Mad Max Might Live Up To Fury Road

Lackluster Mad Max [official site] presentations at previous games shows had led me to believe Avalanche’s open world shooter might be empty, fussy, dull. Then I played it and was pleasantly surprised: my 20 minutes of car combat were fun, exciting, and I’m keen to return to it.

The Gamescom demo was a thirty-minute hands-on set in the game’s open world. A mission was marked on your map, but I was handed the pad and told I could do what I want. The measure of an open world game for me isn’t its missions, but the open world itself: can you simply explore and have a good time?

I looked at the map, picked a hot air balloon – Mad Max’s equivalent of FarCry 3’s icon-uncovering towers – and set off in that direction. The car I was driving, which I had designed myself, was bright pink. Max steers while your sidekick, X, sits on the back, automatically repairs your vehicle when needed, and is the person who does the aiming and shooting when you decide to aim and shoot.

I decided to aim and shoot when I came across a convoy, one of the game’s roving open world events. These consist of a single large truck followed by at least half a dozen other vehicles, each one of which is full of violent lunatics. The objective, should you choose to engage, is to destroy the truck without being destroyed by the lunatics.

My discovery of this convoy was unscripted, but they happened to be passing through a small canyon in front of me. I sped up the hill that ran parallel with the road, hit a ramp, and boosted over the ledge to land alongside the convoy with a heavy thump.

I fired the harpoon gun I’d installed at a neighbouring car, causing it to explode and twirl into the air. Mad Max’s explosions were the best of Gamescom, I think – dirty, smoky, whirling and separating in the wind as cars roll and tumble.

Afterwards, I used the flamethrowers I’d appended to the side of my vehicle to set another car on fire, until I ran out of fuel for the flames. Then I used three of my automatically recharging boosts to catch up to the pack and discovered that there’s a button that causes your car to lunge to the side – useful if, like me, you spent money on adding knives to your wheels. As I jostled with the other vehicles, enemies clambered between the cars to attack me inside the vehicle.

Then a similarly unscripted sandstorm hit, dropping visibility to zero and introducing an explosive lightning storm. A bolt struck the car beside me and it lit up briefly before its charred remains vanished into the dust.

Eventually a crash caused me to lose sight of the lead truck in the convoy, and after repairs, I continued on my way towards the balloon. I died almost immediately upon arrival, shot dead by a sniper. My play session ended there.

Car combat is hard to do because cars are not traditionally designed for fighting, but the speed, the handling, and the physics of the cars slamming together created something exhilarating. I’m genuinely surprised. Mad Max seems to have found a better road to travel than Batman: Arkham Knight’s strafing, rocket-dodging Bat-tank, instead creating an experience that that conjured images of ancient chariot races, aided by a customisation system that lets you change their speed, their handling, their weapons, and their colour to a flowery pink.

Maybe I’ve now seen all it has – it could just be thirty hours of convoys and sandstorms, for all I know – but still, I explored Mad Max’s open world and I had a good time. Consider my interest piqued.

48 Comments

  1. Buzko says:

    Well, colour me cautiously optimistic.

    I do hope that the love story is strictly optional, and that the main character works out what his accent is supposed to be.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      I doubt any of the main story beats are going to be optional: it looks like the GTA/Arkham open-world template, in that you’re free to do whatever you want but you have to go to X and do Y every so often.

      That said I’m a lot more interested in this than I expected. I couldn’t get on with Just Cause 2 at all – boring, empty, no, I cannot just start “making my own fun” in the middle of a mile of lifeless forest – but I thought the trailers for this looked beautiful (the desert looks amazing to me) and the narrative seemed possibly entertaining. I’ve not seen Fury Road, I can’t afford films, but I am aware this is wildly conventional in comparison (and those accents are… odd) and yet it’s got my attention more than the Arkham games soullessly peddling Batman’s rogues gallery for the umpteenth time.

      • MisterFurious says:

        I couldn’t get into ‘Just Cause 2’ because every time I got into a vehicle, it instantly crashed, plus the Field of View was so tiny I couldn’t see a damn thing.

        • fish99 says:

          The cars drove awful in JC2 but you didn’t need to use them that often.

          • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

            There were cars in JC2? Don’t you mean Grapple Parachute Belay Points?

  2. Synesthesia says:

    haha! No. It might be good, but living up to Fury Road? Long, long shot.

