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Mad Max Review

by Kyle Hanson

Mad Max the video game follows hot on the heels of the revival of the 35 year old series by Mad Max: fury Road. The game isn’t a retelling of that story, charting its own course in the world of Max. For those that have become enamored with the universe Mad Max the game does shares a definite feel with that film thanks to developer Avalanche Studios hitting all the right marks for atmosphere, characters, and story. However, video games require a bit more than these things, so does the gameplay hold up in Mad Max? Thanks to some liberal borrowing from other open-world titles it is certainly competent, but it might not stand above those that it borrowed from.

At the beginning of Mad Max we see our titular hero about to head out into the wasteland on a search for some inner peace. This doesn’t really work out of course, and he is thrust into the madness of this war-torn world once again. After losing his legendary car he runs into Chumbucket, a mutated hunchback with a knack for vehicle construction and repair. Together they start work on the “Magnum Opus”, a new, more powerful vehicle that Max can use to escape this hell. To get it put together though he’ll have to contend with the local warlords, and make a run at Gastown.

Mad Max looks fantastic and holds all the atmosphere and visual styling that one could ask for from an adaptation of the series. However, in terms of gameplay, it borrows heavily from other titles. It all starts with the open-world mechanics, which take a lot from games like Far Cry and Shadows of Mordor. As Max you can walk or drive almost anywhere in this massive world. You’ll discover events and objectives along the way, but to really find everything you’ll have to locate air balloons which will let you scout the surrounding territory. You have a major story thread that propels you forward, but you are free to follow or ignore it at your leisure.

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The things you find throughout the world vary from interesting to dull. These dull things, thankfully, can usually be run through rather quickly, such as tearing down warlords’ totems with your harpoon. The longer and more interesting areas include enemy camps and more random events. Taking on an enemy camp can occupy a good portion of your time in Mad Max, if you allow it.

Inside you’ll find a multitude of required and optional objectives. You can scavenge for scrap, which functions as in-game currency, demolish enemy symbols, and collect other optional items, but mainly you’ll want to clear the camp of enemies and destroy the fuel containers that keep them there. Once you accomplish these required items your allies will take the camp over, supplying you with a bit of scrap at certain points throughout the game, and offering a safe space if a dust storm rolls through.

After the first couple of raids these could easily get tiring though. There isn’t much variety to the affair, with Max simply getting a chance to scout beforehand, then having to go all in. The outer defenses, and the enemies inside might vary, but mostly you’ll be storming the place in a similar fashion each time.

This is where Mad Max has its second great borrowed element: the hand-to-hand combat. Pulling from the Arkham series of Batman titles, Mad Max features fighting that will feel at once familiar, but slightly less enjoyable than in games’ past. The problem is that Max isn’t Batman, he can’t go flipping and flying around, and if he’s in trouble he can’t grapple hook his way out. What he does have is his shotgun and a Fury Mode that will kick in after you pull off the requisite combos. The combat isn’t dull by any means, it’s just that there are better options out there, and it does little to innovate upon the established formula.

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This is true of much of Mad Max, as it seems to be taking most of its pieces from other games, adding in the world of the films, and calling it a day. This approach isn’t necessarily bad, in fact if all you wanted was a competent Mad Max game then it was likely the best option, but for those seeking a more unique and fresh experience it will quickly dull.

For those who want a great Mad Max game, this is it.

There are a couple of areas where Mad Max does add its own take to the open-world formula though. Depending on how much they impress you they will quickly determine if you love or hate the game. First up is the sheer amount of content on offer. The wasteland of Mad Max is presented in all its glory, with multiple areas within the overall landscape. To drive from one end of the world to the other would take quite some time, and beyond that is an endless desert that you can drive off into until you become bored, or die.

On your way across the wasteland you’ll find tons of things to do, as long as you don’t use fast travel to skip it and get on with the game. Whether you enjoy the things you find or not will depend on how invested you are in the world and the game. If you do care then you’ll hit every one, collecting scrap and completing the optional objectives that will make upgrades available. These upgrades, which can be applied to either Max or the Magnum Opus, add to the robust content, and give you more options as far as how to play.

Along with this is the excellent vehicular combat, which takes the car chases seen in the films and turns perfectly represents them in video game form. Being chased by four raider vehicles, getting boarded by a couple of war boys, firing your shotgun into the gas tank of one, watching in slow motion as it flips off into the dirt, then slamming into the front car only to watch the war boys fly off and onto the ground; this is Mad Max and it is extremely fun. The harpoon really brings it all together though, as you can use it to rip drivers out of cars, or, once upgraded, pull parts off the enemy vehicles and watch them soar.

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The importance of the vehicular combat to the enjoyability of Mad Max cannot be overstated. If this system clicks with you then you’ll easily put in the 30-40 hours it takes to finish the story and explore a good portion of the world. If, however, you find it pointless or dull then you’ll likely quit within the first few hours. It is a great combat system though, and for those that enjoyed the more recent film it will certainly bring that experience to life.

Smaller pieces add to the game without really pushing it into new territory, such as the survival and scavenging mechanics that see you keeping fuel for your car and water for Max always at the ready. These things aren’t as robust as a true survival game, and water really only serves as your health rather than a separate system, but they add some authenticity to the world nonetheless.

The Verdict

Mad Max does a whole lot of things right. The vehicular combat will easily satisfy a ton of people, with its bombastic action hitting all the right notes from the movies. The world, its characters, and the overall atmosphere are all spot on, presenting a true Mad Max experience from top to bottom. However, the liberal use of tired open-world and fighting mechanics can easily put a damper on the overall feel of the game. Still, for those who want a great Mad Max game, this is it.

"loved"
loved

Mad Max

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Linux
  • Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Developed By: Avalanche Studios
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • US Release Date: September 1st, 2015
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "While it might feel familiar to those that have played other open-world action games, Mad Max presents the universe of the films perfectly in video game form. Vehicular combat especially will please anyone looking for adrenaline fueled gameplay, but more could have been done to differentiate the experience from other titles."
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