Fair warning: there will probably be some spoilers for the Mad Max film coming up.
I've been lucky enough to play a little chunk of the Mad Max game already. I was also lucky enough to see the magnificent, deranged Mad Max: Fury Road over the weekend. The timing of the two is less than coincidental, but watching Fury Road has made it clearer than ever that, while the game is anything but a licensed spin-off, they share some distinct DNA.
When I visited Avalanche to see the game, the developers talked with huge enthusiasm about how they'd been left to craft their own story, their own Wasteland, with series mastermind George Miller simply acting as an early consultant. Since watching Fury Road, it's become clear that by "consultant", they meant "guy who tells us little details from the film we should copy, like how the baddies will carry around bombs strapped to sticks". Here are ten similarities between the two.
Bombs strapped to sticks
Fury Road's War Boys are rarely seen without a crude explode-o-spear in their hands for the duration of the film. In a world where ammunition is stuck at a "limited edition Beanie Baby" level of scarcity and consumer demand, this makeshift missile is about as handy as it gets.
While some of the game's pre-release art shows a scene suspiciously similar to the one above, in gameplay we've only seen said sticks in a melee combat capacity. Certain classes of enemies will run at you waving them - whereupon Max can disarm them, shove it through their chest cavity and boot them into a crowd of their soon-to-be minced mates.
Speaking of the antagonistic hench-goons, War Boys make a prominent appearance in the game, too. They're the fighting force of dominant faction leader, Scrotus, and you'll run into them all over the Wasteland - primarily protecting conquerable Camps.
The film presents them as a sort of shock-and-awe squadron, raised from birth to drive cars and cause havoc. They're also pretty messed-up, both mentally and physically (most of them have a couple of tumours to speak of, and Nicolas Hoult's Nux needs to be supplied with Max's blood just to get around for most of the start of the film). Don't be surprised to find a similar backstory in the game.
And speaking of Scrotus (I promise I won't do this on every slide, I'm just segueing like a pro right now), the game's lead antagonist lords it over one of Fury Road's locations. The film's Immortan Joe rules over the Citadel, which trades resources with two other locations: the Bullet Farm and Gastown.
Fury Road's Gastown is looked after by the grotesque People Eater, but it appears in very similar fashion to the game's version - namely as a smoke-belching blot on the Wasteland's dusty horizon. Expect to get much, much closer up in the course of the game.
One of the new film's neater updates was in introducing distinct groups of people to its world. The old Mad Max films tended to lump people into "good guys", "bad guys" and "Max" - Fury Road made it clear that the Wasteland has a lot of agendas rubbing up explosively against one another (even the Citadel, Bullet Farm and Gastown show signs of friction).
Any video game fan worth their salt knows that different factions need their own unique vehicles. Imperator Furiosa's would-be rescuers are clearly a bike-only gang, and there was that one scene where there were people on limb-stilts for a bit. The game pulls a similar trick. While Scrotus' War Boys are the dominant presence, other gangs do exist - the most obvious so far are the red-eyed, spike-vehicled bastards who come out only at night.
Fury Road is set entirely around a routine convoy gone wrong. In the game, you're the one who makes it go wrong for them. The map's peppered with dynamically-generated strings of vehicles, ripe for the totalling. Each one comes with a War Rig-style boss vehicle, and every other car is there for one purpose: kill anything that gets near it.
My favourite part of playing the game so far came with one of these - Avalanche has captured the sense of never-stop-driving speed-action that the film makes its greatest asset, cars peeling out of formation to side-swipe you, boarders leaping onto your hood and things generally going badly for everyone involved.
Oh my god this scene. In a film so rooted in the physicality of practical effects, the sickening crunch of metal-on-metal, there was something quite lovely about one scene of all-out CG nonsense. Tornadoes! Lightning! Explosions!
In the game, this isn't a set piece, it's just a thing that can happen. Where most games treat dynamic weather as a tool for making your tyres a bit slippy, Mad Max occasionally makes whole portions of the map insanely dangerous to enter - and just as useful to pull a Furiosa and lead an entire group of pursuers to an electrical/wind-based death.
In a single scene of Fury Road, a car with a harpoon mounted to its back end pulls the spiked armour plating off of another car, allowing it to be blown up from within. That's seemingly the basis for one of the game's central mechanics.
Your Magnum Opus is fitted with a harpoon early on, and it's used to pull down structures, drag enemies from perches or driver's seats and, yes, pull spiked bits of armour plating off of other cars so that they can be blown up from within. It plays totally to Avalanche's strength as a developer who really likes to mess about with physics when objects are exposed to high-tensile metal cords.
A changeable Wasteland
Another of Fury Road's changes to the original films is in the landscape it portrays. It might begin in the same burnt-yellow sand plains as the first movie, but it quickly crosses into mountains and stagnant swamps.
The game was always going to have to do this, just to keep a player interested - its Wasteland begins on the bed of a vapourised ocean, but we've gotten stuck in a tar marsh and climbed great mesas. Gastown looks like another location entirely - closer to an entirely industrial city and a stark contrast to the the ramshackle shanties of the early game.
A beefier Max
Tom Hardy is no Mel Gibson. And we mean that in all the good ways it can be perceived. Mel's original Max was a lithe, sinewy sort - Hardy's is a more grizzled type, like some boxer gone slightly to seed, but still able to take your head off with a punch.
Avalanche's Max might be a little more together than Fury Road's tortured, wide-eyed lead, but he definitely leans towards the new film in terms of stature. He's wide-of-shoulder and slow-of-punch, better suited to smashing War Boys teeth into walls than dodging around their strikes.
Grotesque hood ornaments
Max spends the beginning of Fury Road muzzled, his blood being forcibly pumped out of him and attached to the front of Nux's weaponised hot rod. He's little more than a massive, grunting Rolls Royce angel for whole scenes at a time, while everyone else gets to look cool and shout things to one another.
While the game won't let you go quite as far (or at least we don't think it will), every boss character you defeat will reward you with an associated object to stick on the front of the Magnum Opus, proof of your badassery. If it ends up that your reward for dethroning Scrotus is Scrotus, we'll be even more excited.
But no women?
Fury Road's been rightly praised for its portrayal of women, a neat reinvention of action tropes that sees its female characters putting one in the eye of a literal patriarchy.
The game, so far, has included one woman. As a voiceover. Let's not get too bent out of shape this early - it was never clear quite how important Furiosa, the Wives and the Many Mothers would turn out to be until the film was out - but of what's left of my Mad Max wishlist, some strong female characters is right at the top.