    • anHorse says:

      Fury Road was good but it was hardly the greatest thing ever. It mainly stands out because of how weak most other recent action films have been

      • gunny1993 says:

        There’s been some fantastic action movies the the past 5 years or so: John Wick, The Raid and Dredd all set a really high bar (I’;m talking about the sort of subgere of super action movies, rather than say action adventure or drama). The reason its both publicly and critically acclaimed is because it knows exactly what it is and does those thing extremely well i.e. excellent cinematography, practical effects and imagination (something that’s bloody rare in action film nowadays, I mean 2 of the films I listed above are rewrites of Die Hard XD.

      • malkav11 says:

        The greatest thing ever, maybe not. The greatest Mad Max movie ever, absolutely. And while the amazing action sequences were a core part of the appeal, the writing’s definitely an important part, too. I’ve seen no evidence from the Just Cause games that anybody at Avalanche has any idea how to write.

        • bill says:

          It was good, but it wasn’t half as good as Mad Max 2.

          • malkav11 says:

            I’d say it’s more than twice as good. But then, Road Warrior is my least favorite of the lot. Mad Max proper was a very strange, memorable movie with an unusual sort of just-pre-apocalypse setting. Beyond Thunderdome was, until Fury Road, very much the most amped version of the post-apocalypse aesthetic that pop culture has come to associate with Mad Max. Road Warrior…just did not really make much of an impression on me in either direction. That said, I really need to watch them all again one of these days. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more the next time ’round.

  3. PopeRatzo says:

    it could just be thirty hours of convoys and sandstorms, for all I know

    That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, though.

    • Jakkar says:

      It sounds like heaven.

      Who played STALKER for the plot, after all? It’s the daily living and survival in these settings that holds the true romance and intrigue.

  4. clippa says:

    but fury road was terrible! It was just a 2 hour long, dull, lifeless car chase.

    As for the game, it’s got that boring quick-time event batman combat that every ruddy AAA game seems to have these days. I’m giving it a wide berth.

    • gunny1993 says:

      I think you switched form watching Fury Road to Formula 1.

      • Brosecutor says:

        It’s the only explanation.

        • clippa says:

          It started off really promising, I was enjoying it for the first half an hour. It looks pretty enough but it was all garnish and no dinner. Style over substance.
          Everything felt so hollow. The characters were all 2d flat empty nothings. The action was badly done, My adrenal gland was spent and I was running on empty very quickly.

          I think my mistake was going to rottentomatoes and seeing that it was a runaway critical success, that’s what made me watch it.
          I was expecting a great film.
          Maybe if I’d sat down to watch a mad max film, my expectations would have been so low that I might have been pleasantly surprised.

          Hmmmm, no, I don’t think I would have been to be honest, it’s an empty, dull “action” film, no matter which way you look at it.
          It’s an action film only in the sense that things happen. Things that don’t make you feel anything.
          I’m not immune to action films, gunny mentioned “Dredd”, I liked that one.
          I couldn’t get through “The raid” because of the shaky camera. Shaking the camera around doesn’t make me feel more excited, it just makes me feel restless and bored like I’m coming down from a sugar rush.

          • dbreed says:

            I’m very curious to know why you think the action was “badly done”.

          • Distec says:

            I disagree with pretty much all of this, although I do feel that Fury Road has become slightly overrated (although I thought it was really good).

            But The Raid and its sequel were excellent. I’m not typically one for martial arts flicks, but the choreography and intensity of the fights really blew me away. I’ve witnessed similar reactions from friends who are similarly nonplussed by these kinds of films in general. I feel it’s a little bit of a disservice to reduce what it does to just shaky cam.

            I’m sure somebody more acquainted with the genre can educate me as to why they’re actually not that great, but the first was easily one of my top films of that year if only because I was extremely surprised how much I liked it.

          • Sin Vega says:

            The Raid is one of the best action films anywhere in the world for at least a decade. If anything, the camera work (and relatedly, editing) was vastly better than most anglophone films, which was a major contributing factor.

          • Distec says:

            Yes! I am validated!

            Most complaints I recall were things like “poor character development”. Ebert’s review seemed to epitomize this sentiment, as if it was looking for more than a sequence of really excellent fight scenes. But not only was I perfectly content with what it offered in those areas (Ray Sahetapy was particularly great with the little he has), but I felt like anything more would have robbed the first film of the crystallized essence that propelled it.

            The second one felt slower by comparison precisely because there were times it got too wrapped up in the plot’s machinations. But then it went ahead and made up for it with another fight.

