully animated adventure-platformer from Denmark-based studio Throughline Games. I reviewed it last week and while I found the platforming to be tedious, the choose-your-own-adventure elements and impeccably detailed world kept me gripped the whole way through, and then some.
  • Dragon's Crown Pro [May 15]: If you don't mind some impossibly proportioned ladies, Dragon's Crown Pro is a remastered upgrade of the Vanillaware action-RPG. The port features 4K support, a wholly re-recorded orchestral score, all the DLC, and even save compatibility with its PS3 and PS Vita counterparts.
  • Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time [May 15]: Studio Trigger's enchanting anime about a magical school for budding witches (sound familiar?) has gotten a video game adaptation. Against the odds, it's now been localized for the West too. Chamber of Time is a side-scrolling brawler featuring the familiar stars of the anime, and it will be available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux [May 15]: Strange Journey has a reputation for being one of the most brutal Shin Megami Tensei games, especially in the modern lineage of the JRPG series. Redux isn't just a polished remaster of the original DS version, it features new voice acting, an additional character, and another story route too.
  • Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition [May 18]: Do you like some Zelda on the side of your Musou genre? Then Hyrule Warriors, at last coming to the Nintendo Switch, is just for you! Hyrule Warriors is basically Dynasty Warriors with a Legend of Zelda skin on top, and it even has femme-Link, named Linkle. Linkle will probably never get her own Legend of Zelda game unfortunately, even though her character design is adorable.

Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Wily Stage 3 from Mega Man 3

The Mega Man series isn't afraid to sink back on nostalgia. That goes double for its music, which has been remixed willy-nilly across the years. Which leads me to wonder why we don't see more remixes for Mega Man 3's criminally underrated soundtrack, especially the dark, dragging tune that plays just before you encounter Wily (and then encounter him again).

I'm a big sucker for great game pieces that you hear just before something apocalyptic happens (give "Morning is Here" from Secret of Mana a listen just as an example), making this week's choice an easy one. This particular piece doesn't play across an entire level, either; just for a screen or two before you're shooed into Wily's chamber. I suppose that was more than enough to make a lasting impression on me. Now don't forget to fill up Hard Knuckle before you pass through those gates! And Rush Jet! Trust me on this one!

This Week's News and Notes

  • It's been a busy day for news. The biggest news this morning was sad: Boss Key Productions, the studio behind Lawbreakers and the recent free-to-play battle royale experiment Radical Heights, has shuttered. Founder Cliff Bleszinski made the announcement on Twitter, while saying that he will also be stepping away from games to focus on his family in the meantime. It's a bummer to see any studio go, and we hope all the employees affected by the closure are able to land on their feet.
  • Elsewhere, the obvious other news: Rage 2 is happening! This comes after last week's huge Walmart leak that alluded to quite a few upcoming games that haven't been formally introduced yet. Others on the leak include Borderlands 3, Gears of War 5, and a new Splinter Cell. Since Rage 2 ended up being true, it's likely we can count on them making an appearance at E3 2018 in just a few weeks. (Side note: oh god, is E3 really just in a few weeks???)
  • Fortnite Battle Royale's weirdo Avengers: Infinity War crossover is going bye-bye tomorrow. So get in your round with Thanos while you still can!
  • Our old pal and former Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Parish went to BitSummit 2018 over in Japan on our behalf. You can catch the first of his numerous articles garnered from the event on publisher Nicalis' diverse slate of upcoming games. In the meantime, look forward to much more from his trip over the next couple of weeks!
  • Save Me Mr. Tako is one of the many quirky games under Nicalis' publishing wing that is on the horizon.
  • As I wrote above in the upcoming releases section, Forgotton Anne is out this week and I really adored it. If you've been on the lookout for a charming adventure game with a really interesting setting, look no further than this land of forgotten things.
  • After over two weeks away, Kat will finally be back with us this week while Mike will be out on official work business. We'll maintain a steady flow on the site though, worry not!
  • Monday Morning Musings: Eurovision happened over the weekend, and it was a wild time! Hungary peddled out a screamo band. Estonia was robbed of the top prize after their visually stunning showcase of technology and fashion. There were even some cringe-y songs, including the one that ended up winning the top prize! Just another year for Europe's ol' corny Olympics for singing.
  • Axe of the Blood God: On this week's Axe of the Blood God, Nadia and special guests John Learned and Anthony John Agnello talk up all the latest Castlevania news. Because that's a RPG, right? Sure. Just roll with it. Subscribe here!

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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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