Mad Max Preview

A beautiful Mad Man’s furious road.

Amongst some other Mad Max enthusiasts I’ve heard some rumblings of dissatisfaction that Mad Max the game isn’t more heavily related to Mad Max: Fury Road; but it might be easier to say that Mad Max is more like a spiritual sibling that took a different path, an alternate dimension version of the same events. There’s no Immortan Joe or Imperator Furiosa, but the world is very much the same. Developers at Avalanche Studios had access to Mad Max director and creator George Miller as he began work on the film reboot, and he was very giving with his time in explaining the world of the new film, which forms the backbone for the game as well.

For instance, Max is mad at the beginning of the game, driving as much from away from the tortured memories of his dead wife and child as he is from the raiders following him. When his Interceptor—his car from his former cop days—is destroyed and taken from him, he begins a journey back to both his humanity and to the creation of his Magnum Opus, a post-apocalyptic muscle car you build from spare parts harvested in the wasteland from the dregs of destroyed enemy vehicles. 

The demo I got to play of Mad Max featured two short instances in the wastes, one titled "Magnum Opus" and the other "Weaken Scrotus." "Magnum Opus" involved an opening fist fight with a group of wastelanders that netted Max a different car body, extra gas, and ammunition at their outpost. This was followed by some extra open-world objectives, including the interception and destruction of high-value targets in a convoy.

This is where the demo really highlighted the vehicular gameplay. As Max, you drive and can fire a shotgun out the window and execute quick sideways ram attacks. Back at the opening section, I attached a ram-grill to the front of Max's car, enhancing the ability to ram enemy vehicles head on. However, it was the other weapons that played haywire with enemy vehicles. 

While you drive, Max's mechanic and wasteland companion stands in the bed at the rear of the vehicle, and from there fires harpoons at enemies at your direction. He also acts in a similar way to Nux's lancer from Fury Road, Slit, yelling about enemy encampments and encounters. At one point he pointed out an encampment of Warboys; the lore of the films runs heavy in the game. Explosive harpoons were also available, and these were incredibly destructive, at one point destroying two of the convoy vehicles who were a little too close together.

In the second instance, "Weaken Scrotus," Max takes aim at Warlord Scrotus' outposts. Scrotus is the game's villain and the ruler of the particular section of the area of the wasteland Max winds up in as well as his rival. There were two main objectives present there. One was a sniper tower, and applying a grappling hook allowed Max to yank it down with the car.

The second objective was to destroy one of Scrotus' heavily defended oil fields. At first I approached incautiously, and the defenders of the encampment in which they were held came rushing to the front to attack, and I scurried off into the desert. In a more measured attack plan, I ducked into the back with the ammo I'd gotten from the sniper tower and took down the outer defenses. The sniper rifle, an almost steampunk device that unfolds from the back of Max's car while his mechanic drives, made short work of the defenses (by firing at the support struts on guard towers and flamethrowers defending the gate). Soon I was inside, after firing a harpoon and using the Magnum Opus to tear the gate off its hinges.

The rest had to be done on foot, and I have to confess that I was terrible at the melee combat at first. Handled in a style similar to the Batman Arkham fights, I couldn't quite get the timing down initially. Luckily there were a number of nearby explosive lances planted in the ground that could be hurled directly at my attackers. When a higher-level defender arrived bearing a shield I thought this would be a novel approach, right up until the point where he dodged the spear and charged directly at me. Luckily, the demo build had Max leveled up enough to use a shield-break ability and I was able to put him down.

Inside, where I found a host of oil derricks pumping up black gold, I walked up to one to see an onscreen message requiring that I blow them up. I turned to grab one of the lances, but then heard the sound of approaching warriors behind me. I spun around to find what seemed like an endless army of guys coming out between the towers to kill the interloper, and gave a panicked lob of the lance towards one of the oil derricks, causing the whole place to go up in a fiery explosion that ended the demo, and caused the developer nearby to laugh uproariously at how panicked I'd gotten.

Mad Max is a damn cool (and plenty violent) game. One interesting element about it, is that it feels like it was designed with the driving in mind first. The controller configuration transfers directly from car gameplay to Max on foot (making Max run is the same button as acceleration) and you use the same buttons to control weapon use. This makes it an easy translation with consistent controls from one style of play to the other. 

Mad Max is steeped in the character and world lore, of both the original films and the reboot, giving it the sense of a place out of time in the franchise. More importantly, gameplay is exhilarating, fast, violent, and fun; exactly what you'd want from a Mad Max title. It releases on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Linux on September 1, 2015.