Title: Mad Max
Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros
Release date: September 1st 2015
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After a worldwide collapse of society and a devastating nuclear war, Max seeks to journey to the Plains of Silence to try and live out the rest of his life. Unfortunately, on his way to his “quiet” paradise, he comes across a group of War Boys who have different plans for him. Lead by Scabrous Scrotus, son of Immortan Joe, the War Boys run him off the road. They rob him, taking even the shirt off his back. With revenge on his mind, he traverses the wasteland and comes across an unlikely ally in the form of Chumbucket- a hunchback and a mechanic. Through their odd pairing, they decide to extract revenge on the War Boys.
Mad Max is another open world game where, along with following story missions, you can get easily distracted by some additional content. The first thing that’s really fun is the driving. Driving around in a open world sandbox (pun intended) set in a desert makes for a different experience than games like Grand Theft Auto V. With the latter, you’re restrained, most of the time, to roads with some beaten down paths here and there. Mad Max is a wide open desert in which players can either follow the road on the mini-map or just drive anywhere. Be careful, though. This being an apocalyptic setting and resources being scarce, you can run out of gas and find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere. By scavenging enemy camps, you’ll find gas tank which can be used to refill your car’s gas tank. You can also store it in the back of your vehicle, just in case. Being a sandy area, players will sometimes find themselves in sandstorms which will affect your movement; whether it be driving or walking.
Obviously when riding across the Wasteland, you’ll come across savages who’ll want nothing but to smash your ride to pieces. Vehicular combat is okay as you have a few ways to defend yourself: ramming from the side an enemy vehicle, smashing them with your car boost or shoot from the hip with your shotgun on the car’s gas tank. Nothing extraordinary, but it does the job well. If your car suffers too much damage, it’ll catch fire and you’ll be prompted to leave the vehicle. Luckily, if you manage to leave the car before it explodes, Chumbucket will do minimal fixing so you can be on your way. With enough scraps, you can also tell Chum to “quick fix” the car. Interestingly enough, you can also get your rivals’ death machines and store them in your “garage”.
Melee combat feels boring and uninspired. It’s pretty much a carbon copy of Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series, except not pulled off as successfully. It feels lifeless and generic; mashing the attack button while using the counter button here and there is a wee bit boring. A bit of variation with the use of another button, to throw for example, would’ve been a welcome addition. There are a few nice finishing moves that ends your enemy once your mandatory attack meter is full. Using firearms is another annoying trait. Aiming with a shoulder button and using a face button to fire doesn’t feel at all intuitive. And strangely enough, you can’t move when you’re aiming to shoot. Yep. You read that right. Is this 1998? Still odd and will force players to avoid using weapons as some enemies can be pretty quick and aggressive, thus putting the character in vulnerable state while he gets ready to shoot.
In order to help you survive this crazy-filled wasteland, thanks to Chumbucket and found Scraps through scavenging, you can upgrade your vehicle and make it into a mean killing machine. The car customization is deep and allows players to adapt the car to their liking. One of the earliest add-ons you pick up is the Harpoon. It’s an interesting mechanic. Coming near an enemy base, you’ll often find towers with snipers a top of them. Simply fire and attach the harpoon and drive. You’ll then see the sniper(s) tumbling down to their death.
Those once guarded enemy camp areas can be invaded and taken over in order to reduce the enemy’s hold on the territory. When coming across a bigger camp, it’s a nice little maze which requires the player to explore every nook and cranny to find everything hidden. There are also towers, called Scarecrows, which also represent enemy threat. You can pull them down thanks to your car’s harpoon. Although it’s fun doing this 3-4 times, it does get boring after a while that you’ll probably just drive past others.
Along with the car, our protagonist can also be “upgraded”. Max has a set of skills that can be upgraded such as his melee attack or armor, for example. Once again, this is where the scraps scavenged throughout your roaming comes in handy. They’ll allow the player to make Max stronger and overall more efficient. Additionally, there’s another stranger that Max meets and provides him with all the help he can get: The mysterious Griffa. Completing in-game challenges will earn Max ”Griffa tokens” which can be used when talking with Griffa in order to improve skills such as melee combat, reduced gas consumption while driving; just to name a few.
Presentation wise, there’s nothing that really stands out. The game’s desert environment look awesome and apocalyptic, so they nailed that down. Audio wise, the game is pretty limited. Score-wise, there isn’t much to say besides when enemies are getting closer, there’s a bit of tense ambiance music, but otherwise when peacefully driving around the desert, you can enjoy your car’s engine to the fullest. And there’s the voice acting. Bren Foster, the voice behind the titular hero, does a horrible job. Although I fully understand it’s an apocalyptic setting and the world is pretty much dead, but every line out of the character is all on the same boring tone. Jason Spisak as Max’s unlikely ally, Chumbucket and Josh Keaton as Jeet both do a great job at bringing their characters to life; something that can’t be said for Foster.
Mad Max is not a bad game by any means; just a bit bland and boring. The game does have a few strong points such as the open world setting allowing you to drive around anywhere; not being restricted to any roads is crazy good time and the deep car customization and freedom to level up Max as you wish; unfortunately, the story (or lack thereof) falls flat, the combat is uninspired and missions repetitive. I can’t help but think that Warner Bros pushed to have Avalanche complete the game for the DVD/BRD release of the Fury Road movie (falling was on the same day as Metal Gear Solid V); which is unfortunate. A bit more time on the drawing board- and different release date- could’ve made this game extra special. Let’s face it, it was overshadowed by Kojima’s latest masterpiece.
- Driving around the open world is crazy fun
- Deep car customization
- Odd control scheme
- Can’t shoot when walking
- Uninspired melee combat
- Repetitive mission design
Mad Max is rated M for Mature and PEGI 18 due to the presence of blood, gore, intense violence, strong language and use of drugs. I mean Max *is* angry, so it doesn’t bode well for those standing in his way.
Code provided courtesy of Xbox UK