Tag Archives: open world

ELEX review

ELEX balances its shortcomings and successes to ultimately deliver an average RPG experience. However, developer Piranha Bytes has a particular charm that’s present here and may push it over the edge into a strong recommendation for those who’ve been impressed with the developer’s past titles. Indeed, It’s clunky, buggy and tremendously difficult, but a great story, varied and impressive looking environments, and that aforementioned charm certainly makes an impression.

ELEX places you in a post-apocalyptic, Earth-like world steeped in lore. The ruins of what we would recognise as modern buildings are scattered throughout the large playable area, which includes multiple biomes ranging from desert to snow and everything in-between. Meanwhile, futuristic and ancient technology harmoniously co-exists, alongside a form of magic, as different tribes of survivors either look to salvage and re-build, revert to more medieval traditions, or blend the two. It’s a remarkably well thought out and developed world with believable history and NPCs.

This wealth of culture and range of technology provides intriguing stories to follow, meaningful choices to make, and some excellent equipment and weapon load-outs to try. And indeed, the alien setting allows for exotic wildlife and enemies, as well as mutant humans effected by the cataclysm that destroyed the world. It’s a rich setting ideal for a RPG experience.

However, unfortunately there are several severe issues that mean to ruin the experience. Chief among these are the bugs and oddities, with mission markers not showing up on the map or showing up in the wrong place, events not triggering when they should, peculiar hitboxes making combat immensely unfair, and horrendous animations and clipping destroying immersion.

Yet despite things like the dead-eyed expressions on your character’s, as well as the NPC’s, faces, and the T-pose falling animations, enemies and the environment look stunning, the voice work has moments of greatness, and the story and detail of the lore is terrific. What it ultimately comes down to then is the combat.

Indeed, the combat in ELEX is in the traditional Piranha Bytes style: slow, realistic and tactical. Swinging a melee weapon, drawing a bow and aiming an energy rifle all feel natural yet painfully slow, and once you’ve committed to an action, it will follow through. There’s no move cancelling or supernaturally quick movement to be had here, it’s more grounded than that, despite the fantastical setting. Those familiar with Piranha Bytes’ Gothic and Risen titles will know the feel of combat and be able to adapt to the slower paced style more swiftly than others; focusing on movement, blocks and dodging, while managing just how many enemies you engage at once. It’s a highly satisfying system once you get to grips with it, and its ebb and flow is unique, but mistakes are fiercely punished and this can be hugely frustrating.

Another trait often found in Piranha Bytes RPGs is the impressive openness of the open-world, meaning you can freely explore and tackle the dangers of the land at your discretion. This too can be frustrating; it’s all too easy to wander into an area full of enemies significantly more powerful than you. Additionally, a lack of handholding means it’s very easy to wander from the critical path, and you can end up taking on side missions and getting caught up in the emergent gameplay to a degree that can make finding your way back tricky. These traits are part of what makes ELEX such an impressive RPG, but at the same time it feels inaccessible.

While ELEX is certainly not an RPG for everyone, its engrossing world and story make it an attractive title for those who enjoy the genre. However, the current bugs are frustrating at best and game breaking at worst, making it a patch or two away from a wholehearted recommendation.

Thanks to Xbox and THQ Nordic for supporting TiX

Outcast – Second Contact gets its debut trailer

Outcast – Second Contact is a complete remake of a classic and has been given the 3D open world treatment, bringing the game bang up to date to be played on modern machines. The video gives a quick overview into the wild landscapes of the planet Adelpha, a bewitching world as beautiful as it is dangerous, and the cradle of an advanced alien civilization. You take the role of Cuttter Slade, ex-Navy SEAL, in an open, lush and living world where all choices have consequences on the balance of the world.

The story:
In the near future, humanity has discovered it is not alone in the universe, or rather universes. Alas, the first contact with intelligent beings turns disastrous when a probe sent by the US government is destroyed by the natives of a world called Adelpha. The incident creates an energy cataclysm which threatens to destroy the Earth. You are Cutter Slade, a former elite soldier sent on a mission to Adelpha to prevent this catastrophe.

Outcast – Second Contact will be available this Autumn on Xbox One and PC.

