Mad Max drove far under the radar last year, underneath other open-world games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. Due to the overwhelming raving reviews for both latter titles, opinions of Mad Max were sullying at best. Some were not unfounded, but much like the game’s sales, something else drove by unseen: the brilliant character development.
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. Max is a wasteland-living loner, enraged by his losses, motivated by revenge, holding onto the only thing he has left: pride. Max–once under his hood–is a fairly complex character.
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 Quintilian 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.
In this way, the Wasteland is just as much a character as any and water is the absolute center of everything. Without water, life cannot exist. And in the Wasteland, water is an extremely precious commodity, requiring deep drilling to find even a drop. It is this physical nature that represents Max’s motive for vengeance–and even more specifically–the heart of his desire, buried deep, as long-lost as the water.
That’s what the game is really about. Nearly every character has fallen from grace in some form. If they hadn’t prior to meeting Max, they did afterword. One could say that Mad Max is really just an allegory for life and how we deal with the bad times. As shown by the end-game, Max deals with his problems the way any brawler living in squalor (oh, poetry), post-apocalypse: taking out the evil man who caused him so much woe and killing anyone who stands in the way of his goal.
Read, discuss in the comments, if thou feelst so inclined.