Mad Max is a series I have long since enjoyed. I love the original Mad Max, and its more popular sequel, The Road Warrior. The third movie, Beyond the Thunderdome, was perhaps not as powerful as the previous installments. Nonetheless, when I heard about an upcoming game based loosely on the newest film, Fury Road, I had to have it. Now, games based on movies can be a tricky thing. See, movies are entertaining in a sit-down-and-watch sort of way, while games I always felt had to be more interactive in order to really shine. I’m pleased to say Mad Max (2015) does not disappoint!
The main reason Mad Max is a great game is the car pictured above: The Magnum Opus. While it may lack a certain nostalgia that the original V8 Interceptor (aka the Black on Black) has, this fully-customizable beauty will etch a place in your heart as dark as the oil that squirts from its engine. At the beginning of the game, you are left with a shell of a vehicle, and are tasked with collecting parts to upgrade your chariot into something more befitting of the God you are. You choose everything from the engine, wheels, and weapons to create a vehicle which really suits your playstyle; add too much armor and you have a slow, but hulking behemoth, skimp on the defense and you can rocket through bandit hordes, but you ‘splode easier than a Ford Fiesta. The large variety of enemy vehicles which you can commandeer only adds to the ruckus of vehiclular-based mayhem, however you will always find yourself coming back to the faithful Magnum Opus. The masterful tactician behind this angel of combustion and steel is your faithful mechanic, Chumbucket, whom pledges his loyalty to the car, and thus you as the driver (or Saint, as he calls it). The overly zealous religious tone that spouts from his mouth not only provides hours of comical enjoyment, but on a serious tone reveals how deranged and disparate this post-apocalyptic parking lot of a world is.
Now, this is I think what Destiny attempted to do, granted the beta was so bad I never bought the original game so maybe they actually did manage to develop a narrative which made the post-apocalyptic Earth worthy of investigating. That being said, everywhere you look in Mad Max is a story. Much like Fallout, every small scavenging site has an enormous amount of detail that sheds new light on the world you are exploring, but without shoving it in your face. Hell, it took me a good while to realize that the entire first part of the game takes place in a dry seabed! (I guess that explains all those shipwrecks) The detail given to elements such as dust, wind, the dangling of human remains, and the desolate landscape truly gives a feeling of despair and wanderlust. You feel adventurous exploring all these archaic remains of what was. One of the most compelling parts of this is how Max himself (and the player) knows many of these ruins as what they were before, whereas much of the game’s NPC population is baffled as to the purpose of the “Relics of the Ancients.” They even assume that windmills were some sort of flying machine! Modern commodities we take for granted today, are held as sacred objects in this dirt-ridden wasteland. The addition of food and water being used as healing items makes for a desert-wanderer experience like no other. Thanks to the increasing difficulty of the game, you will find yourself sighing for relief aloud every time you come across a dirty can of food or a dusty watering hole. And perhaps more in-tune with survival games, ammo is very limited. You can’t just blast your shotgun willy-nilly and expect everything to be alright. You get a few shots, and your done. You’ll be sorry when the Buzzards come bearing down on you and all Max has to defend himself is a pair of fists. Squishy, non-explosive fists. That being said, there are upgrades to Max and his allied fortresses that can greatly enhance survivability.
The gameplay for Mad Max is, while being very similar to Shadow of Mordor, a unique experience which will leave you wanting for more. The adrenaline skyrockets as you are forced out of your vehicle, and then suddenly you are in the middle of a fist-to-fist brawl while more bandits scream in outta nowhere in their death machines. The melee combat is very simple, yet surprisingly difficult. In a system much like Assassin’s Creed, you alternate attacking and countering enemies until they are all dead. However, the timing is much more difficult in this game, as you cannot counter while launching a heavy attack. The addition of enemies with large weapons which you must dodge as well as snipers, which reveal their shot with a red glint just before they take your head off, means spamming the X button will only get you so far. However, with a clever mind and a few environmental objects, even the most one-sided fight can end in your favor. Now, the real cream of the crop is the vehicular combat. I don’t have any games I can really relate it to save for maybe Grand Theft Auto or Twisted Metal, so I’ll do the best I can. When you are racing down the beaten asphalt, with bandits on your tail and a huge gas truck in front, you can’t help but feel excited. Much in the same way that the roaring drums and violent explosions of Fury Road kept eyes glued to the screen, the sense of speed and destruction this game gives is immense. It’s what vehicular combat should be, and if they ever make another Vigilante 8, I hope it is like this.