Ubisoft release Ghost Recon Wildlands TV Spot ‘Ruthless’

Ubisoft have released their TV Spot for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, entitled “Ruthless”. This action-packed piece has been directed by the legendary John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) depicts the Ghosts’ first mission in Bolivia, where they will try to take down the Santa Blanca cartel.

This TV Spot is not the first work by John McTiernan for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, having also directed the unique Red Dot live trailer, released earlier this year and which revealed an interesting relationship between a red dot, a cat and… Cartel members. While Red Dot shows the merciless efficiency of the Ghosts, Ruthless shows the cruelty of the Cartel.

You can watch Red Dot below:

Players will be able to take on the Cartel themselves from today as the Open Beta for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is now live until February 27th. This Open Beta introduces players to two provinces from amongst the 21 available in the game: Itacua, a flourishing and mountainous region, where the grip of the cartel is looser, allows players to perfect their sniping skill and become acquainted to the Wildlands. Montuyoc, set in the snowy Altiplano and the second province available in this Open Beta, is much more challenging as it hosts Santa Blanca elite training centres.

Grow Up review

Bud first appeared on PS4 in Grow Home, so for some Xbox One owners this will be their first experience of the little red robot – unless you happened to catch his standee in the Ubisoft office in The Division.

Crash landing on an alien planet, Bud must explore the land in order to find new abilities and collect seed samples so he can grow various flora to help him reach nine ship parts and put MOM back together – the parental ship AI.

Movement initially feels rather cumbersome, with a floaty jump – odd for a metal robot – and climbing with left and right sequential presses of the triggers. The camera is also troublesome, made worse with my habit of trying to control it, leave it be and its not half as bad.

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Once you track down some of BUD’s ability pods, navigation becomes less of an issue. The jet pack and glider are particularly helpful in aiding your traversal of the sharp, geometric open-world. There’s also a Metroid-esque ball ability that can be charged to zoom across open spaces.

Beyond these abilities, BUD can also scan plants that just so happen to have helpful traits – like boosting BUD high into the sky or doubling as a ladder – most of the plants are a variation of these traits so collecting them all isn’t a necessity. Plants are made even more insignificant once you get to one of the huge Star Plants that reach up into the sky.

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These Star Plants can be used by BUD to grow new platforms, by grabbing hold of one of the small stalks protruding from the main stalk and controlling the direction and height it grows in. He can even plunge them into glowing rocks that float in the sky. Doing so enables the Star plant to get nutrients to grow higher, revealing more stalks that BUD can sprout. It’s a wonderful mechanic that can get rather dizzying as you ascend.

To help BUD find all the ship parts, collectibles and time gate challenges, he has his best friend overhead in the sky. POD serves as your mini map, able to scout ahead over the globe and locate the next objective or find one of the many crystals, which can be collected in order to boost BUD’s battery capacity, which is drained when using an unlocked ability.

Grow Up can be as challenging as you want to make it. Once you’ve made it to the highest point on the map and unclamped a teleport pad, you can return there to glide to pretty much anywhere on the map and snag each of the missing ship parts. No need to climb or work out how to get to the other points in the world. This can take the edge off of BUD’s other abilities but means you won’t get stuck at a point in the game that seems impassable.

Grow Up is full of charm, from the whirl of old computer noises and BUD’s robotic creaks, all to the chimes of the blissful soundtrack and chirp of the wildlife. The geometric three dimensional world of BUD is a joy to explore once you get beyond the initial confusion of navigation, as well as what it is you’re meant to be doing and how you can do it.

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With no enemies threatening to pull you apart, your only foe is gravity. Smashing into the ground from a great height or sinking in the sea will be the only reason you need to respawn. It might not be the most challenging game, but at £7.99 it’s a steal, so sit back and enjoy it. Rush and you can find all the ship pieces in an evening but miss out on a world begging to be explored.

Thanks to Xbox and Ubisoft for supporting TiX

The Witcher 3 : Blood & Wine review

The final instalment of the Witcher is a big deal. After the superlative main game, the ton of free DLC, the competent and enjoyable Hearts of Stone expansion, the gaming community – even those not particularly enamoured by RPG’s – have to admit that CD Projekt Red’s magnum opus is a highly polished and prime example of open-world game design. With that in mind, it would be very easy to lose all that good will in one single stroke, by failing to provide a fitting finale for Geralt, or should the latest expansion, Blood & Wine, fail to impress. Such is the fickle nature of gamers; You are only as good as your last success.

