Mad Max gameplay preview, trailer and screens: Eyes-on epic open-world title, due 2014

Mad Max is due to land big in 2014. In addition to the movie - starring Nicolas Hoult, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron - there's going to be an open-world game. But one isn't connected to the other: the game, which Pocket-lint saw in an early gameplay preview at this year's E3 expo in Los Angeles, is independently produced by Avalanche Studios. And it looks epic.

Open-world seems to be a theme of this year's E3, with stacks of titles offering huge explorable worlds. There's a risk that it will all get stale quickly, but Mad Max has a fresh appeal to it thanks to scavenging, vehicle upgrade systems and a desolate landscape which looks barren but gorgeous. If anything this title looks to be one of the stand-out games of this year's show.

We're treated to an in-game preview of Mad Max seeking out a vehicle part in order to upgrade bullbars to battering-ram proportions to advance through a giant gate, known as the jaw. Initially it looks very much like one man and his car, with not much going on.

But that changes quickly as we're thrust into a pursuit through the desert. The vehicles have the dusty, dirty appearance of those found in the classic movies - a mish-mash of salvaged parts assembled to their best. With a shotgun in tow the on-the-go battle is full of slow-mo and glistening "shoot here" moments that see fire and metal spill on to the sandy floors. Bad guys jump from vehicle to vehicle, resulting in some close-range shotgun dispatches from the roof of your own motor. It's looks like a lot of fun.

 

Enemies dispatched, we alight the car to salvage loot from bodies and vehicles. Here's where things feel a little bit Grand Theft Auto meets third-person Fallout 3. It's possible to explore the landscape on foot if you choose, whereby you can access more intricate areas your vehicle might not be able to get to.

That exploration aspect includes various scary folk typical of Max style among the desert landscape. Right now, their artificial intelligence isn't quite there - but the game's a long way off - as the sneak-up stealth scenes don't take into account explosions and various sounds that would definitely be heard. This needs to be put right for the game to feel more natural.

But the hand-to-hand melee combat that we saw looks akin to a more blood-soaked Batman: Arkham City meets The Matrix. Stacks of slow-mo, including close-ups of special kills such as a thunderstick embedded in one bad guy's chest delivering an explosive finish, make for a fairly gruesome game. There are guns too, but with bullets a rarity in the wastelands you'll need to use these more sparingly - a well-placed sniper bullet to an oil barrel results in a rain of fire, while the trademark sawn-off shotgun can get you out of some sticky close-up situations.

But it's the vehicles that seems to be the stars of the show. With over-the-top physics everything looks exaggerated in its bounce and movement, in that off-kilter Max kid of way. The game's upgrade system allows for engine, armour, bullbars and other additions to be built up throughout the game. Each element adjusts the way the car will handle, we're told, with weight distribution and different suspension and tyre interactions subtly shifting the feel of the controls.

Available in 2014 on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, Mad Max - despite being a franchise - looks to us like it has bags of promise. There're many months of development time left and if Avalanche get this one right then we'll all be in for a treat.