Rage 2 is a surprising sequel, to say the least. It's not because of what's new or different here, but mainly because the original Rage just kind of came and went… and then seven years passed with no hint that it'd be anything other than a one-off.

But after Rage 2's brash debut at E3 this year and our brief recent hands-on test, we're glad to see id Software give this post-apocalyptic romp another shot. It lands like an amped-up Mad Max, albeit one that packs the kind of wallop we expect from an id shooter.

Ready to re-enter the wasteland – or, if you skipped over Rage, enter it for the first time? Here's what I thought after 15 minutes of intensely violent shenanigans.

Just a little bit of Rage

Rage 2 is an open-world game co-developed by Avalanche Software, a studio known for those sorts of games (see Just Cause and Mad Max), but the QuakeCon press demo didn't give me free reign to explore. The game is still several months out, so it wasn't surprising when – following a quick tutorial – I was dropped into a compact chunk of the game. You can see some of it in the trailer above starting at about 4:00.

At least it was a lively chunk. As dimwitted, neon-tinged goons paraded around the rubble outside the Eden Space Center, I savored each encounter as an opportunity to test out the myriad abilities on offer in this single-player adventure. There's more at hand than just epic shotgun blasts, even if those are expectedly present and accounted for.

Making mayhem

The game's over-the-top nature is vividly represented by your hero's abilities, which let you speedily dash up to foes, use a kinetic "shatter" move to blast them back, or slam down from above to cause epic damage to all around. It's not clear exactly why you have these powers, but it's enough to give Rage 2 something of a superhero feel without going over the edge.

Well, except that it does go over the edge when your fully-charged meter lets you kick into overdrive. In overdrive, the game takes on a surreal strobe-light aesthetic, giving you elevated strength and speed as you mash your way through all comers. It's wild, and it's what will help set Rage 2 apart from quite a lot of more familiar-looking shooters.

And then there's the Wingstick, a.k.a. the murder-boomerang. It was one of the highlights of the first game, letting you whip it out at a moment's notice to slash through a charging mutant, and now it's much better at auto-targeting. That means you can, say, toss it around a corner to decapitate a goon behind cover. That's a sadistic treat.

Much more to see

The demo offered a good chance to get familiar with the myriad abilities and mechanics, but it was quickly over – I spent 15 minutes slamming, blasting, shattering, and going hog-wild in overdrive, and that was it. While a totally solid and engaging experience, it really didn't offer a great sense of the immense depth and variety promised by the complete sandbox.

In trailers and gameplay demonstrations, we've seen a vast wasteland on the upswing: vegetation has returned, and biomes pulled down from space have created a variety of distinctive habitats throughout the world. And without mid-game loading times, you'll be able to freely explore all of that at your leisure.

More interestingly, Rage 2 promises amusing vehicular antics along the way, including races, roaming raiders ready to take you out, and enormous convoys for you to take out ride by ride. Honestly, that looks like the most compelling part of Rage 2 so far, but it's one that wasn't yet playable in the QuakeCon demo.

Rage 2 initial verdict

Rage 2 is definitely packed with personality, and it's heartening to see id Software return from an underwhelming first attempt and try to give it more life. I haven't seen or played enough yet to know if Rage 2 will feel truly distinctive or land like an obvious Mad Max knockoff with neon streaks, but the early moments are promising.

Avalanche's games aren't always super consistent, but you can't knock them for lacking fun. And id has been on an incredible roll lately: the last Doom was great, the recent Wolfenstein games have been stellar, and Doom Eternal looks incredible.

They're back in legendary form, and if there was ever a time for them to give Rage another shot, it's now. If Rage 2 delivers on the promise seen in the early trailers, then it could be an early PS4, Xbox One, and PC highlight of 2019.