Mad Max's open world is huge. While Avalanche Studios wouldn't share any specific figures with us, it doesn't take a genius to stare out onto the endless horizons or see the gigantic map to realise the environment here is borderline stupid.
It certainly helps that it's situated in the Wasteland any Mad Max fan will instantly recognise. Such is the barren nature of the environment it almost appears possible to look into the distance and never reach an endpoint. It's just desolate hills, the odd dirt track and sand. Lots and lots of sand.
In this sense, Mad Max is very impressive. Prepare yourselves for the term 'true next-gen' to be hurled around a lot in the coming months, and as nauseating as it is, it does apply here. The problem, then, is that it's also coming out on current-gen machines; I'd be confident in guaranteeing the sheer visual power the game has will be lost on the 360 and PS3. The true heights are reached with Sony's and Microsoft's new machines.
That in itself is an issue, then, and one that could water down the overall experience. Possibly due to the fact that Mad Max is 'cross-gen' - eurgh - results in the actual game itself falling rather flat. Avalanche has decided to put a heavy emphasis on cars, presumably to tie into the fiction - Max loves his Interceptor - and introduced a combat mechanic around them as well as an upgrade system. While I didn't get to play Mad Max, I'd be lying if I said the car battles looked anything but strained. It's hard to say for sure as the proof is always in the playing, but everything seemed overly fiddly and lacked any impact you'd expect when two slabs of metal smash together. I can already, possibly unfairly, envision having to drive up and down grey roads doing nothing but rear-ending rival vehicles. I can't believe that would hold up for very long.
The same can be said for the combat. Following your standard third-person action template, you break people's necks, shoot the enemy in the face and, by-and-large, act like a giant asshole. With pad in hand the force of these blows may be rather satisfying, but to watch it seemed no different to dozens of games that are available right now. Does that mean it won't be any good? No, of course not. But when the entire industry is trying to flex its future muscle, technology will only take you so far.
Naturally we're judging a product here on a very short demo, but variety will be key where Mad Max is concerned. If it can find ways to constantly add new elements to the basic structure then that evolution will stop boredom setting in. Getting rid of barricades that flash red because your car hasn't been ugpraded enough may be a good idea too...
Mad Max does have the selling point of being set in a world millions of people love and, thankfully, ignores the new film adaptation scheduled to come out in 2014. To truly shine, however, Avalanche will have to ensure its core concepts are equal to, if not better, than the canvas you can paint on.
Still... it's a ****ing huge canvas.