Blood and Wine sees a new bounty notice placed, calling for the attention of Geralt of Rivia to aid the Duchy of Tuissant, (yes, that is pronounced with a French lilt), in hunting down and removing the “Beast of Beauclair”, which has been terrorising the city and killing prominent knights and aristocracy. Arriving in Tuissant you find a world which has been excluded from the Northern wars. With its acres of vinyards, grandiose architecture and open, pastel inbued villages and towns, Beauclair is a unique area with a distinct mediteranean vibe when compared to the dark, medieval British aesthetics of Velen.

One of the first encounters with the new enemies you face, is extremely reminiscent of the original teaser trailer, (a night to remember), where Geralt faced a foe that few witchers dare to engage. Much like the trailer, it also leaves you with a distinct respect for the power of these creatures and, for me at least, made me question my confidence in my combat proficiency. This was not for the only time either. Without the right preparation, timing, spells or potions you will quite frequenty be seeing “You are Dead”, even on the lower difficulty levels.

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These overbearing enemies are thankfully the exception and not the rule, and alongside the regular denizens inhabiting the world, there are dozens of new variants and strains of enemies to be encountered and overcome in the Duchy of Tuissant. With an area approximately half the size of Velen, Tuissant brings a significant expansion to the game with a rich, vibrant and open-world to explore full of winding mountain paths, deep vales, derelict estates and crumbling ruins and crypts alongside the bustling towns and villages that make up the country’s focal points.

CD Projekt Red have delivered a compelling, expertly crafted story that is not only engaging, but has several twists along the way to veer the story off in a new direction. Of the several times this occurred; I would believe myself closing on the final credits only for the plot to take a logic, yet unexpected, twist and lead me further down a rabbit hole in the world of courtly intrigue and deception. As you progress through the main quest, there are several choices you can make that deviate further and further from your original path, and each of these endings can be played through should you wish. For the sake of clarity in this review, I thought it prudent to do precisely that, and there is plenty of content for this final expansion to feel justified.

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These diversions would quite regularly be a simple side step on the main story arc, but more often than not would provide enough details and revelations to allow you to re-evaluate characters and their stated beliefs several times over. For me, a particular character who marked himself out as openly hostile from the outset stuck out as a primary suspect, and several times the writers presented situations which could easily have allowed you to continue to believe this to be the case, yet by the end you find this character not only to be one of the most interesting characters based on how much insight you receive into his background, but also turns out to be the most stalwart of Geralt’s supporters by the time the story’s final act rolls round.

This is primarily down to how extremely well-acted the characters are, with particular honour going to Mark Noble for his amazing work voicing Regis. As a long-time wanderer of the world, the weight of knowledge and conviction conveyed in the delivery he provides is superlative and there is a credibility in the way he interacts with Geralt that made me believe the revelations that he is a long time and close confidant of Geralts. This is particularly poignant given the fact that most of the DLC exposition is between these two characters and as such a focus on his dialogue was critical.

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The world itself is spectacular to behold, and full of character. From the dusty goat tracks leading up to the highest peak, the crystal clear lakes that decorate the valleys, and the peasants picking and crushing grapes throughout the many vineyards. Everything pulls together to make the environment feel alive and reactive. Additional the character embued in the many denizens as well as the world, something CD Projekt Red do so well, make it all just feel so grounded. There is nothing that made me chuckle more, than a small side quest I stumbled upon late game to aid a pair of ghosts who had spent an obscene amount of time bickering over who should rightfully rest within a chosen crypt. Watching one of these bickering spectres flip off their unwanted neighbour when they finally knew they were going to escape the hell in which they had been trapped, is probably one of the, if not the, most amusing encounters I found during my time in Tuissant. It’s this charm that makes this DLC infinitely redeemable.

