Mad Max rocks around the wasteland in his Magnum Opus, a work-in-progress super-charged car, with his trusty engineer in the back. This is an ambitiously imagined world, taking the classic – and slightly rubbish – film franchise, and setting off into the distance, to hunt down his stolen Pursuit Special.
It looks quite gorgeous, it must be said, even taking into account the barren and dusty vistas on offer. The simplistic landscape allows Avalance Studios to craft a game which should look great even on current-generation machines, but also allows them to push in areas where they want to. The clouds in particular, seem to be lavished with love and attention, easily catching the eye.
As the live demo was played out, the Magnum Opus kicked up a cloud of dust, laying down tyre tracks as it clambered over the steep inclines. At some point, this car will need a new suspension system, one which maybe lets it handle off-road driving a little better.
Thankfully car customisation is at the heart of the game. Part of this comes from letting they player create a vehicle they want, with thousands upon thousands of combinations. It could be a new battering ram, a massive turbo charger, or maybe some tyres designed to handle sandy terrain a little better?
However, the car – the centre of the Mad Max universe – is also used to push the story forwards. The first section of the demo showed Max hunting down a new car engine, and raiding a gang’s scrapyard fortress.524
Pulling up a distance away, Max nipped into the back of the car, and whipped out a particularly cool fold-up sniper rifle. From here he could spot two snipers, and took one out from a distance, but decided to get up close and personal for the second, have the engineer – whose name I sadly forgot to jot down – attach a grappling hook to the sniper’s precarious nest, and pulled it down.
At this point, Max had to hop out of the car, and break into the compound on foot. This section was actually the weakest section on show, as he clambered across the tops of shipping containers to get to the levers which would lower the Hot Rod with the engine he wanted to steal.
There was a light element of stealth, maybe, but it soon descended into a frankly limp-looking brawl. Some of the finishing moves were brutal, with a bloody explosion, as Max shot a bandit straight in the chest with his mini shotgun, but the brawling itself looked a little unsatisfying to my eye and the animation similarly felt a little bit off.
Needless to say that with a 2014 launch target, there is ample time to improve upon these shortcomings. It’s just a sign that this game is still very much a work in progress, and quite a long way from launch, but at least it shows that the game will be happy to mix the pacing up.
As soon as the Hot Rod is stolen, and Max has to try and get it back to the garage in one piece, he’s beset by an ambush of raiders. It really manages to capture some of the running battles from the films, as there’s plenty of ramming as all manner of vehicle try to take him down. Slap dash buggies sporting terribly crafted Boudica spikes, trying to get close enough that someone might jump across.
Obviously Max can ram them back, and various customisable perks will no doubt come into how effective this will be, but resorting to firearms is another possibility. It’s likely just for the demo, and harder difficulties will surely be available, but entering the aim mode slowed down the game, and allowed Max to lock onto his target, with effectively 100% accuracy.
Yet it did look like it captured the bombastic nature of the road fighting really well, as Max took to his now-improved Magnum Opus, and barrelled through a fortress-like arena to get to the fabled gate, The Jaw. Between ramming, shooting at various parts of the other cars, and breaking out the engineer’s grappling hook, it created a beautiful, albeit chaotic spectacle of mayhem on the dusty roads. Impressive, being this is just a mere snippet of what’s to come.
That’s what Mad Max is at the moment, a title full of promise and potential. If there’s one thing which Avalanche know how to do, it’s create a fun playground for players to tool around in, as evidenced by their work with Just Cause and Renegade Ops. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing a bit more of this game, and how it evolves over the next year.