Movie related games have always been hit-and-miss throughout the generations of consoles, and it is very rare to get a game that can pay decent tribute to the movie while not being an absolute pile of trash. Mad Max is an exception to the norm though; a high-octane adventure through the dustbowl of the Wasteland, building on George Miller’s lore and throwing players into a literal sandbox environment in the shoes of the titular character. Mad Max not only breaks the stereotype of bad tie-ins, it smashes it into the ground and leaves it for scrap.
The world is in ruin, the end has come and gone, and now only the stragglers survive. Well, if you can call it surviving. Welcome to the Wasteland, the remnant of a civilization long gone. Out here, only the crazy ones make it through, and the craziest yet sanest of them all is Max. After losing his family, Max drifts through the wasteland hoping to find a purpose, until he is attacked by Lord Scrotus (yes that is his real name) and his band of Warboys. His only possession, the vehicle “The Interceptor” is taken from him, and he is left for dead. With the help of the prophesising mutant mechanic Chumbucket, Max must build a newer and stronger car, the Magnum Opus, and defeat Lord Scrotus at all costs.
Mad Max sits visually between two of its related films – ‘The Road Warrior’, with its bleak and broken deserts and blacktop roads; and ‘Fury Road’, with its bright burning sands and terrifying storms. It truly feels like a destroyed world; remnants of scrap and makeshift hideouts litter the landscape amongst barely-identifiable roads and barren rocky outcrops. Don’t expect to see excesses of green or vibrant blues anywhere here, this is truly a deserted landscape; and the developers have done well at really adding a sense of emptiness to the world. This goes the same for structures and vehicles; the same red and orange hues of the land are incorporated into the rusted out vehicles and desolate metal structures and hideouts encountered. The only flashes of brightness you will see are either from the scorching sun bearing down, or when you destroy an enemy and have their vehicle explode into flames before you.
However in creating this bleak wasteland the graphics suffer a little; it seems that in the effort to make it bleak and desolate, some detail has been left out, and occasionally this is noticeable on textures throughout the game. Edges get jaggy, surfaces lose their detail, and things overall begin to detract from the game, making it feel less of a new generation game.
Speaking of vehicles, each one in the game has that true engine roar to it, again amplifying the idea of a post-apocalyptic motorhead wonderland. The different tones of the engines really suit the different vehicles, and add grunt and menace to every machine with four or more wheels on the scorched earth.
One of the biggest things that Avalanche Studios got right was casting an Australian as Max – a basic no-brainer, Max sounds like the character he was initially created as; tough and strong, but also isolated and with little hope. Many games have come and gone that have taken the Australian accent for granted, but credit where credit is due, one can’t help but feel a little pride hearing that gruff Aussie accent behind the character. And the rest of the cast don’t exactly suffer either; Max’s sidekick Chumbucket is frantic and insane but also full of comedic gold, and each other character in the world really adding to the post-apocalyptic madness.
Now I’m a fan of the X button. It has done so many things in games that it is hard to count. But the first thing that I need to mention here is the fact that this game revolves around “Hold X to EVERYTHING”. Seriously, it’s as if none of the other buttons can function as anything else, but poor old X gets shafted and mapped to perform every single action. X to climb ladders, X to put the fuel in the car, X to pick up scrap, X to talk… It begins to get tedious pushing the same key over and over.
Button gripes aside, Mad Max actually plays relatively decently; taking a mix of different techniques, it crams them in to one environment and pulls it off fairly well. You will spend most of your time roaming the wasteland completing missions, finding scrap and upgrading your car while taking out the ferals and warboys that litter the landscape through various means, and what better way to do so than in the Magnum Opus, Max’s replacement car for the destroyed Interceptor. These missions can be delayed and tackled at any time, giving you the freedom to ride around and destroy whatever you can, and finding everything collectible along the way.
Capturing territory from enemy parties is always fun, driving through Scarecrow markers or obliterating another car by ramming straight through it, and even out-of-car combat has a great flow to it; think a combination of the Arkham games mixed with a little bit of Assassins Creed and you’ve got yourself a good mix of fighting. Upgrades to your car also help you keep the fight going at high speeds – sniper rifles, hookshots and bullbars give a dynamic to the roadplay that you will face fending for your life in the wasteland. Finding scrap for Chumbucket as well as new car bodies and completing minor missions help the Magnum Opus become the god of all cars; something to truly be feared on the roads.
The driving mechanics also don’t suffer too heavily for a game this size; cruising around in the wasteland feels more like driving in GTA V (minus the whole civilization part) and car combat, although a little annoying at times, really lets you throw your vehicle’s weight around.
The only major drawback of the game is the fact that once you’ve performed a side mission, you’ve performed them all; the repetitive nature of the game begins to tire early, and eventually will have you starting to regret undertaking it again and again. Call it a necessary evil to upgrade and progress, but the lack of variation will surely annoy some players and have them wishing that the wasteland had just that little bit more to do.
One of the most serviceable movie tie-ins the gaming world has seen in a long time; Mad Max not only manages to create a fun and chaotic sandbox world filled to the brim with lots to explore, but it develops Max’s story out even further than the previous movies and really allows people to associate more with the vision of a post-apocalyptic future that George Miller created. With Chumbucket by your side, and warlords to obliterate, Mad Max will feed the need for high-octane action and vehicle carnage that you didn’t know you had.