A mad world to explore…Chumbucket included.
Nostalgia, remakes, and sequels go hand in hand. They can sometimes be fans most hyped releases or their biggest worry. It’s not that sequel or remakes always go bad but when they do, it’s usually utter disappointment and a disservice to the IP. With the more recent release of the new Mad Max film, Fury Road, moviegoers everywhere were able to see a franchise not only return years later but being just as great as prior entries and stick to what makes Mad Max work. A video game iteration of the series was in the works separate from the movie over the last few years and Avalanche Studios has finally dropped their vision of this crazy post-apocalyptic world, yet does it hold the franchise to its insane world and does taking that vision to a video game format work?
Mad Max stars Max Rockatansky, a long time loner and drifter in a world that’s been affected by disease, famine, drought, and mass extinction. He is a drifter, one that scavenges for parts and food just like the rest of the world. People have formed up to create gangs and strongholds in order to survive. Some retains their humanity and others forget it ever existed. Some are born into this world never knowing the world that Max knew with family, friends, and society. The game opens with a brief intro to describe in quick exactly what transpired in the world. Where the movie just threw watchers into the world expecting to know the franchise, Mad Max gives a little bit of back story even if just brief. Players then find Max in the midst of Scrotus and his war gang. While Max leaves his definite Mark on the leader, he is ultimately beaten, robbed of his car and belongings and left for dead. Luckily for him, he runs into a new friend, Chumbucket. A mutated man who while ugly on the outside, knows his beauty and skills of cars on the inside. Max forms up with him in order to rebuild his car, the Magnum Opus and live the life as a scavenger.
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
How long to beat: 15+ hours
Story wise, Mad Max leaves a little to be desired but yet it doesn’t if you’ve followed the franchise. Mad Max movies were never about insanely in-depth plots. They catered more to the crazy world and characters in the apocalypse and as a game, they seemed to focus on this as well. The core elements of his tale revolved around getting his belongings back, building his car, and scavenging the land as he helps various drifters and other leaders build a bigger and better place. While the action hits heavy right from the start and hardly ever lets up, the story is fairly slow and plodding until later in the game where it ramps up considerable and really offers a bit more a tale. It’s a slow burn, but in a way feels appropriate for the franchise.
Gameplay consists of controlling Max, driving around the world in his junker of a car, collecting scrap, and taking on the various main and side missions offered. The more missions players do, the more scavenging for parts, the more players get back. Not only does this affect getting new title rankings for Max by completing challenges, but also leveling him up with new clothes, new looks, new move sets, car parts and more. Everything is built around the concept of scavenging and in this world it completely makes sense in context. While Max is infiltrating gang hideouts, he will be encountering some fierce and heavy melee fights. Combat feels very reminiscent of Batman or Mordor, but here it’s much more weighted and slower. Max moves with precisions but enemies have to be closer to engage, all while countering and parrying seem to have a much less open window then other games. It can come off a bit frustrating at first, but it’s simple a different flow that can easily be adapted after a short while.
Max is no Batman so don’t expect him to jump from enemy to enemy like a super powerful warrior, instead expected heavy hitting, and bloody battles where picking up a weapon dropped on the ground can make all the difference between life and death. While Max mostly uses his fists to do the talking, his shotgun comes in handy with some splattering results and if he has a shiv, can kill a weakened enemy with ease. Get enough of his FURY meter filled and prepare to be almost completely unstoppable for a limited duration, he is Mad after all. Speaking of life, Max doesn’t regen health, so make sure to collect water in your canteen or get to the nearest dog food can to ensure Max keeps alive.
When Max isn’t fighting in outposts, looking for scrap, or taking on a leader boss battle, he will be driving in the outlands discovering plenty of new vistas and locations. Cars run on fuel that Max can find and even put a spare in his trunk, but players won’t run out fast, so the worry of managing this element isn’t as important is it might appear. The map is vast and seeing something out in the distance usually means Max can drive to it. The beauty of this means that almost everything has something to offer whether it’s scrap, a historical item showcasing the world gone past, or perhaps pieces to equipment Max can build for stronghold bases that give full ammo or water upon revisiting the base, or collect scrap from car battles automatically. Car combat is the other half of the driving and it’s intense and insanely satisfying to pull off. Max can ram cars, use the harpoon to take enemies out, and rip apart their cars. The resulting explosions from car combat or destroying bases looks awe-inspiring as pillars of flame, smoke, and debris fly everywhere.
The amount of variation in between melee and car combat is just extremely satisfying. Having a huge car battle, then pulling up to a camp, sniping the guard towers, then pulling the front gates off with the harpoon and leaving the vehicle behind as Max jumps straight into a fist fight feels second nature at times. If the game warns players of an approaching Storm, make sure to take cover or find the closest hideout, it’s a grand sight of destruction to see with thunder lighting up the sky, but players don’t want to be caught out in the middle of it as debris can and will destroy the Magnum Opus or potentially Max.
Visually the world is beautiful here and makes the exploration and driving even more exciting. While the idea of a completely desert setting sounds like it could be boring, it’s anything but. Players will come across huge vistas showcasing a decaying world and the new chaos uprising. Buildings crumbles, hints of life past, and locations so rusted that players can’t help but hope Max has his tetanus shots up to date. The sky box and day night cycle are breathtaking and if players are anything like me, will be taking entirely way too many pictures with the well implemented photo mode. The voice acting for Max sounds appropriate and he talks more than Max does in most movies. Chumbucket is not only a vital character but a funny one as well, a bit eccentric but hilarious all the same. Meanwhile the soundtrack is very appropriate. There is a lot to love in Max but there is a few things players might want to take note of before jumping straight in.
Mad Max is an open world game and mostly controls like one, except for a few odd instances. Max has a bit of weight to his movement, which is fine, but he also has a jump button that is a left trigger on the PS4. It feels odd being placed there but then his jump in itself is very weak and there is almost no reason to use it. Perhaps this is why it isn’t a typical face button like most games, but it’s an oddity for sure. Picking up items is also done by pressing and holding a button, but so is climbing a ladder, or kicking a door down. Where most games make players push a button once, here we just have to hold it for most interactions. It’s different, not a fundamentally bad thing but most folks are not accustomed to it and takes a bit of adjustment.
The biggest issue for some players will be the repetition that creeps into the game. While Max offers quite a bit of various side missions, inevitable the content that players will have to run through will be repeated throughout all the territories in the game. While it won’t bother those of us whole love the world, exploring, and adding to the constant scrap amount in order to continually keep upgrading, others might find these tasks boring, or trivial. If players don’t do side content, the main game eventually forces certain upgrades and you can’t continue until after getting those, so for those also wanting to rush the story, the game won’t let you in a limited capacity.
Mad Max is a game that takes its world and IP very serious. It turns the idea of the franchise into a fully fledged game that actually works. You’re a scavenger, your building, fighting, and trying to live to see the next day and everything you do contributes to your scrap and scrap is life in Mad Max. It may start off as a story of survival, much like the movies, it turns into just a bit more. While its melee and car combat might not contain the deepest of fighting mechanics, it brings all these elements together to give enough variation along with the vast upgrading features to make his 15+ hour campaign highly enjoyable. If you’re like me, love the franchise, love the world, and love doing side content, you can expect 40+ hours of mad gaming at your fingertips. Mad Max the game isn’t only a fantastic time, it’s a great addition to the franchise, and one of the few games that completely destroys the expectations that a movie based game has to be bad. Mad Max is bad to the bone… but in all the right ways.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.