Mad Max – A Mad Review
Mad Max is a game with lofty ambitions, high budget, tight combat, and unique dialogue. There are many areas where it shines, many where improvements could be made, and–like its protagonist–has something to prove.
Mad Max: A wasteland-living loner, enraged by his losses, motivated by revenge, holding onto the only thing he has left: pride. While the plot hardly diverts from its linearity, Max–once under his hood–is a fairly complex character. It isn’t obvious in any sense of the word. In fact, it’s displayed more through interactions between character and setting than it is flushed through dialogue.
You’re probably asking me right now, “Tony, you’re talking crazy. How is that possible?” Well. It’s subtle and I’m unsure it is intentional, but when Max is zooming around the Wasteland–a previously flourishing ocean, now reduced to a quintillion (30 zeroes) grains of sand, littered with rusted oil pipelines, sunken ships, and airplanes–I noticed many similarities between our gruff Australian protagonist and barren landscape: each have lost and dearly suffered. Max, his family and beloved Interceptor, and setting, its life-giving water. Through historical relics, we slowly learn what happened to this now-barren land, and through that, Max’s story as well.
To say the two mirror each other would be an understatement. As with the once-hydrated land, Max has been stripped of everything that gave him life. Under his brusque exterior is a man who longs for the way his world used to be, much like the scant wells of precious water, barely percolating to the surface. Max is simply a shell of what he once was, just like the rusted ships and airplanes dotting the Wasteland which is as much a character as Max; sandstorms frequent the rolling dunes and canyons of the Great White, blinding–and sometimes killing–anyone caught inside the torrent.
You could say the Wasteland is just as sour as Max for its fate.
This brings me to gameplay.
First; drive into one of the aforementioned sandstorms. It is a harrowing, exciting experience that can very well get you killed. If you survive long enough, you will be rewarded with caches of Mother Loot: large boxes containing a [mother] load of scrap (the material used to upgrade Max and the Opus). It provides the player with a risk/reward system and balances quite well. Having driven through four different sandstorms–three electrical and one normal–I have died two out of four times, having grabbed loot only three of those times. It is so worth it, if you can tame the swirling sands.
On foot, combat is a simplistic system any gamer who has been around for the last decade should be familiar with. Any guesses? (Hint, it’s dark and rhymes with cat fan.) This is a deliberate move; it’s a proven, successful formula and fits the characterization. Albeit unoriginal, the system does have its differences between Mad Max and it’s predecessors.
The most obvious attribute setting the two apart is skill; Batman is trained in martial arts, has money, intelligence, and an arsenal of tech-weapons tucked on his tactical belt. Max…well he has his fists, and if you allot your leveling points properly, they will be outfitted with brass knuckles made from crescent wrenches. He has no technical fighting skills and in lieu of this, Max uses his weight. Before I proceed with the next statement, I need to make a caveat: I’ve not played Arkham Knight, so my comparison is from previous titles.
Max is a brawler. His heft is his advantage and you feel that as you suplex enemies into the ground, or throttle them against walls, breaking bones. In this sense, he reminds me of one of those guys that doesn’t boast his strength, but you know he could lay you out if necessary. An issue with this scheme however, is if you’re fighting on a cliff, be extremely wary, because you can fall to your death just as much as your enemies. While this may weigh a risk/reward decision similar to the sandstorms, these sections were less strategic and more annoyance.
The final obvious bit is car combat. While both Arkham Knight and Mad Max include upgrades for their respective vehicles, Mad Max requires you to build the Magnum Opus from the ground up, offering a slew of upgrades to choose from.
Lovers of the classic Twisted Metal (such as myself) will absolutely adore the vehicular sections. Upgrade the Opus with boarder spikes to prevent crazy Wastelanders jumping onto your vehicle. Add flamethrowers to the sides to severely damage cars that close you in. Swap your plain grille for a ram and bash into enemies at high speed. Watch things explode with Avalanche’s amazing destruction engine. Use Chumbucket’s harpoon to dismantle them one by one…the options are endless can be very creative.
Speaking of Chumbucket, it’s about time I talk about the characters. While each character is flat, offering no real development, they are–in their own rights–unique.
Chum is Max’s hunched companion who–after Max is left for dead when his beloved Interceptor is stolen by Scabrous Scrotus–very willingly teams up with the brawler to fulfill his own destiny: appease the Angel Combustion and journey his sacred plight to construct the most feared vehicle in the Wasteland. It just so happens Max is in need of a new vehicle, and who better to pair up with than Max?
The dialogue between Chum and Max is something of a gem in and of itself. He speaks a mix between Shakespearean English and vehicle slang and oftentimes, when you wander from the Opus, you can hear Chum whispering to himself. Other characters aren’t as well-defined and are really only there as a vehicle (no pun intended) to continue the narrative into the other districts, if you will, of the Wasteland. That doesn’t mean they aren’t unique. They are. Each of the “district’s” owners–Pink Eye, Jeet, Gutgash, StankGum and Scabrous–all have their own personalities and dialogue with Max.
Map progression is what one would come to expect from open world games these days, a la Watch Dogs, Far Cry, Grand Theft Auto, et cetera.
There are specific filler quests to complete in each district, featuring a hot air balloon to scout the area for points of interest. It’s unoriginal and for some, may be too repetitive, but the journey is what makes it special, because you will always come across something interesting, or be taken off-course by Scrotus War Boys.
Through the map, you’ll notice a few things. First will likely be sand. There is a LOT of sand. And it is beautiful. Footsteps follow the physics engine perfectly, and legitimately look like there’s weight pushing the grains around. It doesn’t stop with footprints either. From rolls and explosions, sand moves in the ways you’d expect from reality. More than that, the Opus’s tires react differently to different sections of land. If it’s rocky, it will grip easier. Conversely, if the sand is deep, have fun drifting.
All in all, Mad Max is an extremely fun game with solid animation, voice acting, overall amazing render and score, with unique dialogue–though, somewhat useless characters. There are places where the game falters to deliver, but nothing that other games have not already committed as well. Granted, instead of taking heed, Mad Max commits the same crimes, which may come as a turn off for some. It is worth it to look passed some of the surface grime, and give the game a decent playthrough. You may find yourself passing the time away, completely engaged. I haven’t been able to put it down.