          • malkav11 says:

            I have to admit, I didn’t get that much out of the Raid and I think it’s partly because these days I -am- looking for more than just a series of excellent fight scenes. I’ve seen enough action movies – martial arts ones in particular – that you really have to get crazy inventive to make fight sequences alone do it for me. And I’m not sure that the Raid qualifies. Not to say that its action was bad, mind you. It’s definitely well executed. It just felt familiar to me.

            The other action movies that people have mentioned in these comments, like Dredd, John Wick, and Fury Road, have all had something besides that. Dredd had Judge Dredd’s fantastic setting, goofy stunts with his multi-load pistol, those awesome slo-mo sequences, etc. John Wick had those intriguing hints at this weird underbelly of society with the hotel and the code all these characters seemed to be working under, and the cool dynamic of this mob boss who knows, respects and fears Wick and doesn’t want this fight but feels compelled to bring it anyway because it’s his son, and you’ve got to. Fury Road has balls-out gonzo crazy, gorgeous visuals and that surprising streak of feminism. Perhaps The Raid did too, but it didn’t feel like it to me.

          • Lokik says:

            “The characters were all 2d flat empty nothings.” This is so, so wrong. In any other action movie the War Boys would have been faceless grunts there just to be killed by the hero, but in Mad Max even they had their own personality, culture and motivations which made them into interesting, even sympathetic characters. All of the different gangs and baddies had lots of character and neat little details to them, you just had to pay attention to catch that stuff, as Mad Max prefers to show, not tell. Even the goddamn cars felt like characters with their own personalities.

          • KenTWOu says:

            Your criticism was terrible! But that’s understandable, Fury Road is not for everybody. Like, let’s say, 12 Angry Men is not for people who think that a movie shouldn’t take place in one room.

          • clippa says:

            Well, it just bored the arse off me, that’s the long and short of it. I’m no critic but I tried to give reasons. You’re right, not everyone can love the same thing.
            I just seem to be the odd one out a lot when it comes to films at the minute. Watched “Dear zachary” last night, again, due to the raving reviews, and it just made me angry at the folk who made it.

        • welverin says:

          I too was underwhelmed, though I wouldn’t call it terrible.

  5. JustAPigeon says:

    I’d be far more interested if you could play as Furiosa.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      I’d have perhaps had more interest in it, but that has more potential of being handled terribly, if the comic adaption is anything to go by.

      Personally, though, I just can’t help but find the attempt to ‘tie-in’ the game to the film, with the game’s villain being Fury Road’s main villain’s son, to be a bit crass. Another thing that’s bugging me is the Flanderisation of the Mad Max setting.

      • HothMonster says:

        Its obviously a tie-in in the sense that they were waking the license up again and why not make a game while you’re making a new movie. However, it doesn’t seem to be a cheap movie tie-in. It has been in development for ~4 years, it didn’t have a forced release date tied to the movie and it isn’t rehashing the same plot.

        I saw the devs in one playthrough say they were unsure of where the story fell on the timeline related to the movie. So it could be before or after. They could have just been being coy, I think the demo was from before the movie launched, but they did mention that the game’s villain was the movie villain’s son. But they seemed to be implying it’s just a mad max story, max is trying to get from point A to B without interacting with anyone but gets sucked into other peoples drama and ends up blowing up a lot of shit, not some overarching tie in.

        • death_au says:

          I remember reading something years ago that the movie and game were supposed to tie in very closely. But that was back when the main ideas for Mad Max 4 involved being from the point of view of the Feral Kid from Road Warrior rather than Max, and obviously that went out the window at some point.
          Realistically, since Fury Road there is no proper timeline any more anyway. It’s all exactly what you said: Max trying to get somewhere and getting sucked in to other people’s drama.

    • Deviija says:

      I came to say the very same. I’d be far more interested if I could play as Imperator Furiosa.

  6. Samuel. R says:

    The game doesn’t look bad, but I seriously get absolutely no Mad Max “vibe” from it at all. Doesn’t feel Australian in the slightest, to me at least. Would it have killed them to hire some Australian voice actors? They only changed Max’s voice actor to an Australian after public outcry and petitions from the first videos of the game, when he had an American voice actor.

    The devs have stated “The setting – where it is in the world – has really nothing to do with the Mad Max video game. It’s really a game to do with the relationships between different people in this world,” which also weirds me out. I really wish there was more of an effort to make the game more Australian, even if only to make it more unique amongst other post-apocalyptic games.

