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Avalanche wants players deeply invested in Mad Max's crazy car

Avalanche Studios' Mad Max, set to launch next year, follows Mad Max — the same Mad Max of the post-apocalyptic action films — as he struggles to recover his beloved vehicle, the Pursuit Special. The game will emphasize customization of Max's new vehicle, the Magnum Opus, as well as combat using the hero's new souped-up car.

According to senior gameplay designer Emil Kraftling, the world of Mad Max lends itself well to a video game; transposing the series' ravaged wasteland and scrappy contents into things like consumables and combat mechanics was a smooth process.

"The universe that we draw all this inspiration from has this really desperate feel to it, it's a really desolate place," he told Polygon. "So everything you find has real, real value. That sort of ties into your whole play loop."

Players can slam and smash other vehicles with their own, or have their trusty sidekick Chumbucker shoot at them from the back. There is also a grappling mechanism that can grab on to passing objects — and what would a Mad Max game be without some explosions? Environments are fully destructible, an encouraging note for players who want to go all out and just smash everything up.

Players can also take advantage of Bullet Time while driving — a dramatic slowdown of time that will allow players to choose and lock on their target to get a few more hits in. But once you pick your target, shots and rapidity are chosen by the game's AI and players have little control over the final outcome. It's an unfortunate decision in a game bent on giving players the ultimate freedom in weapon (vehicle) customization.

Vehicular combat has been crafted with special care; Kraftling said Avalanche's team took what it learned making Just Cause and ramped up the physics for Mad Max's car fights.

"What we have done, compared to Just Cause 2 for instance, is poured more physics into the combat, so it's really dynamic and emergent in that way," he said. "Nothing plays out the same."

Max also gets his own set of upgrades, but these are short-term and will degrade or be unusable after a few go-rounds. Players can give him temporary abilities and attack advantages — such as placing broken glass in his knuckles to provide some seriously brutal punches, or strap other lethal boosts to his boots or jacket — but the longevity of these items pales in comparison to the depth with which vehicles can be altered.

Chassis, engine, wheels, grills — every piece imaginable will be available to players, allowing them to do any kind of damage imaginable. These items, referred to as scrap, can be found at strongholds scattered across the map, and each stronghold specializes in certain types of upgrade pieces. Each piece will affect how the cart handles — its speed, effectiveness in battle and strength against barriers, for examples. Players can also change the color of the car. Avalanche has set the bar exceedingly high for itself in terms of customization freedom, and it's very evident their emphasis is on Max's wild ride.

Kraftling said Avalanche has been working hard to create a spacious open world for Mad Max, and while they're making sure they have enough content to fill it, they are still pushing to expand.

"It's going to be really huge," he said. "A really big wasteland."