Posted on June 13, 2013, Mike Sharkey Mad Max E3 Preview: The Road Warrior Game We’ve Been Waiting For?
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Precious petrol. In the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, it’s scarce. Those who have it give their lives to protect it, and there are hordes of mohawked, leather-clad marauders who will gladly slaughter innocents for it. Not so much in the Mad Max world being created by Avalanche Studios (Just Cause). During a live E3 gameplay demo of the open world car and melee combat adventure, brightly painted red tanks of gasoline were all over the place. And guess what? Groups of enemies were too dense to realize standing next to these potential bombs wasn’t the most ideal place to be during a firefight.
Sigh. As a long time Max fan, I was deeply disappointed to see the played out, lore-bending videogame trope repeated multiple times over the course of the 10-minute, hands-off demo. Sure, there are a handful of convenient storylines that could make the ample fuel somewhat acceptable (this particular, unidentified part of the map could feature a Bartertown-like refinery somewhere, I suppose), but does yet another videogame really need to make shooting fuel tanks a core part of the experience?
As I said, I’m a fan, so perhaps I’m being too hard on the simply titled Mad Max. There are reasons to believe this could finally be the proper Road Warrior game we’ve been waiting for ever since Max took on Humungus on the big screen way back in 1981. First and foremost is the team at the helm. With Just Cause 2, Avalanche proved they know how to make a frantic, fun vehicle-infused open world adventure. Just behind Avalanche is the fact this is a car and melee combat game, not a shooter. After all, bullets are scarce in the wasteland, so at least they got that right.
The basic (original) storyline, Avalanche explained, is that Max’s iconic vehicle, the V8 Interceptor, has been stolen. At first I thought the dev team might have truly lost their minds. A Mad Max game without the Pursuit Special? Huh? I stepped back from the ledge when the studio further explained players would be building their own signature vehicle, which, thankfully, has the core body type of the sleek muscle car that’s as much a core character in the films as Max himself.
And when Avalanche showed off the car combat in action, it looked terrific. Attacking a convoy of bad guy vehicles (led by, yep, a truck with a bright red fuel tank on it), Max swept into action in his sort of V8 Interceptor, his new sidekick, a mutant mechanic, holding on for dear life in the exposed, roll-bar supported back of the car. Visually, even in pre-alpha, it looked great, with clouds of dust billowing up behind the vehicles as the chase began and the cars themselves sporting a nice level of detail and looking very much like the armored, upgraded types the films are known for. Of note: Avalanche says there will be more than 50 authentic vehicles from the movies recreated in the game.
As Max got closer, attempting to ram off the rear vehicles, enemies leaped on his car and attempted to stab max with spears through the windows. Two were thrown off with sharp swerves, but a third needed a little extra incentive. A tap of the controller by the demoer, and the action zoomed into a close-up shot of Max in the driver’s seat as he pulled his sawed off from his hip holster and blasted the enemy off. Nice.
Other vehicles in the convoy were taken out with the help of Max’s new mutant buddy. On command, the hunchback picked up a harpoon gun, launching a spear into an enemy tire and sending it toppling into the dust. When Max finally got to the lead truck, the one with the bright red fuel tank on the back… well, let’s just say he accomplished his mission.
The demo shifted to melee combat, with Max exiting his vehicle and approaching an enemy lookout. Using a knife, his bare hands, and a metric ton of brutality, he was able to stab, snap, and pummel his way through a small band of enemies. The action looks smooth, with a touch of Batman’s counter-attack combat feel, and Avalanche leaned heavily on slow-mo effects for bloody killing blows.
With the outpost cleared, Avalanche showed off another element of gameplay when Max used his trusty binoculars to survey the nearby enemy base. Max was able to discover a massive enemy gate blocking the road was impenetrable with his current vehicle. No worries, that’s what your mutant mechanic sidekick is for. A quick trip to the garage and a new ramming grill was added. Interestingly, the larger grill increased the car’s weight and lowered its overall performance meter. In order to compensate, a larger engine and new tires were added.
With his newly pimped out ride, Max got back on the road. This time around, he was able to do some off-roading, courtesy of his new tires and engine, and avoid enemy patrols on the main road. When he reached the main base, it was back on foot, this time to take out an unsuspecting sniper guard from behind, slitting his throat. With his new toy (yeah, I know sniper rifles seem out of place in Mad Max, too), Max quickly scoped out an array of fuel tank to shoot, taking out a sizable force with just a few well timed shots.
The demo ended shortly after, and I left disappointed, but hopeful. After all, there’s still a long way to go before Mad Max launches in 2014, and with Avalanche at the helm, I’ve got the confidence they’ll get it right. Still, I’m crossing my fingers. Just in case.