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Mad Max borrows the series' bombastic elements to create a new, open-world adventure

Avalanche Studios' open-world Mad Max game isn't based on any one film, but uses the series' iconic elements and atmosphere to create a new adventure.

In Mad Max, Max has lost Interceptor, his trusty vehicle. Throughout the game, players will help him to buildup what Avalanche's John Fuller calls a "wasteland war machine," an all-new vehicle called the Magnum Opus. Players will soup up their vehicle as the game progresses, adding upgrades that will help take out enemies and obstacles, with the help of "idiot savant" sidekick, Chumbucket.

Vehicle upgrades include new armor and grills for the chassis, new engine parts and special abilities. The goal, Fuller explained, is to build Max the ultimate deadly vehicle, the perfect steed.

In a demo shown at E3 today, I watched Max drive his jacked-up car across a dusty desert landscape, barren for all except some large boulders and enemy towers. Players will have to help Max survive in this harsh and brutal wasteland, taking on enemies in melee and vehicular combat. The game uses some truly over-the-top physics for both, and Fuller said the goal was to "push the envelope" and make combat as hardcore as possible.

When players aren't taking down enemies, players can drive off to explore the world map, which includes other encampments, visual vantage points to scout the terrain, and fuel, food and scrap parts convoys. The map will also show where a highly valuable vehicle is located, giving Max incentive to nab it for parts.

"Stealth is not a key element here," Fuller said as we watched Max charge into an encampment, grab an enemy and crack his skull open in one fluid motion. "You can take advantage of an enemy by sneaking up on them, but it's not recommended."

"We've been ready," said Mad Max lead designer Andreas Gschwari when asked about Avalanche's timing announcement yesterday. "We've been ready for a while. It's a fantastic type of game to get out there. We're at the right point."

Gschwari added that the game is currently in an alpha phase, but the team at Avalanche is pleased enough with the title that they felt they were ready to show the world.

"Mad Max is such an iconic franchise," he said. "It's one of the franchises that started the wasteland craze. There's a lot of games and films based on that franchise or that took inspiration from it. For us, as a studio known for our open-world games, it was something we've been wanting to work on for a long time."

Gschwari said the biggest challenge in adapting Max was creating the deserted wasteland environment and making it look "stunning and varied enough." The studio has also never done vehicular combat before, and while they have made "car stuff" they haven't to the extent of what they have with Max — upgrades, abilities and of course, the fighting.

"They were challenges but they were also extremely fun for us, because we could push our own engine and technology and just go that extra mile," he said.

The easiest part of the project, he said, was adapting the IP to an action-packed open-world adventure with over-the-top physics and wild, dramatic gameplay.

"It's a match made in heaven," he said.

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