The smells of burnt oil and gunpowder dance in his nostrils and mock his pride. His car, the once mighty Interceptor, has bled out. The tranquil vacancy of his immediate surroundings forms a foggy mirage; an image of the fabled Plains of Silence--his final destination--momentarily takes hold. He relishes the moment while it lasts. Only death could prove an adequate detour, but with the Plains' promise of solace too great to ignore, he trudges forward with a heavy heart and clouded thoughts.
Daylight gives way to blinding darkness, and the weary warrior stumbles headlong into a trap. Slung from a tree, buckled in dank netting, he senses his captor approaching and readies a single slug in the chamber of his shotgun. The mumbling, wheezy hunchback cuts the net. Max untangles the web and rams the rusty barrel of his weapon into the hunter's temple. They pause. "Angel Combustion, you delivered him to Chumbucket," the hunter said, flush with unbridled, disturbed glee.
And thus, the unlikely duo of Max and Chumbucket is formed, kicking off this fresh take on the legend of Mad Max from Avalanche Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. During a presentation at Gamescom, press members got a closer look at the game's structure, car customization, and, most importantly, vehicular skirmishes. With the introduction of Chumbucket, Max's harpoon-wielding Igor-like companion, the game from the team behind Just Cause 2 left a much stronger impression than it had after its unveiling at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
For Chumbucket, a master mechanic, Max is the prophesied champion destined to aid him along his quest to piece together the Magnum Opus, a war machine to be without equal in the wasteland. Without his trusty Ford Falcon GT Coupe, the Interceptor, Max has no choice but to accept the partnership. After all, a ronin in the wasteland without a car is as good as dust. The pair henceforth spend the majority of their time roaming the barren landscape, fending off ravenous bandit convoys and infiltrating fortified strongholds in search of valuable parts and scrap.
Max can face off against enemies on foot by himself, but fighting against uninspired AI with simple quick time event based tactics pales in comparison to the excitement and spectacle of taking the fight to the road, due in no small part to Chumbucket's efforts. His harpoons let you tug and whip vehicles into obstacles, or draw them in for a well-placed shotgun blast to the driver's face. With cars bursting out of dunes at high speeds, flames belching from fractured gas barrels--which can easily set the unfortunate but hardy Chumbucket ablaze--and enemies attempting to board your chariot mid-battle, Max needs all the help he can get.
Sometimes, frantic action takes a backseat to calculated assaults. When the pair approached an enemy encampment during the demo, a warning from Chum prompted Max to spot a lookout through the sight on his rifle. However, rather than waste precious ammunition, Max and Chum snuck through the shadows, latched their harpoon to the tower's supports, and wrenched the lofty structure to the ground, allowing them to sneak further into the stronghold. Though you can certainly bust your way into forts with the might of your car, guns blazing, it's often beneficial to mitigate the risk of vehicular damage if possible.
If, however, you chose to walk the chaotic path, Chumbucket can help bolster your car's defenses using parts salvaged from other cars during your quest. Your engine, chassis, and wheels are swappable at his garage; with the option for custom bodywork should you need it. If you plan on busting through fortifications, a heavy ramming grille will prove most effective, but it will also slow your car down and alter its handling characteristics, requiring the addition of a new suspension and a fuel injector to counteract the imbalance. Customizing your ride is all about give and take, and it seems to be an integral part of diversifying your tactics.
Max alone is a force to be reckoned with, but with Chumbucket by his side, there's little the two can't overcome. Plus, Chumbucket's presence seems to make for a more enjoyable game; their verbal interactions give substance to otherwise mundane excursions, and the car combat is a richer experience thanks to the flexibility afforded by their combined strengths. Were it not for their cooperative efforts, the Gamescom demo may not have left as positive an impression as it did. If the promise seen there can expand and persist in the final game, Avalanche Studios may have a game worthy of the reputation for bombastic action earned by the original Mad Max trilogy.