“Hope is a mistake, If you don’t fix what’s broken, you will go insane” - Max Rockatansky
Mad Max is a franchise that has for decades silently begged for a game that matched its magnitude and madness. A game that would set you free in the wasteland to explore and do as you wish. A savage game that expressed the depravity of its inhabitants. Well, with the recent release of Mad Max on consoles and PC, we finally have exactly that.
The world of Mad Max has always been a personal favorite of mine. It was the first movie I ever watched on VHS as a kid and has remained something near and dear to my post apocalypse loving heart. I recall a horrendous Mad Max game for Nintendo Entertainment System that allowed for as much open word that a console could afford at the time, but mashed that up with horrible controls and mediocre gameplay. I have literally waited decades for a game that would do justice to this much loved series.
After putting a chainsaw through the skull of main villain, Scarous Scrotus, Scrotus surprises everyone by surviving and leaving Max for dead in the vast wasteland. When Max eventually comes to he meets his new sidekick, Chumbucket, a ‘Blackfinger’ mechanic, the deformed wastelander agrees to help Max build a superior “Magnum Opus” vehicle in order to take revenge on Scrotus.
The graphics are absolutely amazing and the frame rate backs that up. Everything looks as good and chaotically polished it does in the movies. Attention to detail is paid in every respect right down to the prints that your boots leave in the sand. Huge dust storms swallow the desert without warning, projecting huge pieces of metal in every direction and conducting bolts of lightning. The storms are wonderfully rendered. They are horrifying and engulfing and add a lot to the majesty and bi polar nature of the open desert.
The world is vast and it allows Max to travel in many directions, completely free to choose what to do first or last. Max has plenty of different gangs in the wastelands all looking to hunt him down for car parts and possibly to eat. Sticking to the roads might be the most efficient way of getting around but also the most dangerous, as it will get the attention of the bad guys who will try to chase you down and run you off the road.
The Magnum Opus is completely customizable from front bumper to back. Upgrades under the hood will make your machine soar and roar. Certain jobs require special customizations to create “Archangel” vehicles. These customizations will help Max accomplish jobs that require a little something extra. The Magnum Opus is also a suitable opponent in open road combat. Gangs of War Boys may try to take you down on the road but Max and his opus are armed with a grappling hook, explosives and a fully loaded shotgun to make quick work of anyone dumb enough to cross that line.
The story mission is front and center and will progress you to your ultimate goal of defeating Lord Scrotus and helping Max find peace and redemption. As with most open world games, this one has a ton of side missions that include death races, vehicle convoy takedowns, enemy camp takeovers and plenty of side quests given to you by stronghold allies.
Death races are a blast. They will have you zip around the wasteland completing races within time limits. Some of these races strap a bomb to your car and require you to reach the finish line goal before the bomb is detonated. Vehicles from from every direction to try to stop you from reaching your goal. This is fast and furious and is the only part of the game that has caused my palms to sweat.
Similar to games like ‘Far Cry’ and ‘Shadow of Mordor,’ there are enemy camps that Max has to sneak into and take over by defeating everyone inside. Some camps include a boss fight against the leader of the gang. While on these types of missions, you are encouraged to collect scrap to help upgrade your Magnum Opus. Objectives like this for someone with OCD and who are a bit of a achievement point enthusiast, has no option but to collect them all. These parts of the game are extremely tedious and outside of the fighting, become boring really fast. To make matters worst there are a ton of these kinds of camps that you have to make your way though.
Hand to hand combat is very similar to the Batman Arkham series. Unlike the Arkham series, the controls during combat are at times unresponsive and don’t feel as natural as they should. The animations during the fights are well done and the sound effects definitely do their job of backing up the brutal fights. Bone breaking, head stomping, body slamming, close lining, and smashing faces is satisfying and again, while not as well done as Arkham, still lends itself to the brutal world of Mad Max in a satisfying way. Maybe future updates will fix the control on and off again unresponsiveness, eventually.
There is something incredibly gratifying about the sound of Max’s shotgun combined with the deep hum of his custom built engine roaring down the road. Firing a round at an enemy racing after you and making perfect contact with his gas tank ; being able to watch him go up in an incendiary yellow ball is right on the money. It is almost enough to make you forgive the parts of the game that aren't so great.
Some of the story missions do a great job of mixing up the side mission tedium. I don’t want to ruin some of the surprises a long the way but sticking to the main story and leaving the side missions for another play through might not be a bad idea. Strictly following the story missions, manages to keep the foot on the gas pedal and doesn't allow for any repetitiveness. However, doing this will take away from car and character upgrades which is also half the fun. It just ends up coming down to what kind of video game player that you are.
Was Mad Max worth the wait for a long time fan? Yes, even with its flaws and repetitive side missions it allows for hours and hours and hours of post-apocalyptic wondering and adventure. The landscapes are all decrepit but designed well enough to be able to be differentiated from one to another. Car battles and being able to be part of this universe is a very exciting step in what I hope is the beginning of a series from Avalanche Studios. Even though certain pieces are borrowed from Fury Road, this Mad Max does a nice job of making itself, its own place in the Mad Max mythos. The character neither looks like Mel Gibson or Tom Hardy’s, Max. Certain vehicles and clothing are the only thing tying them together. I love that it is brave enough to be its own thing, while also giving fans of the films a game that matches the world introduced in director George Miller’s very own Magnum Opus.