E3 2013 Preview: Vehicular Warfare in the Desert Wasteland of Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max
George Miller’s 1979 film Mad Max was one of the most influential post-apocalyptic science-fiction films of the 20th century. It inspired numerous subsequent films and other media, and paved the way for Australian New Wave’s journey to the mainstream. The original film dealt with a global fuel shortage and eventual breakdown of law and order; eventually society itself degenerated into a hierarchy of nomads and bandits, fighting for control of the remaining water, food, and energy supplies.
Avalanche Studios is currently working on a video game which will adapt numerous elements from all three films that comprise the original trilogy, including Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) minus Tina Turner. It is unknown if the game will incorporate any elements from the upcoming sequel, Mad Max 4: Fury Road (2014, starring Tom Hardy), or its own sequels, Mad Max: Furiosa and the currenty-untitled sixth film. The original Mad Max himself, Mel Gibson, will not be involved in the production of the game, though he does have a cameo in Fury Road.
At E3 2013, I was treated to a hands-off demonstration of Mad Max, lead by Avalanche Studios’ Producer John Fuller and Designer in charge of vehicle combat, Alex Williams. At the point in the game that we were being shown, Max’s car, the Interceptor, the iconic vehicle from the Mad Max films, had been stolen. Without the Interceptor – or any vehicle, for that matter – surviving in the Australian wasteland is nearly impossible. Enlisting the help of Chumbucket, whom Fuller described as, “the idiot-savant mechanic,” Max will be able to construct multiple vehicles which, “will equal, if not surpass, the Interceptor,” over the course of the game. The new signature vehicle is called the Magnum Opus, and it is fully customizable by the player – it, essentially, your personal Interceptor.
Vehicle design and customization will be one of the more complex and involving aspects of the game. Players will be able to modify the armor, engine, grill, tires, suspension, and frame – among other attributes – of their Magnum Opus. The modifications will affect speed, durability, and weight, among other attributes, and will effect the car’s performance whilst in battle and traversing the different types of terrain. The overarching goal was apparently to deliver an experience that is modified by both how the player plays the game, and how they modify their vehicles. There will also be a varied selection of weapons which Fuller did not delve into that much – we were however, shown the harpoon, which is capable of tearing off armor and tires of moving vehicles. The world map looks to be vast, though they did not go into detail about its projected size – the overall experience of traversing the terrain will be punctuated by varying environments and numerous random encounters with enemies.
The world of Mad Max is being designed similar to what we have seen in recent open-world and post-apocalyptic survival games (think of Avalanche Studios’ Just Cause franchise, and Naughty Dog’s recently released The Last of Us). Every supply, every scrap of metal, every drop of oil is salvageable, and will be contended by every faction present on the map. The developers want you to feel like you are a survivor, a loner, forever alone; fighting among dozens who would love to see you and your Magnum Opus in a burning wreck. It remains to be seen how robust and alive this world will feel once Avalanche releases the final product. The vehicle combat that we were shown, however, was quite impressive. It was fast, and looked challenging, with epic slowdowns whenever Max pulled out his signature shotgun to shoot off a tire or blow a gas tank. Fuller commented that the game is being designed in a way so that attributes like car weight, suspension, armor, as well as terrain and the gamer’s play style will influence each battle fought and thus make each battle unique. This would theoretically curtail any feelings of monotony, which most shooters suffer from.
The demonstration focused mostly on the vehicle aspects of the game, though we were treated to some gun-power (sniping and run-and-gunning) and physical violence (a thunder-stick to the head) as well. As of now, the two are pretty detached and do not feel as organic as the vehicle customization and combat. Avalanche should without a doubt work to make these two other systems as integral to the experience as vehicle customization will be, but we will have to wait and see.
Mad Max is in development for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, and will be released on an unannounced date in 2014.