Mad Max Preview
"Mad Max" is a the very definition of "cult classic" in the film world. Developer Avalanche Studios has decided to bring us back to that arid wasteland, where resources like water and gas were all that mattered. Mel Gibson won't be lending his voice to the new action/adventure game for next-gen systems but otherwise, the developers are preparing an authentic homage to a memorable movie series. Max's iconic car, The Interceptor, is stolen at the start, and you're given the aptly named Magnum Opus. Hence, your journey starts with a new vehicle that needs lots of upgrades.
As you might expect, there will be plenty of driving. Attempting to strike out on foot in this barren, inhospitable environment is akin to suicide. Therefore, we'll have a myriad of vehicle customization options for your Magnum Opus, such as tires, engine, suspension, chassis, ramming ability, etc. Avalanche has guaranteed us "millions" of possible mechanical combinations for our vehicle, which may sound daunting to some. Given the amount of depth involved in this facet of the gameplay, action aficionados are worried that it'll feel too much like a driving simulator. I've got only one response to that: "Avalanche made Just Cause."
Yeah, just because there are a ton of vehicle customization options doesn't mean it'll feel like Gran Turismo. No, this studio is well known for producing entirely unrealistic, over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall adventures that focus squarely on impossible action. They're simply tossing in next-gen freedom and depth, that's all. The main character will have access to a wide variety of weapons, and he's even pretty effective with just his bare hands. From sniper rifles to the mechanical hook attached to your car, obnoxious, badly dressed enemies will be dying much-deserved deaths.
Evidently, that hook can be used for a variety of purposes, and that includes latching on to other cars and tossing them out of your path. As for how it pertains to combat, it all depends on your approach. As is the case with most open-world games, you'll often have a decision to make when facing a new objective: Do you stay away and pick 'em off from afar, thereby making the approach easier, or do you just go in guns blazing? Max will have binoculars that can help him scope out fortified bases. It'll point out weaknesses and possible infiltration points, which can depend on the upgrades you've given your Magnum Opus.
Given the sheer size and scope of the environment, Max can take his time and plan out of a strategy. If you want to get down and dirty, you'll experience brutal melee attacks in the third-person view, which ought to be definite crowd-pleasers. Knives and bricks accompany a robust arsenal, as does a ridiculous electric prod that quite literally causes foes to explode. When involved in car combat, there will be a few extra gameplay mechanics, such as a slo-mo effect when you draw up alongside an enemy vehicle and use your shotgun. The possibilities are almost endless, and one wonders just how big this surprisingly attractive wasteland really is...
Provided the gameplay is solid, I'd say this one could be excellent. I've never been a big fan of the very loose control in the Just Cause games; I hope Avalanche stabilizes the mechanics in Mad Max. I also hope you don't end up overusing that obscenely powerful harpoon gun, a favorite of the Just Cause faithful. Yeah, as I said above, it can be a highly effective weapon in multiple situations, but let's not rely too heavily on that, shall we? If the designers can offer up a balanced, diverse, stable sandbox adventure, "Mad Max" fans should be satisfied. Still don't get the BDSM outfits in the movies, though.
1/27/2014 Ben Dutka