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Mad About the Wasteland: Mad Max Preview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 06:28pm 24/06/13 | Comments
We take a look at Avalanche Studios' Mad Max, beyond our initial annoyance at the lack of an Australian identity for the Max character, because there really is a promising game here. Read on for our full thoughts...

Obviously we’ve caused a bit of a stir with Avalanche’s Mad Max. Our petition to have the titular character’s voice presented in the way we all remember it from the films (more specifically, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, which the game seems to draw the most inspiration from) has garnered attention around Australia and abroad from myriad gaming sites, forums and even mainstream press, and it’s not because we were muckraking, either, rather based on what I saw of the game at this year’s E3, it was because that one last touch would help create this potential-laden title reach its fullest where the Mad Max name is concerned.

Instead of bogging down in the argument for an Aussie accent for Max though, I’ll talk about what makes this Mad Max offering so promising, beginning with one of the most important parts of the Mad Max license -- vehicles.

Avalanche is promising more than 50 wasteland vehicles in the game, and car combat is physics-based, rather than with mounted rockets or other such videogame post-apocalyptic car combat peripherals. This means no two conflicts will ever be the same and utilising the environment as an extra hand in this physics-based combat should make for some pretty incredible confrontations. The examples we were shown weren’t as freeform as the team werte promising, but given each demonstration lasted around 15-minutes, they can be forgiven for not showing the diversity and dynamism players will apparently find, but on the physics front at least, it was abundantly apparent just by driving that this is one of the key areas Avalanche has worked on in Mad Max.

Also, rather than mess with Max’s iconic ride (ahem), the team has opted to use it as your carrot. For reasons unknown the Interceptor has been taken by nefarious wastelanders leaving you to build a monstrous machine with other vehicles and parts discovered in the game-world to reclaim the famous XB Ford Falcon (replete with right-hand drive... ahem). Why the Interceptor is more important than the beast of a car you’ll eventually build, beyond Max’s love affair with it, remains a mystery, but if it were me, I’d want to save my Interceptor too.

Being a game built around traversal and combat in cars, with physics a defining factor, how you add to your car will also add to how it handles. The car’s physics will realistically change based on what you add, so dumping a heavy bullbar on the front end, for example, won’t just drop weight on the car’s suspension, but will also make it front-end heavy. This added sense of realism and experimentation on the player’s part is a compelling idea, and how it works with the game’s reward/loot/currency system is something I’m looking forward to exploring.

Combat isn’t just restricted to vehicles though, and Max has his signature sawed off double barrel shotgun for messy confrontations. You can use it up close and personal, but the best example I saw was during a car combat sequence where a wastelander managed to jump on the roof of the car Max was driving. With the camera slowing down (allowing for a more precise aim), Max managed to sickeningly (and stylishly) blow the marauder off his car. Apparently you’ll be faced with stowaways often during car combat sequences, adding another layer to the already dynamic physics-based action sequences.

On foot we were told the game is also just as brutal, and while Max isn’t necessarily a man about stealth, you can sneak up on well-positioned wastelanders to waste them. The example we saw had Max taking out a sniper, though not before taking on a handful of other badguys, one of whom was left as nothing more than severed arms and legs (thanks to an explosive spear in Max’s arsenal). To say the game is brutal would be an understatement, it’s as blunt and harsh as the barren wastes it depicts, and fits in perfectly with what the films have relayed in this fashion since the first movie.

Destruction also plays a key part in the game, and you can essentially tear down most enemy strongholds with well-placed shots at oddly positioned explosive barrels and more. Max’s weapons appear to be wide and varied, allowing for up close and personal melee combat, ranged projectile combat and the aforementioned long-range sniping alongside the heavily touted vehicular action.

Avalanche is by no means a slouch developer when it comes to open-world games, and given the lack of having to draw too much in this desolate place, the game’s draw distance is gorgeous. They’ve also done an incredible job of populating the wasteland with remnants of a long-dead world, with rusted tanker hulls, hollowed out structures and other skeletal remains. At this stage in development, which we’re told is pre-alpha, a few extra coats of sheen and love would go a long way, but it’s more than passable and thoroughly inviting for its art-direction and reverence as far as The Road Warrior as its reference goes, which leaves the only other major glaring component one of absolute importance

As I’ve littered throughout this preview, Avalanche has taken great pains to ensure important parts of the IP are equally major parts of what makes Mad Max as a videogame tick. The wasteland is barren and dangerous, vehicles are a treasured commodity, and an integral part of not only getting across the desolate wastes, but surviving its tenacious and crazy inhabitants. It’s also brutal in its presentation and combat, leaving no prisoners as far as the Mad Max world goes. In short, their clear homage to Mad Max (2, specifically) shines through in almost every part of what they’ve presented here, except the Max character himself. It might seem trivial to Avalanche, but if they could see what we see in terms of the reverence with which they’ve tackled this IP, and how much of an oversight (and an affront) it is to exclude the vocal heritage of the titular character, then maybe what they’re working with is truly lost on them. But I don’t think so, and hope they see the this in our petition, the comments that have come along with it, and within their own work.
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