When we first saw the official Mad Max game a couple of years ago it was a very different beast to the version shown at Gamescom.
To be completely honest, the initial showings of the open world game set in the Mad Max universe (but not tied to the, then, forthcoming film) were treated with some scepticism. After all, it was to be an open world driving game where the open world was mostly flat and barren. Where exactly was the fun and action going to come from?
Thankfully, Avalanche Studios - the developer behind the superb Just Cause series - figured out that not would the car be an important facet in the game, the most important in fact, there can be plenty of sections where Max must leave his Magnus Opus vehicle behind and take to foot.
We undertook one such mission during a lengthy hands-on gameplay session at Gamescom in Germany last week and were very impressed that as much attention has been put into physical combat as it is vehicular.
The mission itself asked us to find and infiltrate a stronghold in order to nab a new part for our car - the underlying purpose of the entire game. That initially involved driving around, trying to take out gang members in their rides as well as destroying structures protecting the main stronghold.
There is nothing more satisfying than shooting something with a harpoon gun and then driving away at speed to bring it crashing down (or to remove a hatch which can exposes something to be blown up) - well, apart from thrusting thundersticks into the stomachs of enemies and kicking them into other foes, but more on that later.
One inside the fortress, combat is glorious, not least because it's basically lifted from the Batman: Arkham series. The same few hit buttons perform similar actions and the flashing counter warnings appear above enemies' heads. The main difference though is that Max has a different moral code to Batman entirely, and the end results can be much more fun. And gory.
A thunderstick is basically a spear with an explosive tip and as well as fire them from your car when driving, you can also find them in the on-foot missions.
Throwing them is often necessary to unlock or open different sections, but you can also perform the aforementioned move where you stab an on-rushing foe in the stomach, kick them backwards and watch the fireworks. We will never get tired of that. And while we didn't quite get to the stronghold boss in our time with this build of the game, that action was actually enough to tell us that the Mad Max game steeps with promise.
The Gamescom hands-on was doubly interesting in that unlike many of its peers at the show, Mad Max will release imminently - on 1 September. That means we were playing a build as close to the final consumer release as we're likely to see before day one.
Therefore, our impressions of it are of an almost finished product. However, even with our playtime here and at E3 it is clear that we have only just scratched the surface of what awaits in the vast open world.
Hopefully, there will be plenty of variety and places to visit as well as long, drawn-out driving missions like the convoy hijack one we played in Los Angeles in June. That will be what makes Mad Max a triple-A title or not.
For now though, the potential is great. It might not be based on Fury Road, but it has an opportunity to mentioned in the same breath as the simply superb movie. Hopefully, Avalanche and Warner will take that with both hands.
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