Feature

Meet Mad Max, Saint Of The Wasteland

by Tim Turi on Mar 23, 2015 at 09:00 AM

Video games are home to a wide range of grizzled antiheroes, from the gun-toting noir cliché Max Payne to the nuanced, melancholic Joel from The Last of Us. Long before these troubled protagonists entered our games, another morally conflicted hero graced the big screen and inspired hundreds of characters that would follow. Now Avalanche Studios is introducing Mad Max (check out the cover story reveal), the original post-apocalyptic antihero, into a medium that is home to many of his ilk while retaining the qualities that define his character.

Max first appeared in George Miller's classic 1979 film, Mad Max. The movie introduces a very different Max than casual observers of the franchise might be familiar with. Max is a policeman who is trying to provide for his family in a world that has gone to hell. The desert plains of Australia aren't overtly post-apocalyptic at first glance, but the tragedy that Max and his family suffer sets the stage for how bleak the world has become. Without giving too much away, the film concludes with Max getting sadistic revenge in a scene that brings Saw to mind.

In Mad Max, we see Max transform from a man who smiles and laughs with his family into someone who might not ever know happiness again. All the while, the world becomes a more savage and unfeeling Wasteland. It's an extreme change, but without knowing that context the character might initially come across as a gruff, violent everyman.

"On the surface, Max seems like a simple, maybe straightforward character," says game director Frank Rooke. "But he's quite the opposite. He's quite complex. Imagine a world where nobody has compassion or sympathy. Nobody even has memories, really. Everything has been stripped away. But here's Mad Max. He's like the last guy who has the capacity to care, or to even feel. That's a hard thing to carry around."

The Max we see in Avalanche Studios' Mad Max is an assertive, deliberate man of few words. Max sets his eyes on a goal and then does everything he can to get from point A to point B. Unlucky raiders who get in his way will be cut down or ran over, while folks that support and help Max might just end up better off, like the settlement in The Road Warrior which represents a rare bastion of humanity. Max's goal in Avalanche's game is to build a replacement car after his black-on-black Interceptor is taken from him. The quirky, deformed mechanic Chumbucket becomes an unlikely ally, but the duo's joint goal to build the most badass car in the Wasteland brings them together. Chum's main drive is a religious zeal to build the greatest vehicle ever, which he calls The Magnum Opus. Chum has also calls Max "Saint," after concluding that he must've been sent to him in order to help complete his divine automobile.

Chum not only works on Max's car, he also points out and chatters about interesting landmarks in the open world that the player might want to check out. He's the necessary voice to stand in for Max's stoic demeanor.

"Max doesn't do a lot of talking, but that's the interesting thing about how we treated Max," Rooke says. "Max isn't someone who just communicates his thoughts. He doesn't come out and directly say what he's thinking. It's his actions, the things that you see him do. It's how people react to him or how people talk to him. These are the elements that tell Max's story."

Speaking of others who interact with Max, during our time with the game we saw hints of characters that might become important to him. For example, Hope is a mysterious woman who first appears in a jail cell trying to quiet the suffering of a little girl. She and Max have a subtle exchange, where he passes her a tool she needs but is just out of reach behind the bars. It's not a lot to go on, but hopefully things pan out better for Hope than many of the other women who end up entangled in Max's dangerous lifestyle.

Max often appears calm and collected, but there are troubled waters roiling beneath the surface.

"[Max] has a tie to the past that he can't forget, which also fuels his insanity, his madness," Rooke says. "It touches upon the things he valued the most before civilization crumbled. His family is probably the most important thing to him."

His insanity and his quest to find peace are both reflected in Mad Max's gameplay. His psychological instability manifests itself in Rage mode, a melee combat boost that automatically triggers when Max deals enough consecutive damage. Max can refine and harness his madness by seeking out a prophetic seer wandering the Wasteland. This elusive figure enables Max to upgrade his personal abilities, like combat proficiency, and also might offer some insight into how to find the Plains of Silence. The fabled destination is Max's final stop. Whether it's an actual place or whatever he calls the afterlife is yet to be determined.

Nearly 30 years have passed since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and that drought is about to end with both George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road film and a promising new open-world action game (not based on the film). Normally we're used to spending just under two hours with Max at a time, but Avalanche's upcoming adventure is shaping up to be an extended, insightful look into the resilient Wasteland survivor.

Mad Max is nothing without his car. Read more about the game's vehicular combat and customizing The Magnum Opus. For even more on Mad Max, click on the banner below to enter our hub of exclusive content that will be updated throughout the month.