I'm not sure I fully understood the Mad Max game until I read one particular loading screen tip. Not that on the surface there's a lot to misunderstand, of course. The plot of Avalanche's Mad Max game can be summed up as follows: man beats up other men in order to rebuild his car. Mechanically, it's pretty straightforward too: you drive about, you beat up men, you upgrade things so that you're better at driving and beating up men. You explore, you solve simple physics-based puzzles you encounter as you explore. You unlock the map so that you can explore more, and solve more puzzles. And drive further. And find more men to beat up.
When you play Mad Max, you're not really playing a single video game so much as you're playing a sort of cross-section: a geological sample of where many big-budget video games are at today. You're seeing the things big-budget developers like and you're seeing the things they think we like. Mad Max may seem scrappy, with all that rust and bent metal and all those insane, babbling NPCs, but this is game design as a sort of science - or game flow design as a science, at least. A huge map, constantly prodding you in a direction and then teasing you away again one gimmick at a time, with everything you find adding to a total somewhere, all of it taking you closer to completion.
Mad Max takes Avalanche Studios in a new direction: focusing strongly on vehicular combat and exploration of a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland, the developers successfully translate the bleak and unrelenting vision of George Miller's iconic series into a challenging action title. From a technological perspective, Mad Max also impresses with the studio's use of complex lighting and extensive post-processing to bring the wasteland to life. Physically-based lighting and clustered shading allow for a large number of simultaneous light sources without heavily impacting on performance, while materials such as sand, metals, and fabrics are accurately rendered with a suitably run-down aesthetic.
In terms of multi-platform comparisons, both console versions of Mad Max operate natively at full 1080p, with the Xbox One game matching the PS4 in the resolution stakes pixel-for-pixel - a pleasant surprise considering the resolution differential in many top-tier games. Edge-smoothing looks impressive, most likely handled by a custom anti-aliasing algorithm (Avalanche has a history of experimenting with its own techniques in this area). While the details on the actual AA implementation remain unknown right now, the technique in play here works well in tackling jaggies when exploring the vast wasteland, with rocky canyons and sand tunes appearing suitable smooth. That said, sub-pixel details aren't handled quite as successfully and shimmering across small objects and more intricate structures is noticeable when exploring outposts scattered across the post-apocalyptic landscape.
An initial gaze across the rest of the game's graphically rich visuals reveals a welcome level of parity across both consoles, with the same core art and effects work deployed equally in almost every area between the two formats. Texture filtering, depth of field, motion blur, and shadow quality all match up nicely to the point where differences you may see in our media are mostly a product of a dynamic time of time system, where slightly variances in shadow position and lighting occur depending on how quickly we complete certain missions.
I almost feel sorry for the Warner Bros VP sitting across the table from me. I get the strong impression he wants to keep comparisons between the upcoming Mad Max game and the recent film Fury Road to a minimum, but I'm not particularly keen to comply. Questions on their similarities come thick and fast; will Furiosa make an appearance? ("You know, we just never even went there with George.") The game's main villain looks a bit like the film's Rictus Erectus, doesn't he? ("They might share some DNA...") With hype for the film at fever pitch at the time of our interview, and a recent viewing still very fresh in my mind, I can't help but wonder where and how the game and the film reboot-slash-remake might overlap. Just a few minutes before sitting down for an interview with Peter Wyse, Warner Bros' senior vice president of production and development, I get a good 20 minutes of hands-on time with the game, where I'm free to roam the Wasteland as I please. In fairness to Wyse, I do get a sense that the two properties are cut from different cloths.
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Commandeering vehicles is nothing new in open world games. Heck, the genre was in many ways founded by a game called Grand Theft Auto, so getting behind the wheel to zip around an extended map is the oldest trick in the book. And yet it's hard to form much of an attachment to a particular vehicle when everything with a gas pedal is for the taking. In Just Cause 2 developer Avalanche's upcoming Mad Max game you'll be able to drive more than 50 vehicles over the course of its open-world adventure, but you'll only become intimately familiar with one: the Magnum Opus.
Max's iconic car, a heavily modded 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan, is no more and Max needs to craft his new ride. The Magnum Opus may start out a rickety ol' jalopy, but throughout the course of Avalanche's post-apocalyptic open-world adventure, you'll be able to customise it to your liking. You'll be able to modify its chassis, ramming abilities, engine, harpoon, mounted sniper rifle, or even your idiot savant hunchback mechanic Chumbucket, who comes included.
The section of the game Avalanche demoes at E3 tasks Max with getting past a heavily fortified barrier guarded marauders. Using his binoculars, Max can see that the barrier is glowing red, an indicator that our vehicle is not yet strong enough to smash through it. In the real game, you'll have to explore the wasteland, fight foes, and loot gear to eventually upgrade your ride, but for demo purposes Avalanche cheats and pumps points into the Magnum Opus' vast upgrade tree.