Mad Max: How fast do ya wanna go?

Max’s magnum opus would murder the Batmobile. There, we said it. As awesome as Batman’s new and improved ride seems to look, there’s a new car in town that we’re getting just a wee bit more excited for, and it’s because we get to make it our very own. It’s Mad Max’s death machine, the Magnum Opus, and it seems everyone involved is getting rather excited about it.

Post-apocalyptic (sort of), desert-based revenge/car porn franchise Mad Max initially seems like an odd one to gamify, but Avalanche is fully embracing its bombastic weirdness. In fact, Mad Max seems to be taking more than a few cues from the successful Batman: Arkham series. Not only with the focus on the car, and by carving its own place out in an existing franchise Mad Max isn’t a cheap movie clone but in the combat as well. Making good use of fists, knives and guns, there’s a weightiness to the intense attacks and counter-attacks that feels rather familiar.

Which we don’t mind, of course; Arkham’s combat is excellent. But it means that we’re going to need a little more than solid-yet-recognisable combat to get fully involved with this game. An expanse of desert, albeit populated with freaks and maniacs, needs a damn good hook of a story. Borderlands did this well, but the first game still took several hours to get going and open up beyond the starting area. There is an emphasis on how it feels to be Max in this violent world, but from what we’ve seen, that’s mostly the same as every other game: we’re a good (ish) guy, capable of hilarious and brutal violence, slowly becoming more and more empowered and powerful throughout the course of the game. And we’re not knocking that; it’s a tried and tested template, and if you’ve seen the movies, you know what to expect. But what’s really interesting us is the focus on the car, and how we can pimp the hell out of it.
Like the movies, it looks like the story is surely going to play second fiddle to revving engines, squealing tyres, and burning rubber. Sure, you might start off with a hunk of junk to begin with, but the Magnum Opus is just begging to be upgraded with all sorts of delightful murder-based modifications. Are you something of a firestarter? Yes, there are flamethrowers you can attach to your car. Want spikes on your tyres? Of course that’s a thing. Do you fancy using the car itself as a massive blunt instrument of destruction? Slam away, friend. With all the choice that will apparently be on offer, we’re sincerely looking forward to making ourselves a terrifyingly spiky rust bucket of fire and doom to charge around the desert in. The only issue we can foresee is if it’s too easy or too difficult to get the upgrades you want. Yes, we’d like to play around in the world as quickly as possible (and burning everyone that cuts us up in a fiery blaze of death), but a sense of earned progression is going to be vital. The good news is that Avalanche has confirmed that there’s going to be a hell of a lot of tweaking you can do to customise the vehicle, not in a standard random useful power skill tree upgrade sense, but in a more realistic (we didn’t think we’d be using that word in this preview) sense of having to scavenge and search for parts you need, with every vehicle in the area a potential goldmine in scrap metal and second-hand car bits.

In fact, authenticity has been talked about a lot by Avalanche, and a lot of attention has been paid to making sure Max fits realistically into this open-world car porn fantasy. While Mad Max isn’t going to fit into the survival genre in the traditional sense you won’t have an inventory that needs managing or certain tasks to complete before you’re safe, for example this is a world that will react to you, and that you can learn to read (like watching out for circling birds to indicate possible food sources). It’s a dangerous place that you need to navigate carefully at least to begin with while you find your feet and deck out the Magnum Opus into a force to be reckoned with. Stray into the wrong parts of the desert (like The Big Nothing) and you’re likely to get very dead very quickly if you’re not prepared, as convoys of bigger, badder vehicles roam the sands. It sounds awesome.

We have faith in videogame tie-ins of movies now, and we’d hate to have to make ‘begrudging disappointment’ our default mode again for new licensed games. As long as the combat is satisfying, explosions are plentiful, and our car becomes screaming death on wheels, we’ll be happy. Although Batman might feel a little jealous.

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