Once again, CD Projekt Red have stuffed the world to the gills. Dozens of complex and voiced side quests, several treasure hunts this time for Masterwork Witcher schematics to improve on those already upgraded sets, several bounties, countless landmarks, hidden treasure, crypts, graveyards; the list continues with easily 30+ hours of additional content to get your teeth into. This is not to mention that you also receive a customisable and upgradeable house and lands, much like the Hearthfire expansion to Skyrim, but more focus on the cosmetic rather than the actual construction.

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As I said at the start, to me this was a big deal, and I thought it only justified that I dig as deeply and as widely as I possibly could to try to find the chink in the armour or the blemish on the skin of this expansion. Thankfully, in my own opinion, there was nothing to be found. The expansion is, for want of a better word, flawless. Its deep, involving, contains a metric ton of content for a relatively low price, all while maintaining the high level expected from a game with so many distinctions as this one.

All in all, if you are a fan of the core game, (and if you aren’t, why exactly are you reading a review of its DLC?), Blood and Wine is exactly the sort of content pack you would want. I cannot recommend this title enough, and I believe everyone that owns the Witcher 3 should pick this up and enjoy it as soon as possible. A must buy if ever I saw one.

Thanks to Xbox and CD Projekt Red for supporting TiX

Rebel Galaxy review

Rebel Galaxy has a lot of personality. There’s character behind its art style; an aesthetic that’s visually pleasing, impressive, vibrant, and not at all based on reality. And indeed it’s this character that’s present throughout this open-world space exploration title that makes it so engaging and unique, allowing it to stand toe to toe with the likes of Elite Dangerous because it offers something different within the same space.

Rebel Galaxy is an arcade version of the open-world space genre. You start with a basic ship and set out doing practically whatever you want: mining, pirating, mercenary work, trading, whatever takes your fancy. But in addition to this open-world universe you can explore and exploit, is a story that sees you hunt down a lost relative before being hunted down yourself for the artefact you harbour. Switching between the story and the many choices of side-professions on offer gives you an experience that’s never dull or static, with plenty to do and intriguing things to discover.

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It’s a terrific mix of linear storytelling and open-world choices that allows you to play at your own pace. Certain mechanics are kept back until you progress further in the story, so eventually you have to progress within it, but you can typically do a story mission or two and then return to your altruistic or nefarious space business.

Whatever you decide to do you’ll be doing it within a brightly coloured and vibrant version of space. Nebulas are bountiful, and stars and planets glow a myriad of different colours; there’s hardly any black to be seen and it’s a wondrous visual treat. Meanwhile, as you hail fellow pilots or converse with aliens and humans alike in bars on space stations, you’ll witness exaggerated and unique individuals with a similar aesthetic to Star Craft that’s sure to impress and occasionally put a smile on your face as you accept jobs from them, make trades, or threaten to steal their entire cargo.

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Whether you’re planning on peaceful trading or aggressive pirating you’ll inevitable have to fight off the odd reprobate, and combat is a delightful dance in the stars. Rebel Galaxy’s combat is naval based, with heavy broadside weapons and lighter point-defence turrets elsewhere. You’ll constantly need to manoeuvre to line up shots and dodge incoming fire and it’s a thrilling and entertaining experience. Larger ships move more slowly and pack a heavy punch forcing you to line up your broadside shots as accurately as possible to do as much damage as you can or even to target specific systems. Meanwhile shields will need tearing down, a perfect job for your smaller turrets, when you’re not using them with a lock-on reticule to shoot down the smaller crafts wiping through the wild black. And finally, a salvo of missiles can turn the tide of most battles, unless smart use of the limited deflector shield nullifies their damage. It’s spectacularly involved and action packed yet supremely easy to perform.

Dodging incoming fire and manoeuvring to line up shots is only half the challenge, however, often you’re surrounded by enemies and are better off fleeing or trying to separate the smaller ships from the large ones so you can pick them off more easily. Furthermore asteroid belts are numerous and popular battlegrounds, challenging you to dodge crashing into them as you fight. Using them as cover is particularly effective, and forcing enemies to engage you within these cluttered fields can often result in them bumping into a few. Wonderfully these asteroids can be destroyed as well, making the battlefield dynamic and interesting.

