Building Your Nightmarish Dream Car In Mad Max

by Tim Turi on Mar 16, 2015 at 09:00 AM

One of Mad Max's defining characteristics is that he's a man who was tragically separated from his family. Without a wife and child in this post-apocalyptic nightmare, the only other constant in Max's lonely life is his black-on-black Interceptor. This enduring, powerful car is tragically stolen from Max early on in Avalanche's game, and he's left with no other option than to build something better. Thankfully, he's got the help of a master mechanic, and ultimately the tinkering player, to guide him.

We had extensive hands-on time with Mad Max during our cover story trip to Avalanche Studios' office in Stockholm, Sweden.  We customized the Magnum Opus and tore around the Wasteland plenty, but also spoke with the team about the daunting task of taking away Max's signature Interceptor and asking players to build something new.

Avalanche compares the concept to creating a Star Wars game about Han Solo, then taking away the Millennium Falcon at the outset. "That's exactly what it is," says Frank Rooke, game director.  "It's a wonderful thing to do, I think.

"For us, it's just having fun with that kind of concept, saying, 'You had something incredible, but now go out and make something even more incredible.' It's up to you to make that thing. What you define as incredible is your own vision."

Speaking of vision, the creation of the Magnum Opus is the religious crusade for Max's oddball mechanic partner, Chumbucket. This deformed, Igor lookalike approaches auto customization with potent zeal, to the point where he refers to Max as "Saint."

Two chassis options for the Magnum Opus

"Chum definitely has this religious respect for vehicles, so he treats [the Magnum Opus] that way," Rooke says. "He worships vehicles. He worships anything mechanical, actually. For him to create something like the Magnum Opus, that is the ultimate thing to do for some sort of vehicular god out there."

Max's connection with vehicles isn't as fanatical as his greasy ally's, but they've always played a pivotal role in his journeys throughout the Wasteland.

"For Max, I think he has a special bond, not with vehicles, but with his car," Rooke says. "That's why you don't see him eyeballing some other car. He doesn't see those cars as his home, as his connection to who he is, what he's invested in, or where he wants to go."

Where Max wants to go is an enigmatic place beyond this chaotic section of the Wasteland that he calls The Plains of Silence. Before he can get there, he's going to have to build the best vehicle possible to endure the other lunatics tearing across the sands in their own souped-up rides.

Up next: Get to know the intricacies of the Magnum Opus, bumper to bumper...

Composing Your Magnum Opus

I already told you everything I know about the visceral, metal-shredding car combat itself. Now I'm laying out every feature and stat you'll be able to upgrade and adjust through the garage screen (shown above). The garage can be accessed at any time on the fly, so players can constantly tweak their Magnum Opus to fit any occasion. Additionally, Avalanche says custom vehicle loadouts will be available in the final game, which will let players swap between their favorite builds on the fly.

Keep in mind that building your Magnum Opus isn't about simply collecting a ton of scrap and upgrading all the parts to the maximum. Upgrading one element of the car might negatively affect another, so you will have to continually experiment and balance. For example, building a more powerful engine will make you go much faster, but at the expense of worse handling.

Here's a breakdown of the each upgradeable and unlockable category for the Magnum Opus, and the some automotive trade-offs you'll have to consider.

Ramming Grill: Upgrade to a bigger, beefier grill. A monstrous front end will help turn your foes' cars into flaming piles of metal, but the added heft drags down the front end and makes precise turns feel slugglish.

Armor: Tired of enemies ramming and blasting through your vehicle's chassis? Upgrading your armor allows the Magnum Opus to withstand more damage. Like the grill, the added metal also slows you down.

Engine: The best way to offset all that chunky, spiked metal weighing you down is to upgrade your engine. Max starts out the game with a reliable V6 engine, but his acceleration really gets a shot in the arm when he moves on to a V8, dubbed "Big Chief."

Exhaust: Acceleration is wonderful, but it's more satisfying when you top speed is something worth bragging about. Pump some scrap into your exhaust to make the Magnum Opus really scream.

Tires: If your rig becomes too heavy in certain areas, the physics of the game might make it difficult for your tires to hug the road. Upgrading your tires allows you to stay the course even when you're driving a veritable tank. Slicks are great for reaching high speeds on the well-trodden paths, but at the cost of poor off-road maneuverability, and vice versa with off-road tires.

Suspension: A good engine will help make a heavy chassis move faster, but upgrading your suspension gives your wheels more precious elbow room. Upgrading the suspension is the perfect solution when off-roading becomes a clumsy chore.

Boost: Max's signature nitrous boost returns, and it's the perfect secret weapon for catching up to fleeing foes or ramming into stalled-out losers. Upgrading your boost is good for anyone who loves having raw power a button press away.

Rims: Slamming sideways into an enemy vehicle is satisfying in its own right, but adding grinding spikes to your wheels sends sparks flying. Upgrade these wheel grinders to better shred hostile cars' armor and wheels.

Boarder Spikes: The Magnum Opus is an evolving work of art, but few crazies of the Wasteland respect that. Some lunatics will attempt to blow up Max's car with dynamite spears. Investing in defensive spikes will ward off – or better yet, impale – these boarders.

A look at the engine upgrade screen. You're gonna want a V8

Sniper Rifle: Max has a huge sniper rifle attached to his car, which is perfect for taking down rival marksman off in the distance or thinning the numbers of an enemy stronghold before attacking.

Harpoon: Chumbucket's handy harpoon tool is great for ripping enemy drivers through their windshields, toppling sniper nests, or tearing of stronghold doors. Upgrade this bad boy enough and you'll also be able to quickly take cars out of the equation by yanking off their wheels.

Thunderpoon: When the harpoon won't cut it, Chum can equip the projectile with a powerful explosive cap. The harpoon then becomes a devastating, missile-like projectile that's perfect for taking out pesky pursuers.

Side Burners: The wheel-mounted grinders are great for dealing damage to enemies driving alongside you, but these flamethrowers are real beasts. Combine a side grind with an upgraded flamethrower and you'll reduce your opposition to nothing in record time.

Repair Speed: Keeping the Magnum Opus healthy is just as important as keeping Max's health meter full with water and dog food. Whenever Max disengages car combat and comes to a stop, Chumbucket springs into action and begins putting out fires and repairing the engine. Upgrade this ability and Chum becomes speedier under the hood.

Car Body: Swapping out the Magnum Opus' chassis is purely an aesthetic choice. Is your style more of a classic muscle car look or Dragula-style hotrod?

Body Color: Luxuries like traditional "paint" don't exist in the Wasteland, but that doesn't mean you can't customize the Magnum Opus by choosing whether you want that gritty, rusty look or a jet-black coat of tar slathered over your chassis.

Hood Ornament: Pursuing and taking out the lead car of the Wasteland's formidable convoys scores a unique hood ornament to adorn the front or back of the Magnum Opus. These flashy prizes apply useful buffs, like increased speed for example.


Even if you're not a gearhead, you probably already have an idea of your dream car after reading through this breakdown.

The high number of possible combinations may seem a bit daunting at first, but the fun of customizing the Magnum Opus comes from its depth and the reward of building or finding new parts. Getting to know how everything works together is important, because this bucket of steel and gasoline is the only thing separating Max from the unforgiving world around him.

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