Mad Max gets behind the wheel of Avalanche's open-world wasteland

Mad Max twists metal in Avalanche Studios' openworld wasteland
Considering how many games trace their dystopian wasteland roots to it, it's interesting to see the E3 hands-off demo of the new Mad Max hone in something with plenty of room for exploration: vehicular combat. Just Cause dev Avalanche Studios promises 50 "authentic" Mad Max vehicles for players to enjoy in the third-person open-world game, as well as the ability to customize your own wrecking ball on wheels.

After seeing Max traverse the sand dunes, with pleasingly crisp dust clouds sweeping past his big old boots, the demo soon finds the road warrior behind the wheel of a creaking black sedan. Its back roof is ripped off, turning it into a makeshift pick-up truck. Couched in the back is Max's crazy hillbilly companion Chumbucket, who's spouting off nonsense as he clutches onto a harpoon gun, and ducking for cover from the unfriendly armored cars beginning to surround the pair.

Max pulls out a one-handed shotgun to take out a nearby driver in slow-mo, before Chumbucket fires his harpoon to rip the tire off the next vehicle, sending it sprawling into another for a satisfying double whammy. Frank Rooke, the game's creative director, says the harpoon gun can be used to pull off tires, armor and even other drivers - yoink! %Gallery-191235% Another car in front of Max, its back foolishly laden with fuel canisters, is the next target. Max fires at the big red barrels, but the car doesn't immediately explode. Instead it produces a blazing trail that scorches in front of Max, forcing him to weave the car around and away from it. He's suitably far away to enjoy the eventual booming explosion, set to a backdrop of ship skeletons and sand-covered factories.

Next, Rooke shows us a portion of the map, and it includes encampments, convoys, and fuel sources among other thing. What it doesn't show us is the "hundreds of random encounters" awaiting Max in the dunes. As we see, those encounters can include combat out of the car, from throwing punches and kicks to sticking explosive rods in people's chests. And while Rooke says it won't be a major part of the game, we even see a bit of stealth with Max knifing a sniper from behind.

This first glimpse certainly resembles the world of Mad Max, and it's lovely to look at too - the detail on Chumbucket's gnarled, disfigured back is appreciably unflattering. However, given the cult status of the franchise, it's fair to say substance and personality will play a big part in the success or failure of Avalanche's next expansive open-world - visuals and tons of content only get you so far. On that point, it's worth noting Avalanche is promising a new standalone story in Mad Max. We'll see how it all plays out when the game comes to PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, and PC next year.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.