After almost two years of being released I finally got around to finishing the main story for Mad Max. I can safely say this is one truly underrated gem. Avalanche Studios (who made the Just Cause games) Mad Max is one of the those sleeper hits that really didn’t get the attention it deserved. Since finishing it last night I thought it deserved a review, even if it has been out for a while.
Mad Max the game follows a similar theme in some ways to the excellent movie, Mad Max: Fury Road. In the game your main nemesis is an extreme bad ass named Scrotus, who happens to be one of the sons of Immortan Joe. You, as Max, have an early run in with Scrotus that unfolds in the first few minutes of the game. From there it is about building the ultimate car, the Magnum Opus, and exploring the wasteland. The world is actually a really decent size, so you’ll be spending quite a bit of time driving around in the wasteland, fighting the various factions along the way.
Some Ubisoft style mechanics are in play here as you try and explore the world. You’ll have to use air balloons and binoculars to map more of the world around you, highlighting areas of interest (much like the Far Cry games). Mad Max is part role playing game here, as you’ll need to build up Max’s skills, as well as continually upgrade his powerful car. The game does an amazing job of fuelling the lone wanderer vibe than the movies are renowned for.
You’ll be taking over enemy camps quite frequently and you can approach these in several ways. Early on you’ll want to try and gather intel from other wastelanders and find a way to sneak in, and avoid a frontal assault. As Max and his car grows more powerful you can elect to take the more direct route of blowing the crap out of everything you see. The hand to hand fighting mechanics are absolutely outstanding here and are very similar to the Batman games in terms of counters and combos. The difference here is that Max is completely unrelenting and brutal.
The combat is much more visceral than other fighting games before it. Snapping necks, shivs in the face and other gruesome ends are all in a day’s work for the man who just wants to drive the wastelands and find The Plains of Silence. With some of the boss fights the end animation is a bit repetitive, which is a shame because it would have been good to see a bit more variety there, but apart from that the fights are never boring. There are different enemies you’ll need to be wary off, else it will be a pretty quick death for you.
Apart from the fantastic hand to hand combat, vehicle combat also takes a front seat. These fights are absolutely outstanding and the game mechanics are handled very well here. Max, for example, can aim his shotgun and vulnerable parts of out vehicles, such as exposed fuel tanks and wheels, to cause massive destruction. Eventually you get to upgrade a thrown projectile called the Thunderspoon, and with an ally of sorts who rides on the back of your car, this causes extremely satisfying explosions. Enemies can also jump on your car to try and punch you, but a shotgun to the face is very effective at countering this. You can even build spikes on your car to dissuade such boarding from the enemy.
The graphics and sound are really impressive, even on current gen consoles. As you upgrade the cars engine you can really tell the difference between a stock V6 and a fully upgraded V8. It is just a joy to hear. Initially the game will be about doing favours in return for better parts and lowering the threat level in the region. There are four main outposts in the game that you can do missions for and build up, who will in turn provide you with scrap to enable you to upgrade the Magnum Opus.
It takes a while but once you start getting further into the story, it really kicks into high gear. Honestly, the story is so good it could have been an excellent Mad Max movie in it’s own right. At the conclusion of the main game I just sat on my couch half stunned, yet extremely impressed with how the game ended. It will take you a while to get through the story though because if Max and his car is not upgraded enough it will definitely make it tough for some of the later missions. I did find myself at one point having to abandon a main mission and return to the world so that I could upgrade the car a bit more. If you have an internet connection even when you are not playing the game the outposts you unlock during your travels will collect scrap for you.
I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling the plot but I will say that this is one of the best sandbox story driven games in the last few years. I am so glad I finally got around to playing this and I felt the 30 odd hours I put into the game went pretty damn quickly.
Do yourself a favour, buy this game and enjoy.
Reviewed on Xbox One. All images captured in game.