Complete with a story-driven campaign and engaging character interactions, Avalanche’s Mad Max is shaping up to be a diesel-fueled blast of fresh air. The campaign will see Wasteland wanderers seeking a peaceful life and, more importantly, the ultimate ass-kicking car… while said interactions will find them bonding with the type of folks that go by the name of Scrotus and Stankgum.
Of course, “bonding” in Mad Max‘s brutal war- and weather-torn world can mean a variety of things. Behind the wheel of the Magnum Opus (Max’s upgradeable vehicle), for example, it can mean violently yanking another driver from the cockpit of their car with a well-placed harpoon shot, or repeatedly ramming their ride until it goes up in a blaze of fire and black smoke. If an enemy chooses to express their road rage by leaping onto the roof of your car, you can also politely swat them away with a skull-shattering spray of buckshot.
Max is most comfortable dealing Wasteland justice from behind the wheel, but he has no problem holding his own when a mission or side-quest takes him into a baddie-infested outpost, stronghold, or camp. Much like the Batman: Arkham series’ satisfying melee combat, Mad Max‘s rewarding fisticuffs offer a rhythmic blend of attacks and counters. Unlike, the Dark Knight, however, Max has little issue punctuating his pummeling with a shotgun blast to the face or a sharp shiv to the gut.
While Max’s relationships with many of the game’s characters end in fiery explosions or liberal splashes of blood on the Magnum Opus’ bumper, his interactions with Chumbucket are much more amicable. A quirky (to say the least) henchman mechanic, “Chum” is a non-playable character that joins Max throughout his journey, helping him repair and upgrade his ride, and even unleash that aforementioned harpoon. The creepy chap can also work as a GPS of sorts, calling out points of interest, possible resource caches, enemy patrols, and other important landmarks from his position atop the Opus. Chum also gets better at his jobs as you progress, so his skills – and therefore your car – improve alongside Max’s road-ruling accomplishments.
Finding and earning parts for Max’s ride and leveraging Chumbucket’s vehicle-tweaking talents to make the most of said items represents a big chunk of the game’s progression cycle. Advancing through the narrative means continuously pimping the Opus, so everything from engines and exhaust systems to tires and grills can be upgraded and customized. While many of the enhancements affect performance – like acceleration, top speed, and traction – a number of others improve your car’s ability to transform foes to pulpy road kill. Thick plate armor, ramming devices, and tire-popping spikes are just a few of the combat-focused assets that you can add to the intimidating exterior. Other upgrades, like the ability to outfit the harpoon with explosive projectiles and mount sniper rifles and other death-dealers, can turn the Opus into a virtual tank.
When not engaging in vehicular manslaughter, you can expect to partake in a variety of other missions, side-quests, and other RPG-flavored activities. Because resources are scarce, enemies are plentiful, and survival skills outweigh any physical currency, you will have to do whatever it takes to keep your car fueled, your belly full, and Chum flush with usable scrap. Areas must be scouted and surveyed, outposts overtaken, factions overthrown, resources managed, and races won to earn rewards. You will also be faced with difficult decisions, like: “Do I put this fuel in my gas tank, or use it to craft a stronghold-blasting bomb?” and “Do I risk a slow, painful death or do I replenish my rapidly depleting health by eating these protein-packed maggots?”
On top of promising a rich and immersive single-player experience, Mad Max earns points for not being directly based on this summer’s cinematic reboot of the franchise. By not shackling itself to a movie’s script or release schedule, Avalanche has been afforded the freedom to craft a game that organically weaves its story and gameplay together, allowing players to feel like an end-of-the-world antihero rather than just some dirty dude with a sweet ride.
We can’t wait to have our need for speed – and appetite for, er, maggots – satiated when Mad Max roars onto Xbox One this September.