    I also really, really doubt the game will “live up to Fury Road.” The game looks enjoyable and pretty well-designed, but I’d eat my hat if the world was as inventive, the characters and story as interesting, and the experience as fun as Fury Road.

    One thing I do really like is they seem to have changed the colour and visual scheme from earlier videos – it looks a lot brighter now. I think this is a great choice and also makes the game visually resemble Fury Road more.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      I guess the only concievable canonical explanation is that at some point Max must have moved to the US?

      • Papageno says:

        Just like the guy who played him? ;-)

        But I agree, it was rather incredible that the initial voice actor for Max in the game had some generic American accent. So glad they changed that after the uproar. On the other hand, the cynic in me almost thinks it was a “New Coke” fake-out from the beginning, just to drum up some publicity.

        I’m really itching to play this and am close to pre-ordering, but I know that’s silly when I’ll probably be able to get a substantial discount after it comes out (especially if I hold out till the end-of-year sales).

    • death_au says:

      I agree with the lack of vibe. Looks like a decent game, with a Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic wasteland and car combat. It doesn’t really look like a Mad Max game.

  7. Gordon Shock says:

    Two Avalanche games this Fall…man I am in heaven!

  8. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I must be in the minority that I saw the game, knew what to expect based on trailers, and still thought it looked like big, stupid fun. Or maybe I’m easily entertained when it comes to big cars, explosions, and destruction.

  9. udat says:

    The best vehicular combat game I’ve ever played on PC was Interstate ’76 (with surprisingly excellent force feedback) but I am hopeful Fury Road can steal that crown.

    • silentdan says:

      Interstate ’76 was the best. They just fully embraced the absurdity of it all, going so far as to name the protagonist Groove Champion. My memories of that game are so very, very fond. I bought it thinking, “I hope it’ll be as good as Spy Hunter.” If MM improves on I76 the way I76 improved on Spy Hunter, I’ll be thoroughly in love.

    • Fitzmogwai says:

      This. It’s still in my top 5 games of all time. And that soundtrack!

      In fact, here:

  10. FoSmash says:

    Utterly pointless film. The eponymous hero wasn’t even the lead character and the plot was nonsense – ‘let’s drive all the way over here and then all the way back’, whilst learning nothing and not progressing the characters in any meaningful way. Ridiculous. Hopefully the game will be a substantial departure from this latest dire remake.

    • chope says:

      eh?

    • VitalMoss says:

      Come on now, stop judging Mad Max based on it’s writing. The Story was a vehicle (get it?) to further the action. It’s not meant to be Schindler’s List or Citizen Kane. It’s a move with explosions, and it does what it needs to do.

      That being said, just watching the movie gave me a very expansive glimpse into the world itself. I don’t need an exposition to understand the world, eh?

    • Premium User Badge

      syllopsium says:

      ‘Eh?’ from here too. Did we watch the same film?

      The plot was not nonsense – there was a reason they did the ‘way over here and all the way back’, although there does have to be some suspension of disbelief. It’s an action film, not Hamlet.

      Max was not the lead character, but so what? The characters had their own motivation and development.

      Additionally, if you can’t crack a smile at a guy bungeed to a big rig, playing a guitar on fire, and fighting, you have no soul.

    • KenTWOu says:

      ‘let’s drive all the way over here and then all the way back’

      People, who keep using this argument bad-mouthing Fury Road, do you realise that this argument is stupid? That this criticism isn’t valid? That using this point you’re showing that you don’t understand how an action movie works? That an action hero should have a reason to move constantly, to make the movie more thrilling, more exciting, to keep an audience on the edge of their seat? And Fury Road has that in spades. They even fix the rig on the move, while keep moving forward.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Die Hard’s plot was stupid. “Let’s climb all the way up a tower and then climb all the way back down.” Stupid.

        • KenTWOu says:

          Yeah, the Matrix’s plot was also stupid. Let’s get out of the Matrix and then get inside.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    My worry is that the game appears somewhat tone-deaf to Mad Max’ themes and suffers from equally tone-deaf “Me too!” aping of Fury Road.
    The bad guys in Mad Max are beautifully ugly, deformed characters, warts, scars, boils, cysts, growths and all.
    The bad guys in the game appear to be identikit, generic, musclebound thugs.

    As for aping the movie, how do War Boys even make sense in a Mad Max story without Immortan Joe?

    Sure, it looks like a fun game, but it seems to miss the mark when aiming for that authentic Mad Max feel.