Time was, you could count on some two-bit studio knocking out a platformer based on a new film announcement one that butchered the story and played like a waking night terror. Post-Arkham, we’re seeing a new trend: games wearing the clothes of famous series, but running in entirely new directions with them. Rocksteady’s Batman series, Shadow Of Mordor these aren’t movie games, they’re universe tie-ins. And Mad Max could well be the most interesting one yet.

Created by the open-world obsessives at Just Cause studio Avalanche, Mad Max aims to nab the spirit of the Mel Gibson movies and the upcoming Tom Hardy reboot but does so without using their stories, worlds or, well, Mel or Tom. The result’s a new Wasteland, set (at least in the beginning) at the bottom of a long-since vapourised sea and featuring a Max who looks more like The Last Of Us’ Joel after a dose of illicit growth hormones than the slender Gibson original.


After having his precious V8 Interceptor nabbed by a post-apocalyptic warlord called and there’s no easy way of getting around this Scrotus, Max and the player set out to build a brand new murder-jalopy, the Magnum Opus. And with that simple goal, you’re more or less left to it.

What A Waste
The Wasteland is enormous, peppered with borderline surreal remnants of a lost age from beached, rusting oil rigs to the enormous Gas Town refinery, forever belching fire on the horizon. Each contains the scrap you need to upgrade your car, the food and water you need to survive, and is protected by enough improvised weaponry and mutilated insano-goons to fill the background of a Rammstein video.
“The car-Tinkering sysTem here feels like gran Turismo gone *ahem* mad.”
While this is almost certainly Avalanche’s most story-led game yet, your path through it is intentionally left open and unmapped. With the Magnum Opus, the studio offers its biggest innovation; a car-tinkering system that feels like Gran Turismo gone mad, a dozen categories to purchase from and mess with from engine size to how many spikes you can stick onto your chassis.

It’s heady stuff there’s an in-depth physics and handling system at work, so it’s not just a case of picking better and better parts. More armour might sound like a good idea, but it makes for a slower car. Side-mounted flamethrowers are cool, but just watch your fuel gauge plummet the Opus will drop into a sluggish chug if you haven’t stolen enough petrol.

Vehicular Mayhem
Car combat is very much the order of the day, showcased by the game’s convoys. Like Far Cry 4, these are columns of well-armoured vehicles that need to be taken down. Unlike Far Cry 4, you won’t just be sneaking ahead and sticking C4 on the road you’ll be barreling headlong into 8v1 car chases (designed, we’re told, to feel like the magnificent extended battle at the end of Mad Max 2).

You’ll be ramming cars off the road, or bursting tyres with your shotgun to watch them career into one another. Or you could use Chumbucket, Max’s combined spotter, repairman and gun turret, to fire harpoons to peel off armour, expose gas tanks or, best of all, drag drivers out of their seats so you can turn their car into a bomb.

On foot, Max fights like a more sluggish Batman, the now-familiar - Square - to punch, -Triangle - to-parry fighting system turned into a brutal bar brawl simulator as you crack skulls and execute bad guys with shivs. You can invade enemy camps, too. Each one has a unique layout and you need to dismantle their defences before entering to thieve supplies.

And while we’ve played a combined three hours of this game, Avalanche ensures that there’s far, far more waiting to be seen. God knows what else could be hiding in the Wasteland, but we’ll be rewatching those old films to form some excited guesses.