I bought Mad Max solely because of the hype. Coming fresh off of the incredible success of the movie reboot, Mad Max: Fury Road, I immediately set aside $60 for the game version. Before you start throwing sawed off shotguns and dog food at your computer screens, I assure you my hype is not all derived from the recent film. My hopes for this game were the culmination of 15 years of Mad Max love and admiration.
The game takes much of its story from the original and remade Mad Max movies (obviously). In the game you play as Max, a road warrior in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, where gasoline is king. Going ahead in this review, I will be revealing some game details, but none that have not been released in trailers or game demos by Avalanche Studios, so read at your own risk. You begin the game as Max is driving down the desert highway in his beloved “Black on Black” (yes, that’s a car). Suddenly, Max is ambushed by War Boys – the bald, albino humanoids – and, through a series of I’m-not-going-to-spoil-it events, he’s left in the desert to die. Now Max must forge a new vehicle with the help of various desert wanderers and factions and seek vengeance on the mighty leaders that have a stranglehold on Gastown. Confused yet? Well, make sure you brush up on your desert apocalypse lingo beforehand, lest you fall behind the unique story.
The game is pseudo open world. Quite simply, the map is big and you can wander around, but, remember, you’re in a dystopian desert so there’s really not much to see. The map is reminiscent of State of Decay in that you slowly unlock sections of the map as you progress through the story. The progression of the story itself is time-consuming. You’re required to clear outposts, blowing up oil refineries and fuel supplies, to slowly drain Gastown of its control over the land. Think of it as Super Mario Bros.: each section of the map has a boss you must defeat before moving on to the next segment of the map. Not exactly a new concept for gameplay, but entertaining, nonetheless.
Visually, the game is everything you’d expect from a next-gen title. In 1080p and something brighter than sepia tone, the desert landscape is as colorful as you can get a desert and grease filled setting. Plumes of smoke erupt from staggering towers in the distance which, at this point, I’m not even sure if they’re real. Even so, the detail is apparent from your first steps in the sand.
As wonderful as the visuals of Mad Max are, there are some downsides. The speed in the movement of the camera and button response is sluggish. With the exception of the left trigger being “jump” (seriously, isn’t A always jump?), the button layout and fighting style is smooth and satisfying. Don’t expect to do any kind of sneaking in this game. The desert is so vast that your enemies will see you coming from a mile away. Oh, and also because there’s no “crouch” button.
The combat system is comparable to the Batman: Arkham series. A strike and parry set up with finishers, heavy attacks, and Max’s special ability to go into “fury mode” makes the combat fun while still maintaining purpose. The enemies can carry knives or other melee weapons and will often dodge your attacks. Enemies will also sometimes receive a “buff,” making them harder to defeat. The way the enemies attack you actually makes the game challenging. You’re not going to be able to take a lot of hits and just move on. After you master the flow of Max’s fighting style, you’ll find that the ass kicking is so satisfying.
The crown jewel of Mad Max is the extensive customization menu. Max’s abilities and appearance are both upgradable for a fee as you find and collect scrap metals –in-game money. Increase Max’s health, his scrap and ammo finding abilities, his capability to inflict more damage in combat, water holding capacity, and more. Upgrading and equipping different types of wrist, jacket, and boot armor on Max will give him more abilities, as well. You can unlock new fighting skills and takedown methods to make battle easier.
Max’s car, the Magnum Opus, is also customizable. Choose from a number of body types, engines, tires, defensive spikes, weapons, and countless more improvements to make the Magnum Opus the most feared machine in the desert. Spend your money on the car because you’re going to be doing a lot of driving and vehicle combat in this game. Oh and be ready to traverse the enormous sandbox for hours looking for scrap. Without that scrap, you won’t be able to buy the Magnum Opus even a decal!
So, pulling the hype train into the station for a minute, let me be frank and tell you whether this game is worth buying. Mad Max is a game full of content and customizations that is worth the $60 price tag. The story develops slowly, but, about halfway through, events happen that invest you emotionally. The ending had me picking my jaw up off of the floor, as I developed a new creative respect for this underdog, Avalanche Studios. You’ll enjoy the story missions just as much as the wasteland missions. Just climb into the Magnum Opus, buckle up, and remember the old mantra, “I am the Nightrider! I’m a fuel injected suicide machine!”
Reviewed on Xbox One. Review copy provided by the publisher.