Getting lost in the wasteland must be a traumatic experience because you only have two options: Give up or fight the odds. Max, the main protagonist of Mad Max, did the latter. Having your car stolen and getting trashed by the bad guys in a big wasteland does not sound like a pleasant experience.
Mad Max is not an official movie tie-in, but is heavily inspired by the movie Mad Max: Fury Road. Now, we all know how games that are inspired by movies turn out, right? Mad Max gets a lot of things right but that isn’t enough for a myriad of reasons.
The game looks absolutely beautiful. Developers Avalanche Studios know a thing or two about massive open worlds. They made Just Cause 1 and 2, which were massive games that looked absolutely stunning.
While the wasteland feels pretty barren, as it should be, driving around in a death machine is a really fun prospect. Max lost his car in the initial encounter with Scrotus, a roided up bad guy. Even though Max dumped a chainsaw in Scrotus’ head, he shrugged it off like it was nothing. The impending boss fight already seems unfair, doesn’t it?
Well, time to get revenge, right? And also do whatever Max was doing before being attacked by the big bad guy. For that he needs a new car and luckily for him, he encounters a hunchbacked mechanic going by the name Chumbucket. He seems hostile at first, wanting to eat Max’s newly befriended dog. Max can’t let that happen, can he?
After everyone’s on the same page, it’s time to build a new car again–The Magnum Opus. Chumbucket requires a bunch of scraps and a body before he can begin working on the car. So it’s time to do fetch quests for him.
This is the main problem with massive open worlds. Most of them are pretty similar, influenced mainly by Ubisoft’s checklist system of game design. Going back and forth the same areas doing the same stuff can get really tiresome.
Fortunately, Mad Max is also a car combat game. Duh, what did you think? The wasteland is a hostile place riddled with traps and enemies also have spiky cars to poke you with. You can do the same thing to them though. Building up the Magnum Opus by finding scrap and other items is fun mainly because it’s a joy to watch the car transform into a beast–a death machine. You know, the one Max was driving before it was stolen.
Bigger and better areas are unlocked after progressing through the game by doing main missions. Sometimes to access these missions certain conditions have to be met which kind of kills the pacing.
Until Max has a fully jazzed up Magnum Opus with a V8 engine, you have to scavenge, collect items and tokens to improve his character and vehicle. At first, the entire upgrade thing can be overwhelming because there are so many of them, but as you keep playing the game and getting to know the various mechanics, things will get a lot easier.
The wasteland can be beautiful but there can be violent sandstorms which can force you to take cover because it greatly limits visibility. I once encountered one of these during a main mission and couldn’t stop and admire how beautifully chaotic the game looked.
There are a lot of enemies in the game and you can obviously pummel them with your fists. This melee system seems to have been taken from the Batman: Arkham games, which gives a good fluidity to the fights. This also means that sometimes you will be surrounded by tons of enemies and considering Max is not agile as the Batman, things can get a bit hairy.
Before storming a stronghold which are scattered across the wasteland, you need to disable its exterior defences, mostly by using your car. Then waltz in the stronghold and pummel everyone, including a certain War Crier that gives boosts to enemies’ stats. Magnum Opus when fully upgraded is a sight to behold. You can kill enemies in various ways during high speed chases. Harpooning them, ramming them, or straight up getting close to them and blasting them in the face with a shotgun. The game slowly eases you into the combat mechanics as you keep playing.
Resources are scarce in the wasteland. You need to scrounge for water and food as it is the only way you can replenish your health. You also need to find fuel to refuel your car. At first, I thought this would be a bit annoying and ruin the fun but there’s plenty of fuel available and you can’t run out of it easily while driving.
The wasteland is vast and there’s just so much things to for you to do. The problem is Mad Max doesn’t do anything new or innovative and just dumps you into this large open area. The car combat is exhilarating and the game can look pretty at times but that’s about it. You need a lot of patience as you slowly build up your Magnum Opus to take on the various challenges the game has to offer.
I would’ve preferred a different combat system because it feels like the current one doesn’t suit the game. While it’s fun early on, it gets tiresome when the game keeps throwing different types of enemies with the same abilities at you.
Mad Max: The Game could’ve been special. It’s not as engaging as the movie which shows the wasteland as a much more brutal, dog-eat-dog, kind of place. When I reached a point in the game where I felt that the wasteland wasn’t interesting enough to keep me playing, my ride abruptly ended, but what a fun ride it was.