E3 Report: What it’s like to survive the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Mad Max videogame

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Jun 23, 2015

At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), I got my hands on Mad Max (2015), a gloriously anarchic open-world videogame of survival - and cars - based on this summer's best-received (in terms of critical reception and popular opinion) action blockbuster. In Batman: Arkham Knight, the Batmobile is a tool for getting the job done. In Mad Max, however, your car is your life. Without it, you'll easily slip from Mad Max to Dead Max. But I wasn't going to let that happen without a fight

I got one almost immediately in my demo, thanks to three shorn baddies who seemed ripped from the movie Mad Max: Fury Road. I went from load screen to a death match in a matter of moments, and it felt strangely natural; not just the immediate violence (just another day in the life of a road warrior), but the fighting. This was no balletic dance with death. We were slugging it out, and it looked like a fight between worn-down hand-to-hand combatants should.

After I beat down the marauders, I filch items from their camp: Scrap (which is used as currency), water (which improves my health meter substantially), and of course, a car engine.

Because Mad Max is all about the cars, at any time in the game, I can hit the Option button and enter the Garage, the home screen that lets me upgrade my vehicle. New body color doesn't cost, yeah, gimme some of that. But because I'm only at 185 scrap, my upgrade choices are limited: I can take a ramming grill to do extra damage, extra armor to reduce my own damage, or tires for improved handling.Ramming grill, it is (I would have liked to have seen an upgrade to improve fuel efficiency. Let's hope that we're going to get it in the final version).

I bring up the map of this expansive open-world game, where I see plenty of action - a sniper nest, enemy camps, and treasure troves - for me to take on or ignore as I choose. For the purpose of this demo, I stick with the main quest: Reduce the threat level of the wasteland, which unlocks options in the Garage. To do this, I have to reduce the influence of the enemy by destroying their camps and convoys. Oh, look, there's a convoy carrying precious fuel ahead. Let's go do some carnage.

I jump across the terrain thanks to an engine boost - a handy extra that depletes and replenishes over time - and soon catch up to the convoy. A helpful Avalanche Studios employee suggests that I take out the smaller vehicles first before going after the mini-boss.

So many choices! I can shoot out tires, or I could rip open a car door. I can shoot an enemy with a gun, or I can drag him across the terrain with a harpoon. I can stay in my own car, or I can leap into an enemy's vehicle.

But it seems that it's better to stay put. Our sidekick, whose name is - wait for it - Chumbucket, stays with the car. If we leapt into another car, Chumbucket, who helpfully repairs our car in mid-melee, would stay behind.

Hey, a bad guy is trying to board me. Go away. I boost my engines and toss him off the car like a bucking bronco. Serves him right.

Soon, I'm out of shotgun bullets, so now, I'm on my flamethrower, which shoots from the side and doesn't require ammo. It does, however, spend fuel. I also have a harpoon and a thunderpoon (an explosive harpoon), which eventually takes out the mini-boss. Threat level officially reduced.

Only the mini-boss drops scrap, but that scrap includes a sweet hood ornament, because what better way to convey you're a force to be reckoned with than a trophy of your dead enemy?

It's fair to say that if you liked Fury Road, Mad Max delivers a game experience that's a compelling version of the film's frenetic wheels-on-bone action. If the game is as smooth as the demo, it could actually be one of the best videogames based on a movie that we've seen in a long time.

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