What we want to see from Avalanche's rumoured Mad Max game
Article by Nathan Ditum
Last year filming finally wrapped on a fourth Mad Max movie, subtitled Fury Road, after decades of stop-start development. We’ve known for some time that a tie-in game was also in the making, with God Of War 2 director Cory Barlog mentioning the project as early as 2008.
Since then Barlog has moved on but the screenshot above, tweeted by Avalanche Studios founder Christofer Sundberg, seems to give weight to persistent rumours that the Just Cause developer is now making the game. This would be a good thing, Just Cause having a blend of open-world freedom, vehicle-heavy mayhem and attaching people to exploding objects that scream “YES, THIS” to anyone familiar with Mel Gibson’s pre-sugar titted big screen heyday. Here are some other things we think would make for an excellent Road Warrior game.
This is really stating the obvious on a level comparable to suggesting upcoming shooters should remember to have guns. But there are customisable cars and there are customisable cars – the post-civilisation modification of recognisable twentieth century road vehicles in the Mad Max films results in a fleet of ragged industrial hulks copied liberally by any number of existing videogames, and which comes with its own cult following (including fabulously dated, in-depth websites). The look of the new film will obviously have an impact here, but it’s hard to imagine playing a Mad Max game with vehicles that don’t match this specific, influential style, and don’t incorporate a junkyard approach to upgrading and personalising. Basically what we’re saying is, make the vehicles look worn, real and dangerous, and if the supercharged Ford Falcon XB coupe isn’t on board, then neither are we.
The first Mad Max film defied its tiny budget to make a lasting impression on the vocabulary of action cinema, creating chase sequences that weren’t just fast but loud, muscular and traumatic. Should Avalanche indeed be involved we can take heart from the occasional magic of Just Cause’s improvisational, toyboxy vehicle play (as seen above), but Mad Max will need something heavier and more grounded too, a weighty sense of mortality hanging over every grinding sideswipe and last-ditch game of chicken. Let there be jagged zooms and nitro boosts, let there be steel harpoons and flamethrowers, let there be a feeling of consequence and thoroughgoing murder.
An open world
This is crucial for two reasons. The fiction of Mad Max is founded fundamentally on the character of Australia. Being a big-ass desert, fuel and the ability to drive are key if you’re to move any distance that registers on its colossal size. This is why Mad Max is about the battle for the roads, and why an ability to explore and survive on an open network of these roads is a must-have feature of any game. An open world is also important to Max himself. He’s a husk, not a hero, a wanderer with a keen sense of survival and a reluctant moral streak – he shouldn’t have a mission, as such, his story should come from the people he encounters on his endless, automatic journey. A bit like Codemasters’ Fuel - pictured above - only loads better.
Related to this sense of the story coming from the people Max meets – all three of the existing films are defined by the survivors they feature. Each one creates fascinating “what ifs” of post-civilisation existence – the almost 2000 AD-like pursuit cops and frenzied road gangs of the first film, the peaceful refiners and even more feral raiders of the second, and most thoughtfully, the third film’s rigid society of Bartertown (“break a deal, face the wheel”) and haunting oasis of plane crash orphans with their hope of salvation and tales of Tomorrow-morrow Land. Extend (rather than copy) this approach and a Mad Max open world could be filled with tantalising myths, ideas and remnants.
Interaction with different clutches of survivors will mean trade, exchange, and the necessary grunt work of restocking game items. But it doesn’t have to mean the same old currency transactions – to really capture a sense of Max’s world, we’d like to see an economy designed around the principles of bartering and the primacy of fuel, which is now the most valuable commodity in the world. Does this mean Max learns carpentry to make high-end spoons which he then swaps for engine parts and ammunition? To quote a favourite web comic, that’s not our fucking job (also – we really hope not) but the important thing is that some thought be given to the film’s imaginative treatment of functional economies.
Those are our must-have features. Get down to the comments section and let us know what's on your wish-list.