“My world is fire and blood.” Anyone who has seen Mad Max: Fury Road likely got that reference and, even though Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s upcoming game is not directly tied to the movies, those words held true in my hands-on time with Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max during E3 2015.
While the Mad Max game may not necessarily be a prequel or sequel to any of the films, it still takes place in that same post-apocalyptic world where humanity has all but gone insane amidst a wasteland of hardships and pain. Characters and locations from the film series are mentioned, however, and even those exploding spears from Fury Road make an appearance.
In the game, Max finds himself once again sucked into a struggle that he initially wants no part of. Before long, he finds himself beaten, minus a car and without a friends in the world save one scrappy wasteland wanderer named Chumbucket. Your goal from that point on is to build a new ride—Your Magnum Opus—that will allow you to take down the evil warlord Scabrous Scrotus.
At E3 2015, the folks at Avalanche opened up their presentation with another look at that fresh trailer, followed by 20 minutes of hands-on time with the game. We had two missions available; one that focused on combat and the other that focused on driving.
I opted to go the combat route, since I figured it would let me get in some driving, too.
My mission began with Max standing atop a hill, being given the objective of choosing a vantage point to get a better look at the camp I was going to raid. I mentally flipped a coin and headed toward one of the points highlighted on my minimap.
While altering your Magnum Opus will affect the handling of the car, the buggy I was saddled with felt great to drive around. Hitting the boost also added a couple of nice effects, adding blur lines, flames and shifting the view slightly to give a real sense of speed. En route to my objective, I came across a pair of Warboys who were working on their own ride. Rather than stop and say hi, I decided to boost through them and prevent them from causing me trouble down the line.
Once I found the watch tower I was looking for, I hopped out of my Opus and made a beeline for the ladder, dodging sniper fire along the way. I climbed the ladder and took him out with a couple of quick attacks, activating an environmental takedown that used the tower’s banister to my advantage.
It was at this point that a team member informed me that I could have swapped to my sniper seat while ordering Chumbucket to drive around, thus taking out the guard without ever having to get so up close and personal. I did end up using that drive and shoot tactic a bit later, though, as I took out a dude intent on peppering me with mortars by sniping the oil cans attached to his tower and, thus, blowing him sky high.
I eventually made my way through the outer defenses by sniping fools and boosting through additional flimsy towers or enemies. This led to hand-to-hand combat that anyone familiar with the Arkham games, or perhaps last year’s Shadow of Mordor will be instantly familiar with. Combat felt a bit slower than in those games, but the basic mechanics of chaining attacks, counters and environmental takedowns remains the same. Max also has access to a variety of weapons in the game, letting him stab and shoot enemies when the numbers thin out a bit.
I only had a few minutes left after grabbing some spare parts and all-important gasoline, so I decided to spend that time driving like a bat out of hell through the mostly desolate, though still kind of beautiful in its own way, desert. I eventually wound up in a car combat sequence but, unfortunately, I had already forgotten most of the special commands and maneuvers you can activate when entering these scenes. Having everything thrown at me all at once for an E3 demo meant that I spent a decent amount of time bumbling through most of my encounters, but I assume these systems will be introduced slowly in the full game, letting players add fresh abilities to their arsenal in a way that helps commit them to memory.
So, I basically spent my time ramming into cars, swapping seats with Chumbucket and eventually catching fire. My nearby helper told me the command to make Chummy hop out and douse the flames, meaning that you can quickly repair your vehicle on the go so long as you’ve got a little breathing room. It was scenes like this, watching Chumbucket and Max crawl in and out of the Opus to perform various tasks, that I really got a kick out of. I love when any studio goes the extra mile to add in little details like this that help make the game and its world feel alive.
Before long, my time with Mad Max was over and I was off to my next game. I managed to cram a lot of fun into those 20 minutes though, so here’s hoping that the full game lives up to those experiences when it finally releases on Sept. 1.