Meet The Weirdos Of Mad Max’s Wasteland
Mad Max is the central figure of the movies, but he’s always been surrounded with some of the oddest supporting characters put to film. From Toecutter to Lord Humungus to the odd couple of Master Blaster, these crazed maniacs have left us wanting more. The upcoming game features an all-new cast of characters, and thanks to input from movie director and Mad Max creator George Miller, they fit right in. Today’s your chance to learn more about some of the bizarre people you’ll encounter in the Wasteland. Some are friendly, and others are definitely not. Either way, they’re an interesting crew.
We learned about Mad Max earlier this week, and now it’s time for everyone else to get their moment in the sun. Considering the Wasteland’s unrelenting heat, that’s probably not what these guys are after. They all have their own motivations, however, which you’ll soon discover.
We’ve written a lot about Chumbucket, for good reason: He’s essentially the voice of the game, as well as Max’s constant companion. As you know, Max is a man of few words, so having him ride solo wouldn’t make for the most scintillating monologues. That’s where Chum comes in. He points out interesting places and provides light-hearted (albeit weird) commentary on what’s going on. So what’s this guy’s deal, anyway?
Looking at Chum, you might get the impression that his survival in the Wasteland has been a matter of sheer luck. In actuality, he’s been able to make good use of his extraordinary talents, which in turn has kept him alive. “The only thing that you can trade with someone – there’s no monetary system at all – is with your skills,” says Odd Ahlgren, the game’s principle writer at Avalanche Studios. “Chumbucket has survived because of his godlike skills with engines. And everything in this world is driven by engines, so people will need him every now and then, so they don’t kill him. He has built a little bit of a reputation for himself, even though he’s a bit of a bizarre hermit at the beginning of this game. People know of him and he’s done a little bit of work for everyone in the past.”
Chumbucket has long been fascinated with the idea of building his Magnum Opus, the fastest, most powerful car in the Wasteland. His obsession has caused him plenty of trouble in the past, as Ahlgren points out. Before meeting Max, he was a blackfinger, a term used to describe those who have an innate understanding of how engines and other mechanical devices work. “They’re working in the engine bays in Gastown. There are other places, too. They repair all of the war vehicles for parties that go out and scout the Wasteland for goods and things like that. The thing is, even then Chum had begun planning for his Magnum Opus, which was like a feverish religious idea that came to him in a dream. He needed to build this car, this ultimate desert-survival vehicle. Incidentally, it’s the same vehicle that Max later will want. But he began this a long time ago. The thing is, he started pilfering from the engine bays, hiding stuff for his vehicle in his little bunk. He has a pseudo-religious/sexual relationship with engines. What he did with them in his little bunk, we don’t really want to know. But he was saving them up to build this car. But one day they found out and they threw him out of Gastown. It was just out of a playfulness from one of the characters who threw him out [that] made him survive, otherwise they would have just killed him. But they wanted to play a little bit with him before they killed him, and he managed to escape.”
Chumbucket’s makeshift garage (an abandoned ship) is blown up near the beginning of the game. As Max and Chum peel away from the exploding vessel, they get a glimpse of the leader of the attack – a knife-licking weirdo named Stankgum.
We don’t know much else about the character right now, but one good look at his human-face mask indicates that there’s something a little off with him.
If you’re going to have a hero (even an antihero), you need to have a villain. In Mad Max, that man is a monstrous psychopath named Scabrous Scrotus. He’s essentially the big boss of the area of the Wasteland shown in the game. If you want anything from Gastown, the hub of civilization in this part of the world, you need to go through him and his cronies.
“Scrotus is part of a bigger hierarchy of the canon,” Ahlgren says. “We would rather not go into it at this point. He is a warlord in this part of the world, and he’s commissioned there by a bigger hierarchy. He is the protector of a place called Gastown, where he is ruling supreme. As we perceive him, he is war in the flesh. He is complete and utter violence, and that’s the only thing that drives him now.”
The image above shows what he looked like before something terrible happened to him – even by Wasteland standards. “He begins as a normal warlord, but something happens to him that turns him into a bloodthirsty monster that only can find solace from his own pain through the suffering of others,” says Ahlgren. He wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly transpires, but says that players will see the event. “It’s going to be funky,” he adds.
