Become the legendary Road Warrior
After a long, three decade gap since the last Mad Max film, the eponymous anti-hero is back this year with a vengeance—literally! First came Mad Max: Fury Road, an explosive new feature film that burst into theatres this past May, and now this fall we have Mad Max, an action-adventure game that mixes brutal hand-to-hand combat and high-octane vehicular combat on the vast, open roads of the Wasteland.
In Mad Max, available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you’ll get the chance to step into the boots of the baddest road warrior of them all, Max Rockatansky, in a 30-40 hour epic journey of revenge and reclamation. Mirroring the intro of Fury Road, the game begins with Max in dire straits as his Interceptor car is aggressively pursued, along the dusty roads of the Wasteland, by a band of ruthless War Boys. Led by the vile and psychotic warlord ruler of Gas Town, Scabrous Scrotus, the marauders savagely beat Max unconscious, steal his beloved vehicle, and leave him to bake in the desert sun without his weapons or supplies.
After Max comes to, he soon meets a deformed, hunchback blackfinger named Chumbucket who believes him to be the sacred warrior “Saint” sent by The Angel of Combustion (a Wasteland car-based deity) to help him build the ultimate vehicle of destruction. Max, believing that ride—aptly called The Magnum Opus—is his best shot at getting revenge against Scabrous and his demented ilk, forms an unlikely partnership with this peculiar, yet gifted, master mechanic.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Genre: Action-adventure, survival, vehicular combat
ESRB Rating: M (Mature, 17+)
A beautiful, depraved world
The developers at Avalanche Studios did an outstanding job capturing essence of Mad Max‘s harsh, corrupt, post-apocalyptic world, and the twisted souls that inhabit it. Like you would expect, the Wasteland is huge and threatening, dominated by various factions each seeking to survive using whatever means is necessary. As Max, it’s your job to the scour the many unique Wasteland regions in search of precious Scrap materials used to upgrade your Magnum Opus vehicle.
It won’t be an easy ride however, as along the way you have constant run-ins with three merciless clans—Roadkill, Buzzard, and Scrotus’ War Boys—each looking to take Max out. Dangers from these violent gangs come in many forms, including squads of gas-guzzling war cars, perched snipers, and fortified outposts containing the largest stockpiles of Scrap resources. The vehicles and enemies you face all have that edgy, sun-scorched, neo-punk look we’ve come to expect from Mad Max, and look great.
What I find most impressive about Mad Max, visually, is how gorgeous the Wastleland is considering it’s essentially one huge desert. Not only is the dusty terrain itself quite varied, including sandy dunes, wide canyons, and rocky cliffs, but there are plenty of stand-out landmarks to feast your eyes on, such as a huge, rusting landlocked ship, a dilapidated lighthouse, a large silo that appears to be the remains of an old nuclear power plant. All that eye candy is further accentuated by the excellent day-night cycle that seamlessly transitions from casting wide shadows over the hillsides at night, to gradually illuminating the yellowy desert sand at daybreak. Then there’s the stunning dynamic weather system that can generate blinding sandstorms at a moment’s notice, or even more volatile electrical storms if you happen to venture beyond the outskirts of the map into an area called “The Big Nothing.” Combined, these graphical elements result in a stark juxtaposition of gritty, grimy landscapes, filled with magnificent detail and stunning backdrops.
Intense vehicular combat and fisticuffs action
To survive in Mad Max, you’ll need to master two methods of combat: high-speed, explosive, vehicular skirmishes, and brutal, close-quarters melee fighting. For me, the more exciting of the two was vehicular combat, not only for its raw speed and intensity, but I also loved how you’re able to upgrade several aspects of your Magnum Opus in your quest to create the ultimate war tank.
At any time during the game, you can open up the garage screen to spend your reserves of Scrap on improvements to your Magnum’s engine, chassis, wheels, body works, and more. While these upgrades are essential for bettering your car’s performance, you’ll also need to spend Scrap on deadly offensive modifications, such as razor sharp grinding rims, defensive body spikes to impale jumpers, and side burners that emit searing flames. Each of these destructive modifications are really fun to employ, however what I enjoyed even more was the harpoon weapon that Chumbucket uses to latch onto enemy vehicles and surgically rip them apart. Using the harpoon, you can target specific parts of enemy vehicles, like its bumper, side door, or tire, and then yank the piece right off to severely damage or outright immobilize the car. With its speed and effectiveness, the harpoon enables you to sideline whole squads of enemy vehicles in mere minutes, usually with explosive, glorious takedowns.
Although you spend the majority of the game nestled firmly in the driver’s seat, there are time when you need to exit and explore areas, such as fortified outposts or enemy strongholds, on foot. During these segments, you must rely heavily on Max’s hand-to-hand combat skills, as weapon ammo in this dystopian world is very hard to come by. If you’ve played any of the Batman Arkham games before, you’ll be quite at home with Mad Max‘s free-flow combat system, which follows a similar pattern of timed strikes and parries. Just like how you can upgrade the Magnum Opus, it’s also possible to upgrade Max himself using Scrap, including his fist damage, protective armour, or adding new combat skills. While I liked that you have plenty of options to upgrade Max’s equipment and skills, I did find it a bit limiting having to use the same resource (Scrap) to boost your Magnum Opus, effectively making you choose which to upgrade with your limited Scrap available.
Tons to see and do
The huge, open-world Wasteland in Mad Max is filled to the brim with interesting places to explore, and plenty of side-missions to keep you occupied and entertained. Each region of this vast desert initially has a high “threat” level, due to the presence of enemy factions threatening those who dare trespass into their territory. You can increase the safety of the territory by completing side objectives such as tearing down ominous scarecrows, killing snipers in towers, dismantling enemy encampments, or taking out local convoys. By making areas more hospitable, you can also encourage friendly settlers to take up residence, who then provide you much needed supplies, or give you new missions to take on.
In addition, there’s a rather odd meta upgrade system that has you complete an extensive list of challenges to receive “Griffa tokens,” which are then handed over to a randomly appearing cloaked mystic in exchange for character augmentations. Examples of these upgrades are “Metabolism” to increase the amount of health regeneration when eating food, and “Adaptation” to consume less fuel when driving. Sometimes you have to travel far to meet up with Griffa, which is a tiny nuisance, but his upgrades are beneficial enough to make it worth the trip.
As a big fan of the films, Mad Max delivered everything I expected from this perilous, post-apocalyptic world: a vast, open-world Wasteland to explore, a memorable, eccentric cast of characters, and explosive, breakneck vehicular combat. The beautiful graphics really stand out, as does the extensive upgrade systems that turn Max, and his Magnum Opus car, into the deadliest force this side of Gas Town. If you’re enjoy the Mad Max series, or love sandbox games, you’ll have a blast playing this game.
+ stunning scenery, and a gorgeous day/night cycle
+ thrilling vehicular combat
+ extensive upgrade system
+ up to 40 hours of gameplay
– a lot of scrap collecting required
– missions obejctives repeat
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4/5 (80%)
By Paul Hunter, Editor Gaming
I work out of Toronto, Ontario as the Editor of Gaming here on the Plug-in Blog and as Editor-in-Chief of NextGen Player. I am thankful for having a loving and patient wife who doesn’t mind my 40 hour a week obsession with gaming. You can follow me on Twitter @NextGenPlayer
I was expecting the worst being a movie tie in but, ended up being pleasently surprised by the game. Thanks for the review @PaulH
Thanks for reading the review, @jitterbug! I agree, it’s a really solid game. Sometimes movie tie-ins can be hit or miss, but this one is definitely a hit.
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