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Space, however, is a big place, and your warp drive and sub-light engines, even when upgraded to ridiculous speeds, still must contend with large expanses of space to fly through. It’s how it’s supposed to be up there amongst the stars, but the travel time can put the brakes on the pacing a little too hard. Rebel Galaxy is otherwise exceptionally fun and varied. Missions may appear similar to each other on the surface but once you go about completing them they often take a few twists and turns. Moreover, even a simple combat engagement can play out in a myriad of different ways. Add to this a brilliant Southern rock soundtrack and your space cowboy, Firefly fantasies can be realised with Rebel Galaxy.

Thanks to Xbox and Double Damage Games Inc. for their support

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Just Cause 3 review

The spectacle of awesome destruction isn’t enough. Utterly destroying a military outpost, tearing down communication arrays, hacking anti-air installations, planting explosives on electrical relays and flammable tanks doesn’t provide enough enjoyment to see you through the entirety of Just Cause 3. It’s quite the revelation. The previous Just Cause titles seemed to thrive on the chaos of highly destructible locations and immense, ludicrous action sequences. Just Cause 3 improves on these aspects significantly, providing even more destructibility across a massive map and implementing enhancements to your abilities and arsenal that are ideal for causing even more havoc. It’s depressing to discover this just isn’t enough.

Instead Just Cause 3 feels less impressive than its predecessors, with an overwhelming scale, a more obvious narrative dissonance, and frustrating restrictions that pull you out of the experience. However, although the overall package isn’t great, there are moments of brilliance that do a lot to distract from the flaws, and although it may be fleeting for some, there’s still a lot of fun to be had within this island paradise.

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You once again play as Rico Rodriguez, returning to his home country, the fictional Republic of Medici, during the height of Sebastiano Di Ravello’s military dictatorship. Having left the CIA, Rico is now driven by more personal motives where he means to rid his homeland of the dictator by helping the rebels liberate each district one at a time. However, his method of ridding the island paradise of Ravello’s military control remains the same: lots of explosives.

The shift to a more personal story hits a fair few bumps as you work your way through it. The dissonance of trying to save your homeland from dictatorship by destroying large sections of its infrastructure doesn’t make sense, and largely your quest for independence for Medici makes you seem more like the bad guy than Ravello, something the narrative fails to question. It also flitters between amusing and serious, making the story largely forgettable and unquestionably silly. On the odd occasion it achieves a good balance, similar in tone to Capcom’s Dead Rising titles, but then it shifts too much one way or the other and compromises your investment. It also suffers from bad pacing, forcing you to liberate more districts before unlocking certain missions. It tries to force you to explore Medici and embrace the chaos-fuelled destruction of liberating towns and destroying military compounds, rather than allowing you to discover the fun for yourself.

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However, blowing things up in Just Cause 3 is terrific. A good variety of weapons and vehicles makes your quest for destruction creative and fun, allowing you to string together gunplay, vehicle piloting, ordinance planting and grappling hook tethering in all manner of ways to tear down structures. It’s wonderfully free-flowing. Your improved grappling hook now allows you to tether things together and pull them into each other, inviting numerous ways to destroy and otherwise have fun with the destructible world and the soldiers and citizens unlucky enough to get in your way. Meanwhile, an unlimited amount of explosive charges allows you to blow things up remotely and other abilities can be unlocked to increase the amount of charges you can set at a time as well as rig vehicles to explode. Gunplay feels like a last resort and when you do start shooting enemies or firing off rockets it feels just as satisfying as the rest of the destructive experience. Also the explosions and huge fireballs looks absolutely stunning.

However, many of the more inventive options for destruction are locked away, only to be accessed by completing challenges specific to the abilities you want to unlock. These appear on the world map and challenge you in a variety of disciplines – from driving through checkpoints within a time limit to shooting targets and achieving a specific score. Up to five gears are earnt from each challenge depending on the criteria, which can then be spent on unlocking new abilities. However, bafflingly one such ability that’s locked away in the ability to precision aim. Moreover, the challenges are true tests of your mastery of the mechanics and prove difficult and frustrating, even more so due to the horrendous load times each time you fail.

