Review: Mad Max
With the recent Mad Max film generating a good deal of critical acclaim considering the nature of the film isn’t typical of high scores, Avalanche Studios of Just Cause fame have got a tough act to follow. Warner Bros. who as a studio are on good form with movie-based games being excellent games in their own right (Batman Arkham series and Shadow of Mordor), have again wisely opted to not tie in directly to Tom Hardy’s film but just ride on the back of the popularity of it, giving Avalanche Studios an excellent opportunity to do their own thing.
Linked into the the recent film’s antagonist, Immortan Joe, Max’s game is set up when a bunch of War Boys under Scabrous Scrotus’s rule, the third son Immortan Joe, run Max off the road and take everything Max has, leaving him to die. This set up is pretty brutal with lots of blood and fists flying around and allows the starting point to be typical in the sense you have to regain everything you once had and get back to your former glory.
Along the way you come across a bizarre array of people that fit perfectly into the Mad Max universe with various who help you in your quest to take down Scrotus. None more so than your trusty and very helpful companion, a hunchbacked mechanic named Chumbucket. Despite being very different people, you work well as a team by working together to build up your supplies and the perfect vehicle, Chumbucket’s pride and joy, the Magnum Opus.
Throughout the game there’s some great set-pieces full of action, great dialogue from Chumbucket that can really entertain and overall makes for a very enjoyable game. As an added benefit it really fits into the film series ethos nearly as much as the Arkham games, although not quite as detailed, which is a great achievement.
Mad Max is probably best described as a simple variation of similar titles, using typical elements found in sandbox titles ranging from Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 4 and Saints Row IV. These range from and a whole other range of activities. In this title they take the form of taking down a lead car in a convoy, unlocking hot air balloons not unlike the process you go for Watch Dogs’s antennas and killing a bunch of enemies to free various bases/holdouts. Quite typically, the world is littered with lots of icons that are begging to be cleared up but doesn’t reach Assassin’s Creed Unity’s sheer volume to tasks thankfully.
The most unique area of gameplay compared to other titles is the emphasis on vehicle combat. Of course GTA and Watch Dogs involved cars in their combat but it was your guns or your hacking from your mobile that took down other vehicles rather than a bit of shunting. True to the film vehicle combat in Mad Max are aggressive affairs with spikes, flames, blades and people jumping on your car in order to take you down. The car is also used in ramming down objects and plus other uses that makes full use of the Magnum Opus’s presence like pushing a train carriage along some tracks in order to turn it into scrap metal.
To help you do all this you’ve got some unique and fun tools. In Avalanche Studios’s other open world series, Just Cause, you’re given a extremely fun grapple hook for the entire of the 2nd title which caused endless amounts of fun. Mad Max has it’s own grappling hook and despite not being as powerful (in the sense it doesn’t let you zip up mountains) A similar although not as powerful tool is the grappling hook that Chumbucket uses (with surprising amount of effectiveness) which is used to pull people out of cars, pull down sniper towers and get blockades out the way. Over the course of the game you can increase the effectiveness of the tool and Chumbucket learns to master other tools too that are essential in your quest. You also get to increase Max’s abilities and skills plus it was really enjoyable to see the Magnum Opus go from a rustbucket to a mean machine with a huge V8 engine, massive spikes deterring jumpers and aggressive looking ornaments that adorn the car whilst giving little perks like increased defense.
Despite Mad Max being set in a literal desolate wasteland, Avalanche Studios have managed to make the locale a surprising beauty at times. Look at some of the pictures online from people using the always excellent picture mode if you don’t believe me. That’s handy as being a wasteland the world isn’t filled with the detail of the Arkham games or GTA V but that didn’t mean I got bored of the game after spending many hours with it. Of course there are various regions in the world ranging from full on sand dunes to rocky cliff faces with only the odd piece of evidence indicating humanity once swarmed the area to help keep things difference but despite it generally all being much the same I never felt trekking the map a chore. That’s probably as a result of the moreish gameplay on offer keeping things fun.
It’s not all good though as it can be a little rough at times with slowdown often rearing its uglier than Chumbucket’s head. It’s particularly bad in busy scenes, mostly driving segments when cars are crashing into each other all over the place but some fairly sedate moments on foot had its problems. It’s far from ideal and to be honest one of the worst offenders I’ve played in a good while with slow moments sometimes taking 30 seconds to pass and get back to normal. Outside of the moments the game’s art style, looks and direction are very good.
Sadly there isn’t any form of multiplayer for Mad Max, however with plenty of hours to sync into the game you won’t be fussed about any omissions. Plus if it was included it probably would have only diluted the experience or negatively affect the game in some other way.
To sum up
Mad Max is a fun and entertaining title that doesn’t push the open world sandbox genre in any way but does provide those fond of slowly conquering a game’s world bit by bit in a different and unique location.
Version reviewed: PS4
Mad Max is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.