Prior to the EB Games Expo 2013, Warner Bros. invited members of the media to get a closer, more intimate look at their showcase of titles coming out in the next year, with developers from Techland (first-hand impressions of Dying Light), WB Games Montreal (hands-on with Batman: Arkham Origins) and Avalanche Studios present. The latter are well known for the Just Cause series, and are responsible for the development of the upcoming Mad Max video game. We cycled through in groups and sat in on a closed doors demonstration of the Gamescom Demo followed by an informative Q&A.
The demo was played by Senior Game Designer Emil Krafting, using a Dualshock 4 controller for the PC build, and was especially exciting because, for those of us who were unable to fly out to Germany and observe it back in August, this was our first in-motion glimpse of the game. It kicks off with Max in a dried out seabed called ‘The Great White’, hoping to raid a nearby camp for scrap metal that he can then use to upgrade his ‘Magnum Opus’ – a new vehicle that the mad one builds after losing his famous ‘Interceptor’ to a Warlord at the beginning of the game. More specifically, Max wants to acquire a ram guard, and there just so happens to be a car in the possession of some testy raiders, that not only features this part, but is also equipped with a rare V12 engine.
Max may be a solitary soul, but venturing into a live and dangerous camp full of raiders, the perimeter of which is being overseen by stationed snipers, is almost guaranteed suicide. Enter Chumbucket, a ‘blackfinger’ – or master mechanic, in basic terms – whom Max meets in the Wastelands (which is the purposely ambiguous setting, so don’t ask if it’s set in Australia). The deformed ‘Chum’ becomes an ally for Max, who needs his help to actually upgrade and build the ‘Magnum Opus’… Max finds the resources, Chum puts it all together. What does he get out of this partnership? The satisfaction on working to create the ultimate in combat-worthy vehicles, which he reveres almost as you would a God.
Chumbucket is a constant presence in the game, hanging onto the back of your car as you drive and providing physical support in the way of manning harpoons. An early example of this functionality involved harpooning a tower one of the aforementioned snipers were set atop, and then driving away, using the force and pulling power of the accelerating car to bring down the structure. These are the only instances where ‘Chum’ is controllable by the player. Before this, Max unfolded his ‘longshot’ rifle, used the scope to zoom in and marked the snipers in the distance in order to keep them visible on the mini-map and player view. After taking one out and then advancing to the above tower, Chum would guide the player by communicating viable attack strategies and warning when they get too close while trying to be stealthy.
How you play these raids – and anything for that matter – is largely up to you. That second sniper could have succumbed to a surprise sniping himself, or the tower could have been rammed through and destroyed that way as well. Sneaking into the compound, Max stealthily chokes out one ‘commander’ type raider, before being spotted and having to resort to flat-out, hand-to-hand fighting. People are surely sick of this comparison, but the reversal element of the combat system is very reminiscent of that featured in the Arkham franchise; enemies have red indicators that signify to the player when to counter. Otherwise, it’s a matter of landing multiple shots until Max finishes them off in brutal fashion.
Though the shotgun is Max’s weapon of choice, ammo is scarce, and so melee options are the smarter way to go. The ‘thunderstick’, for example, is an explosive weapon that can be lanced into an enemy’s chest, crackling like a lit dynamite fuse before blowing the victim to smithereens. Lowering the vehicle with a crank mechanism, Max gets in and rams through the wooden gate out of the camp. While Max is on-foot, Chum does not follow, and when in another vehicle with the objective of returning it to base – which at this point happened to be a stronghold called ‘Jeet’s’ – Chum will drive the Magnum Opus back for you. After leaving the hostile area, things don’t get much safer as Max is set upon by vengeful raiders who want their prized possession back.
Initiate car combat; a heavy gameplay pillar for the title. For the purpose of demonstrating just what Max can do, ammunition was infinite, but in the final version, just like fuel for traversal and food and water for your health, ammunition will not be abundant. The only thing that will never require ammo, and is therefore limitless, is the harpoon, although that can only be utilised in-vehicle with Chum riding along. Using the combination of a speedy V12 engine and powerful ramming ability, Max ploughs through one enemy vehicle, before shooting out the tires, drivers, and blasting the gas tanks of others. When simultaneously driving and aiming, the game enters slow-mo and allows you to toggle between targets.
Arriving safely at Jeet’s, work begins on incorporating the newly acquired parts into the Magnum Opus. In the garage screen, players will be able to tinker with the engine, chassis, wheels and bodywork – including paint treatment and the “shell” of the auto-mobile – and the car’s weight and attributes update accordingly. As a side note, this was not shown to us (maybe it hasn’t even been implemented yet) but Max himself can also be upgraded. When Max is satisfied with his newly customised and enhanced ride, it is time to head out to ‘The Jaw’. Along the way, a random event is encountered, where Max must destroy a specified vehicle in a convoy. There will apparently be hundreds of different random encounters waiting for you in the dunes.
The demo ended after reaching and tearing down the heavy gateway to ‘The Jaw’. In the ensuing Q&A session, it was confirmed to us that Max’s main motivation is getting his beloved Interceptor back, and escaping to the solace of ‘the Plains of Silence’. The game is not directly tied of any of the films, past or future, and the main story could potentially take 15 hours to complete. In terms of the size of the world, which will be split up into regions, Krafting promised one with the scope of Just Cause 2 at the very least, though even the map has not been nailed down yet at this point. If you’re ever stranded on-foot, Max can call on Chum to bring him the Magnum Opus, which can never fully be destroyed; only damaged to the point of breaking down and needing repairs. The player will have to fend for himself in this case whilst Chum gets cracking.
And finally, we all noticed a message appear mid-screen during Max’s travels in a particular area that read “There is a Scarecrow nearby”. When we enquired, it was explained to us that scarecrows are erected across each region, signifying the regional faction’s dominance. When destroyed, their threat level drops. Mad Max is still relatively early in development, but all in all, it definitely exceeded our expectations. It is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4 and PC sometime in 2014. Stay tuned to Capsule Computers for more on Mad Max, hopefully sooner rather than later.