There are multitudes of areas to explore for both resources and collectibles, as any good modern game would have. However, like I said in an earlier statement, the rich environment is so interesting that I hardly noticed all these menial tasks. The game could use a bit more missions, as it is a bit on the light side, but the racing events and side-stories are well enough that Max always has something to do. Despite all this, I found myself mostly driving around, killing bandit convoys, and setting fire to oil pumps. The rampant destruction and Top Dog boss fights keep you coming back for more. And just when you thought it was simple enough, a storm blows in, literally.
The key feature that I would have to say puts Max in a contender for greatest open-world survival sandbox post-apoc game ever (a title I just made up) is the storms. They come without warning, although a keen player can spot the clouds on the horizon. If you are lucky enough to be inside your Magnum Opus at the time, and double lucky enough that it is not a thunderstorm, then you can get some pretty good loot out of the torrent of flying debris. But be warned: these storms will kill. The first time I encountered one, I had just left my vehicle to examine a roadside wreck. The game flashed a warning on the screen: “Storm Approaching Seek Shelter.” But I disregarded it and continued to loot the fallen bandits and scraps of vehicles. Ominously, the wind began to pick up, and dust and dirt began to churn. I looked up from my scavenging duties to see a massive wall of dirt headed my way. Before I had even time to finish looting my current catch, the storm had enveloped me. Piece of metal whizzed by at amazing speeds, and the cloud was so thick I couldn’t even see my car. I blundered around for a few seconds before the hood of some long-destroyed vehicle plowed into me and sent Max flying. By some stroke of luck, I landed right next to my car. Not hesitating to get inside, I sat still for a moment, contemplating what to do next (I didn’t want to drive blindly into the storm, and risk driving off of a cliff or something). Suddenly, I spotted something bright orange floating towards me, almost angelic in its appearance. Was this the motha loot crates I had heard about in the early access reviews? As it came into view I realized it was actually the flaming wreck of another vehicles, which then proceeded to explode as it made contact with my car. Not willing to take another few hits from the numerous lights I spotted heading my way, I gunned-it straight down the road, that is until I ran into some Buzzards (think scrapyard bandits). It was the most exciting vehicular chase I had in that game so far, between fighting off the bandits, the flying wrecks, and the crates of loot I’d have to say I never quite had so much fun. Although I did survive this storm, later ones which hit when I was less fortunate (such as clearing out a bandit camp far from my vehicle, although seeing several bandits picked up by a tornado was kind of worth the death). And some storms can have violent torrents of lighting strike randomly, and a few direct hits can send your Saintly body and ride to heaven.
All that being said, it is not a game without faults. The story itself I found less compelling than the adventure from exploring the world. And the dialogue can get somewhat irritating (although I will never tire of hearing the word GUZZOLINE!). And it’s relatively short, if one were to grind through the story missions, it’d be done in a day. But, perhaps the most disappointing part for me was the lack of War Rigs and motorcycles. I understand technical limitations and such, but my favorite parts out of the movie were sadly vacant in this iteration. Not having multiplayer is not too much of a surprise, given the low amount of multiplayer games we have nowadays, but I would have enjoyed it all the same. One feature that I also found to be disheartening at times was the lack of background music. Most of the time all you can hear is the sound of the engine. It does enhance the feeling of a wasteland, but I love a good game soundtrack. Hell, that was one of the best parts of Red Dead Redemption, and that took place in a desert. Mostly.
Overall, I would say that Mad Max is worth playing if you like open-world games, car combat, or anything post-apocalyptic. Despite being a short game (much like Shadow of Mordor), I had a great time with this game and I am glad to have committed it to memory. Let me know if any of you viewers have some specific insights on our buddy Max. Until next time, keep on reading and enjoying our little website!