Look carefully at the concept art, and you’ll notice something interesting (no, it’s not that codpiece). “He’s allowed to breathe clean air,” Ahlgren says. “Even the air in this world is vaguely poisonous. Those people who are at the top tier of this society, they carry these canisters and they’re allowed to breathe real air.”
Note: In the cover story, Scrotus’ first and last names were inadvertently transposed.
Scrotus doesn’t have time to hit the road for minor things such as scavenging or hassling the locals. He leaves that up to his underlings. They’re difficult to miss when you’re driving around and taking over outposts; they have a thing for body modification. During my time with the game, I asked the team about what I perceived as a lack of women. If you’re familiar with the movies, you know that Max wouldn’t have survived long if not for the help of a rotating cast of badass women. Apparently, I didn’t notice them, for good reason.
“Most people have paint on their faces and shaved their body hair off – mutilation and scarring and piercing and stuff like that,” says game director Frank Rooke. “People tend to all look generally the same. That’s not just us trying to cover up, that’s kind of the approach of how this civilization merged into this kind of state.”
“There’s a lot of scarification in the character designs,” adds Ahlgren. “We didn’t want to go with tattoos, so instead there’s scarification and branding – that’s the big body adornment. Also, that goes back to the tribal nature of this world. There are initiations and stuff like that.”
Scrotus also enlists a roving crew of young thugs who ride around the Wasteland, looking for easy prey. These guys are known as the War Boys, and they’re a depressing indicator of what can happen in the Wasteland when people legitimately know they have no reason to live. “Most of the War Boys are suffering already from different types of cancer, and they’re more or less dying,” Ahlgren says. “They’re between 15 and 20 years old. They know that they’re not going to make it to 30 – and it’s not just violence that’s going to take them. Everybody is somehow sick that’s born into this world, except for a few people like [Max] who have been protected somehow.”
As we learned earlier, Chumbucket has done work for a variety of people and factions within the Wasteland, and he has a good reputation (Scrotus aside). He puts that into good use when he visits Jeet’s stronghold. Body modification is huge in this part of the world, but that’s not why Jeet’s pierced his body with so many chunks of metal.
“He suffers from these extreme head pains, and he has learned that he can control them by causing himself pain in other parts of his body,” Ahlgren says. “When he gets these flaming headaches, he can twist one of these shards of metal and twist them and cause himself an intense pain there, so then he can forget about his pain in his head. That’s his way of dealing with it. He’s living in this constant pain, and that makes his character really, really livid.”
“He’s always looking for help, and that’s established as a baseline for that character,” Rooke adds. “It’s like that with almost everybody; they’ve got something going on, some horrible thing has happened to them.”
Indeed, when Max and Chumbucket roll up to his camp, Jeet immediately asks if this stranger has any medical training. Unfortunately, Max doesn’t, and his skills as a driver don’t impress Jeet. When he learns that Max wants to drive to the Plains of Silence, where Max believes he’ll find the peace he’s yearning for, he gets Jeet’s attention. The only problem is that the route there goes through Gastown. Anyone who wants to stick it to Scrotus is a friend in Jeet’s book, which starts a tenuous partnership.
Gutgash heads up another stronghold, and he’s a particularly interesting Wasteland resident. The word “elderly” probably doesn’t come to mind when you see his picture, but he’s as close to old as it gets here. He’s old enough to remember the days before the seas that covered the game’s Wasteland dried up, which means he’s probably full of knowledge. In the early parts of the game, however, he’s more focused on the immediate future.
“Most of the people in his camp are younger,” Ahlgren says. “He’s realized that in order to give people hope, they have to cling to something. He’s started to tell them that the water will someday come back. It first withdrew in disgust from the world, and one day when we’re worthy it will come back.”’
While they wait, he spends his days making modifications to the landlocked ship they’ve made a home. “He has his people build up this ship in their eyes so it will float when the water comes back,” Ahlgren says. “In reality, he’s just armoring it up because he knows that they’re going to be attacked soon. He’s having his people believing that there’s something better coming along, even though he doesn’t necessarily believe it himself.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Gutgash is doomed to die, or if Max will be able to learn more about what actually happened when this part of the world collapsed. From my hands-on time with the game, Max was certainly doing his best to protect Gutgash’s crew, finding steel plates for armor and helping his followers survive an ambush.
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