With the summer release of Mad Max Fury Road the anticipation for Avalanche Studios iteration of the Mad Max universe was soaring to new heights. Even though Mad Max isn’t a direct tie in to the movie, you’re playing in the same post apocalyptic environment where you must drive and fight against Scabrous Scrotus and his minions in an open, free roaming world. On paper the game sounds like the perfect fit to compliment the deep Mad Max universe, but gamers know all too well that more often than not when a license makes it way to the videogame realm it’s usually a below average piece of crap being used to cash in on all the hype surrounding a new movie. Is that the case this time around or can Avalanche and Warner Bros. Interactive push out something worthy of the title Mad Max?
When I hear “open world” I already have an idea of what it will entail, but how a game actually pieces it all together matters more than how sprawling the environment is. Sure it can be massive like Skyrim, but if it is glitchy or has a lackluster story or side quests, your time spent roaming around feels more like a chore than an adventure. Luckily Mad Max seems to fit everything together in a nice package with the same tried and true formula of the genre while breaking the monotony of running to and fro. The wasteland is enormous and chalk full of main quests, side missions, races, infiltration of enemy fortresses, and random encounters to tear down adversary structures or play demolition derby with random convoys. You’ll also spend plenty of time looking for water, gasoline, and bullets which are more precious than diamonds or gold.
Mad Max Fury Road was full of action, but a little skimpy on the story side of things. Mad Max the game follows suit with the main story only coming in small spurts through the 24+ hours of gameplay. The story is all about revenge on Scrotus who took all Max had from his iconic black interceptor to his clothes. During your pursuit for retribution you come across numerous apocalypse survivors who keep things interesting enough to maintain you pushing through to the end. You even get your own mutated sidekick named “Chumbucket” along the way who worships some made up divine being named Angel Combustion and goes off on some hilarious, religious rants. Voice acting gets the job done, but the gruff overtones seem to encompass every conversation and aren’t very memorable. The plot is cut and dry so there really isn’t much that you won’t be expecting, but all the extras you’ll stumble upon in the open world will always keep you with an objective to accomplish.
With the help of Chumbucket you get a new ride, called the Magnus Opus, that will help you get from point A to point B while smashing up the bad guys and collecting scrap to upgrade your ride. Everything revolves around scavenging materials to pimp your ride, but in order to unlock the upper tiers of each category your infamy amongst Scrotus’ flunkies must go sky high. With each improvement of the Magnus Opus it becomes a finely tuned death machine used to reek havoc in the wasteland pushing your driving skills to the limit. It has an arcade-y feel to the controls, but vehicular combat is exhilarating and by far the best piece of gameplay in Mad Max. Occasionally the camera angles create more chaos to your driving than the actual enemies which is frustrating to say the least. Unfortunately when it comes to the Death Races you cannot use the Magnus Opus against opponents which is absolutely absurd since you spend so much time behind the wheel and upgrading it. You’re left with a bare bones car like the rest of the competitors, but still armed with your handy dandy shotgun that can be used to blow up their gas tanks. So they take away everything else and leave you with an advantage to permanently take out everyone else…which makes no sense to me.
When outside of the Magnus Opus, Mad Max uses a combat system similar in many ways to the Batman series, but with slower and more brutal moves. Combat mimics the cruel wasteland as Max snaps necks, shanks enemies and kicks their teeth in slow-motion to show how he has become as hardened as the rugged landscape. At times the hand to hand combat flows well using the parrying technique when groups attack, but other times things just don’t click or the timing is just a second off. I’m not sure if the fault is operator error or a flawed parry system that broke the chain of my fisticuff combos. There are plenty of other layers to the combat as well that allow you to use your one shot, one kill shotgun, melee weapons that deteriorate over time, finishing moves, and variations of enemies that require you to watch your six at all times and be nimble on your toes. Most of these encounters happen when you’re searching through a camp on the outskirts or breaking into the Scrotus’ puppets fortresses.
Exploring these areas is very deep as you progress vertically throughout the levels clearing out the vermin and searching for hidden goodies like scrap, water, and relics (collectibles). Couple this with the driving and extensive amount of missions in the open world you’ll find that you can easily sink 40 hours into the game, especially if you are a completionist or achievement whore. As with any open world game the side missions and quests can become tedious and repetitive, but I’ve yet to play any game in this genre that didn’t have this plague. Visuals are top notch and brought the wasteland to life in all of its different and diverse areas. Character models move fluently and are wonderfully rendered even if there isn’t a lot of distinction between the different classes of enemies you run into.
Mad Max does have its flaws, but it blends the driving, combat, and upgrading skill trees together in a way few open world games can. Each quest feels like you’ve seized back a little more control of the Wasteland from Scrotus and prepares you for the ultimate showdown with this mutated giant. You’ll spend a full work week crusading around in the Magnus Opus and smashing skulls and find that even though the revenge story becomes drawn out, the action and gameplay really propel this game into being a ton of fun. Mad Max fans can rejoice that Avalanche did a bang up job introducing Max to gamers.