Mad Max Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 1 year ago
Games that are associated with a film, TV program or book tend to arouse suspicion among the gaming community. The worry is whether they'll actually be any good due to them not being unique properties. Movie tie-in games regularly fall under scrutiny due to the universal fact that they exist to generate extra money and attention for a particular film, so it came as no surprise that when Mad Max was announced, fans of the film franchise were skeptical. Falling under the open-world sandbox style of play, does Mad Max work in this tried and tested genre or should it be left to the wasteland?

Max certainly looks the partMax certainly looks the part

The wandering wastelander begins on his journey to the mysterious Plains of Silence in his trusty car when the vicious War Boys make an appearance to ruin everything. To those not acquainted with the source material, civilization has been lost and all that remains is a savage wasteland full of people on the brink of insanity. Max starts with everything he needs to take on this personal pilgrimage, but of course, it's not that easy. The opening cutscene has us introduced to the game's overarching overlord, Scrotus, and rightly so he is a madman who can also survive a chainsaw to the head apparently. It all starts off in a cinematic chaotic fashion and Max loses everything from his car to his own clothes and he's determined to get it back.

It takes quite a while for the game to get going, but eventually missions become more entertaining and interesting events unfold. A lot of Mad Max's focus, though, is on its setting and how Max is able to survive in it. We also see some peculiar characters along the way. Soon after meandering through the desert, Max will find Chumbucket. This quirky character acts as Max's very own sidekick of sorts and sees him through his journey. While he may be extremely strange and occasionally irritate you with his random prophetic utterances, he's actually very useful. When Max's car gets damaged, Chum is able to repair it at a moment's notice. While it takes a bit of time to do so, it takes the edge off when you go zooming into a giant rock face and destroy half of the car. When it's on the brink of destruction, Max will be required to evacuate before he's blown to smithereens while Chum gets to work so in that regard you will be glad to have him along with you. It can get a bit bothersome when he constantly alerts you of anything and everything nearby even when it's barely of no concern to you, though.

Max isn't just a wandering loner this timeMax isn't just a wandering loner this time

Max and Chum will travel across a vast wasteland in Max's quest to regain his former glory and that's exactly how it feels: vast. Other sandbox titles often use compact city settings where activities flood the map, but Mad Max breathes some fresh air into this genre with the wasteland. There is still plenty to do, but the area feels a lot more spacious and so it gives the illusion that you aren't being plagued with more and more busywork left, right and centre.

In this wasteland, Max will be thwarting Scrotus' influence over each of the regions by taking down camps, giant scarecrow monuments and general killing of various kinds. The camps are the highlight as they task players with breaking through defenses and then battling through the compound until they eradicate its main threat so that it can be repopulated. There are also Top Dog camps that present you with a mini boss battle at the end where Max is required to kill the camp's main leader. These battles can actually be quite difficult when not fully prepared so harder camps are certainly no cakewalk. The other threat reducing tasks feel more like busywork in comparison because they are just random objectives that are dotted all over the map. Sandbox titles regularly suffer from this but Mad Max's setting does help it to not be too much of a chore.

One aspect of exploration that does become rather excessive is hunting for scrap. Nearly all upgrades in the game are gained by spending scrap and you will need a lot of it if you want every single vehicle upgrade and skill for Max. Across the wasteland you will find many scavenging locations that provide boxes of scrap to collect and maybe an enemy or two to defeat. Each box on its own contains very little so you will need to scavenge a lot of locations if you want the best upgrades. Repopulated camps do periodically give you scrap automatically so it will eventually start coming in fairly quickly, but nonetheless a lot of your time in the wasteland will be spent going from place to place and searching every nook and cranny for more loot. To counteract this, though, the game does track what's been collected in each scavenging location and what activities are left in each region.

It may look barren, but the wasteland holds a lot of treasuresIt may look barren, but the wasteland holds a lot of treasures

To make it across the wasteland and find all that scrap, Max has the Magnum Opus. Brought to life by Max and Chum, this vehicle is able to be personalised and upgraded in many different ways. As well as Max himself, the Magnum Opus is literally used as one of the game's main weapons. As you progress through the story, new parts for the car will become available and eventually you will have your very own death machine. A boost ability and side ram are available right from the start to help you get going but once you fit in tire spikes, grills and defensive hood ornaments from destroyed convoys in the wasteland, the Magnum Opus will be hard to take down. The car's abilities and parts can be combined into offensive attacks on other vehicles and objects in the world and it can be very satisfying to blow up an enemy that tries to chase you off the road. You can up the ante even further with the use of the harpoon, thunderpoon and sniper rifle. These weapons are used while in the vehicle and come in very handy when in a troublesome situation. Vehicle combat could have felt more fluid if the Magnum Opus was fitted with a handy handbrake to turn it round but it still remains an aggressive and exhilarating aspect of the game.

