“When they took my life from me, I built a new one. When they took my car, I built a better one. If I need a part, I get it.”
Max’s rolling Australian accent booms over slow-panning shots of the windswept post-apocalyptic Wasteland and our leather-clad, shotgun-toting hero.
Max is an Australian icon, and his films have inspired a generation of game-makers, from the creators of Fallout and Rage to Borderlands, and yet it’s still jarring to hear such unsoftened occa in a big-budget, globally-minded entertainment property.
Max’s Australian accent almost never made it into the game, but for a petition by AusGamers, who were rightly upset that developers Avalanche had opted instead for so-called “generic” American voice talent instead.
“This is a game about Mad Max and the Wasteland,” says senior game designer Emil Kraftling when asked by a journalist if he considers the open-world game to be about Australia. “This is a post-apocalyptic world. There are no borders, no countries, but we certainly recognise the heritage of this franchise, and we don’t want to disappoint those fans.”
“The game is a stand-alone product, it’s not tied to any of the movies, and that‘s how we as a studio went into tackling the franchise. While we love the franchise, we certainly want to make sure that it’s not a movie tie-in game, but that we could bring a really good game to an audience of gamers. “
Kraftling is demonstrating a mission in which Max must steal a vehicle from some war boys in a ramshackle corrugated fortress. The 12-cylinder car is a valuable source of scrap metal, and Max’s ticket to upgrading the ramming grill on his new ride, the Magnum Opus.
“The Wasteland is a place where resources are really scarce,” says Kraftling. “It’s unforgiving and you have to fight for every piece of scrap. Metal scraps help you build your car. Fuel is a resource, food is a resource, and water is a resource. There are systems in place, and it will affect gameplay if you’re out of food, out of fuel, out of water. It’ll be of interest to you, and a lot of the gameplay will be built around gathering these resources, and fighting for them.”
When it comes to infiltrating the fortress, Max and Chumbucket – his hunchbacked mechanic sidekick – have options. A stealthy infiltration is possible, and Kraftling begins to demonstrate this approach with a high powered sniper rifle, but he changes gears shortly after and demonstrating the ‘shock and awe’ approach, harpoons a watch tower and pulls it down with the Magnum Opus.
After scrambling the façade, Max casually swaggers into a vicious melee and an assured R18 rating. The combat is a wincing, lip-smacking, bloodlusty parade of thudding headbutts, snapped necks, spatters of blood, and buckshot exit wounds.
Having brutalised his way to the last known 12-cylinder in the Wastelands, Max sets out to make good his escape with the war boys weaving past the husks of old container ships in furious pursuit.
“The world is divided into several regions,” says Kraftling. “The one we’re showing off here is called the Great White. It’s an old dried-out seabed. There are other regions that are very different in nature, very different in their visuals and what you do there, what gameplay is available there. We’re not showing off those areas yet, but there’s certainly more to them than meets the eye.”
The influence of Avalanche’s most successful game so far, Just Cause 2, is subtle but clear. “It is a darker world and that has to be reflected in the game world,” explains Kraftling. “But what we haven’t compromised on is the emergent gameplay. We’ve set up these tools and given you a world, and you’re free to use those tools in creative ways. Those are the kinds of games we make, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“It has been a challenge for us to take on how you make the Wasteland an interesting place. We’ve done a lot of stuff. We have an amazing day-night cycle, and a weather system where wind plays a huge role, and we are really eager to show off how we make the Wasteland more than just a wasteland.”
One secret to ensuring players remain engaged is the visual fidelity Avalanche has achieved in Mad Max. It looks like one of the first true next-generation games. Whereas most upcoming games that will appear on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One appear to only have slight increases in quality over their 360 and PS3, Mad Max boasts truly gorgeous graphics that are sure to delight and satisfy next-generation console and gaming PC owners upon the game's release some time in 2014.