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Whether dying during ordinary play or failing a challenge, a frustratingly long load time await before you can get back into the action. It completely pulls you out of the experience and frequently leaves you waiting several minutes before you finally get a chance to try again. It’s a flaw that completely compromises the fun you can otherwise have.

Medici is huge, comprised of three islands, one of which is truly massive. Working your way across them is tediously longwinded, despite the improved parachute controls and the addition of the wing suit. You can now string together your grappling hook, parachute and the new wing suit to effortlessly glide around the environment and reach any structure, natural or otherwise, on the map, and the improved verticality of the level design makes the process of reaching mountain settlements and military bases interesting. However, it’s a fairly slow method of transport. Calling in vehicles, especially aircraft, offers a faster way to travel, but in order to call these in you need to have unlocked the vehicles and have the flares available to call in support. It feeds back into the unlock system, forcing you to complete challenges to increase the amount of flares you hold and search out vehicles and complete side-objectives to increase the arsenal available. It gets frustrating and distracts from the fun.

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Just Cause 3 doesn’t marry the highly destructible open-world, its narrative and its side-objectives in the most compelling or harmonious way. The result feels too restrictive. When things do come together and you’re creating chaos through explosions and high octane action sequences, its tremendous fun, which is then consequently ruined by the abysmal load times. It’s possible a few patches could improve this aspect, and there’s certainly a lot of fun to be had regardless, but the overall package leaves you wanting more freedom and more silliness from a series that’s yet to nail its tone.

Thanks to Xbox and Square Enix for their support

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR-cg0kI1MQ

Just Cause 3 mission trailer

Just Cause 3Coinciding with this year’s New York Comic Con, Square Enix have released the new gameplay trailer On a Mission. The trailer highlights how JUST CAUSE 3’s sandbox gameplay flows into missions, as Rico makes use of his vast arsenal of weapons and abilities to defeat General Di Ravello’ forces.

In this mission, Rico must protect the town of Costa Del Porto from the General’s tanks before breaking his friend Mario out of prison and escorting him to safety. Di Ravello believes the odds are stacked in his favour, but with Rico the General may have bitten off more than he can chew.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB8nQJItnq0

Homefront : The Revolution playable at EGX2015


homefront-the-revolution-key-artEGX, the UK’s largest games event, and Deep Silver, the world renowned developer-publisher, are excited to announce that open-world shooter Homefront: The Revolution will be playable at EGX this 24th – 27thSeptember.

Homefront: The Revolution throws players into an alternate near future dystopia, where a humanitarian crisis has brought the USA to its knees under the brutal military control of a globally dominant Korean corporation. Surveillance drones, armoured patrols and police violence have become every-day life in Philadelphia, the once proud birthplace of American independence. However, in the ruined outskirts of the city, resistance is getting stronger…

After watching a scene-setting video, visitors to EGX will be able to play 20 minutes of Homefront: The Revolution, attempting to wrestle back control from the occupying Korean force and increase the power of their fledgling resistance.

In addition to the playable demo, the team from Deep Silver Dambuster Studios will be presenting an in-depth Developer Session at 3pm on Friday 25thSeptember. More details will be released nearer to EGX.

Mad Max gets Xbox One release date

Open world post-apocalyptic survival game; Mad Max, has received a release date from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. September 4th will see Mad Max here in the UK for Xbox One and PC. There is no Xbox 360 release.

Mad Max Pre-Order The Ripper

In addition to announcing the release date there was also a pre-order bonus announced. All those who pre-order Mad Max will receive an additional car body called ‘The Ripper,’ which packs a powerful V8 engine, upgraded exhaust with custom off-road tires, a ramming grill and a tuned suspension so it can take on a variety of Wasteland surfaces.

Mad Max delivers open world gameplay in a post-apocalyptic setting where cars are the key to survival. Developed by Avalanche Studios, gamers become Mad Max, a lone warrior who must fight to stay alive in The Wasteland, using vicious on-ground and vehicular combat against savage bandits. Following the theft of his iconic Interceptor, Max must align himself with a gifted, but peculiar, mechanic named Chumbucket and others to build the ultimate war vehicle as he works to escape from the dangerous Wasteland. For more information visit MadMaxGame.com.

Box Art was also announced at the same time;

Mad Max Box Art