E3 2015: Mad Max Has Some of the Best Vehicular Combat in Gaming – Hands-On Preview

by Kyle Hanson


WB Games and Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max, which isn’t a direct tie-in with the recent film, puts you in the shoes of the titular character, as he tries to get his classic Interceptor back from a group of wasteland bandits. To do this he’ll have to team up with a cast of insane characters as he journeys across the wastes looking for water, fuel, and other supplies as he builds and modifies his Magnum Opus vehicle. I got to go hands-on with the title, which had moved quickly up my most-anticipated list thanks to some excellent gameplay trailers, and came away very impressed with what I’d seen.

The demo that I got to try out focused mainly on the vehicular combat featured in Mad Max. There was a bit of hand-to-hand fighting at the beginning, showing that the series takes a lot of inspiration from the Arkham series of Batman games. The real star though was that vehicular combat, taking the act of driving to a new level, and offering up some of the best action scenes I played through at all of E3 2015.

The Magnum Opus is Max’s new car. Completely modifiable, you’ll upgrade and change it as needed throughout the game. At the beginning of the demo I grabbed some scrap and other supplies, which let me upgrade a few things about the car. The one I really wanted to alter though, the engine, couldn’t be done at this time. The problem was that the area was too dangerous, reaching a danger level of five. To lower it I would need to find a nearby convoy and shut it down. Once that task was complete I could upgrade to a V8 engine, which would help with future missions.

I pulled open the map and saw the vast desert that surrounded my character. Littered across the landscape were mission markers, showing that Mad Max won’t be low on content if this demo is anything to go by. I selected the convoy mission, which caused it to highlight the route that it takes across the wasteland. Heading there seemed like a simple task, but as I found out, nothing is simple in the world of Mad Max.


Just driving across the small area needed to get to the convoy caused me to run into two separate groups of bandits. This isn’t some nice and easy post-apocalyptic scenario, so they immediately attacked, hitting me with everything they had. This is where I got my first taste of the epic vehicular combat that will surely make Mad Max a new favorite for action fans.

Max has a few different weapons at his disposal: a shotgun, a rocket, and a harpoon. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, with the action slowing down around the player whenever they pull out a weapon, allowing pin-point accuracy as they target key areas of the attack vehicle. The harpoon though, that’s where things get really fun and interesting.

Initially it functions the same as the shotgun, just hold the button down and the world will slow to a crawl. Move your cursor on the screen until you find what area you want to hit, then hit B to fire away. The harpoon has an extra bit of fun to it though, as it clamps onto whatever it hits, which then gives you a couple of options.

Hitting B again will rip the harpoon back, destroying anything it was touching at the time. The most effective use of this weapon is to hit onto one of their wheels. Ripping this off will send them flying into the dirt, and make sure they can’t follow you anymore. Another option is to simply leave the harpoon attached, using it to pull and swing the enemy wherever you want, eventually ripping them to shreds when the forces become too great.

Mad Max E3 2015 Daniel Persson Interview

Something about this mechanic just hits the exact right notes both for Mad Max and for an action game in general. It delivered some of the most intense action scenarios on the E3 show floor, and that was before I actually found the convoy. This group was more focused and coordinated, which ramped up the action exponentially.

Action games have strived for years to top the intense car chase action one can find in a good summer movie, and Mad Max has easily joined the ranks as a possible contender. Attaching my harpoon onto the lead vehicle, while two of his friends slam and bash me across the desert, pulling the harpoon back and watching the car explode and go tumbling into a sand dune was a truly intense experience.

Once I’d taken out all of the members of the convoy the danger in the area dropped to a level four, allowing me to implement the upgrade. There are four total areas in Mad Max, each is a huge landscape that the player can explore, dotted with bandits, makeshift towns, and tons of missions. Survival will be a key factor, with players having to worry about their canteen and their fuel gauge most of all.

My time with Mad Max may have been short, but it easily pushed it even higher up my most-wanted list for this year. The game will arrive on September 1st, 2015 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, so get ready to join the madness later this year.

- This article was updated on:March 8th, 2018

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