As well as the Magnum Opus, Max will also gain access to Archangels. These are ready made cars that the Magnum Opus can transform into in the garages of the strongholds in the wasteland once all the parts are acquired from a variety of missions. They act as specialist vehicles that can be used for different purposes including specific missions and death runs, or just if you fancy a brand new look for the Magnum Opus. The death runs are race challenges that ask you to make it to the finish line in an allotted time while having a number of obstacles thrown at you. You have a choice of certain vehicles to use for these, and the challenges come in the form of "barrel bash", "scatter run" and "time bomb". These can be exciting to play due to the enemy cars trying to ram you off the road and the chaotic music that plays. The time bomb death runs are the hardest to master, though, as enemies are constantly trying to destroy your vehicle and they don't rest until that's the case. It can be frustrating when every car gangs up on just you but with some skillful driving and sharp shooting, a death run can be easily conquered. You can also play Opus Wars which is basically just competing for leaderboard spots but there isn't much to these so these feel like a bit of an afterthought from the developers.

Always have your Magnum Opus prepared for thisAlways have your Magnum Opus prepared for this

When Max isn't cruising the wasteland in the Magnum Opus or scouring the area for loot, he'll most likely be in fist fights with a group of enemies. While a lot of focus has been put on crafting the perfect vehicle and causing destruction with it, Mad Max also has a fun combat system, and the likes of the Batman Arkham games seem to have influenced it somewhat. When under attack by any number of enemies, Max can punch to his heart's content and then switch to another enemy and continue his hit streak at will. Any time an enemy is about to hit you, press Y to parry so that Max can avoid damage and continue his onslaught. Later on, unblockable attacks are brought into play and Max has to evade them instead. Enemy weapons can be used as well which cause massive damage but break extremely quickly. Unfortunately, if you're faced with a large group of enemies and you're having to switch between avoiding attacks and parrying them, it all feels a bit overwhelming and the parry button occasionally feels unresponsive in the midst of the chaos.

Despite this, Max can tip the odds by building up the counter and entering fury mode. When this happens, Max deals far more damage and enemies go down much quicker. The sound of Max's fists and the slightly gruesome bone-cracking is strangely satisfying but when the fury mode is over, you'll quickly want Max to enter it once again. He does have a shotgun on hand for both vehicle and ground combat, but when it gets down to fist fights, it's all too easy to forget that it's there.

To make Max the killing machine he can potentially be, he has his own personal upgrades to acquire. Scrap can be used to give him new skills and even change his appearance. Although being able to change his hair and give him a bandanna doesn't really add anything, it's a nice touch and helps Max to feel like a living protagonist who's hair would actually grow in the wasteland. The other side of Max's upgrades comes from the tokens you collect from completing challenges and death runs in legendary time. These challenges come in all shapes and sizes and there are a ton of them to complete. You will do a lot of them without even trying but it can be tiresome knowing that there are so, so many. When you are ready to spend these tokens, you will need to make your way to Griffa, a mysterious character who looks into Max's mind and unleashes his skill. Griffa can help to upgrade Max's health and power in combat, as well as the fuel capacity for vehicles. Fortunately, fuel lasts a very long time in vehicles and so you barely need to worry about running out. At first, it's a bit awkward having to go to Griffa every time you want to upgrade, but his locations are easy to get to and it's not too much hassle once you get used to it.

Max can become a beast of a fighter if you let himMax can become a beast of a fighter if you let him

The bugs in Mad Max seem to be random occurrences that fortunately don't happen often. There was one instance of a cutscene being out of sync and the garage menu locking out from being able to switch vehicles, but for the most part, the game runs well and feels smooth amidst all the action that happens. However, loading screens can be fairly long at times, especially after you've died which can be irritating.

The achievements for Mad Max are a bit of an odd bunch. There are forty-nine but you won't see a lot of them until you've completed everything the game has to offer. There are a few simple tasks to do but the majority come from doing and completing everything in the whole game. This means that you'll be in the wasteland for a long time before you grab every achievement, but there's nothing necessarily hard here. The one to keep an eye on is for completing all non-repeating challenges and this by itself will take some time. Also, some of the achievements are given uneven values which seems pointless so for all those who like nice and even gamerscore numbers, be warned.

Summary

Mad Max is an interesting game in that it takes ideas from lots of other titles but it still manages to not feel like a complete clone. The open-world sandbox formula has been done many times before but because of this game's setting, it feels unique and exciting enough to stay. The customization of both Max and the Magnum Opus are welcome additions and both of them have great potential when fully upgraded. Vehicle and ground combat could have been tweaked just a little more, and the almost never ending hunt for scrap is a bit excessive, but the game has plenty to keep you sticking around for a while. Game adaptations are usually not that great, but Mad Max has proven that's not always the case. Whether you're a fan of the films or just open world games in general, this is a title that's well worth a look.
4 / 5
Positives
  • Unique setting that feels spacious with plenty of content still on offer
  • Great customization options for Max and the Magnum Opus
Negatives
  • Scrap hunting can be a bit excessive
  • Ground combat can become overwhelming at times
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent twenty-six hours exploring the wasteland while battling enemies on the ground and in the Magnum Opus. 24 of the game's 49 achievements were earned along the way. A digital download code for the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.