Movie tie in games are tricky games to master and with such an iconic lead role as the legendary “Mad Max”, the weight of expectation of the game to be as good as it’s film counterpart can, and normally does, end up with disappointment.
As the launch trailer suggests, you truly are Survivor first, Warriors second and Driver third. I would also add Lara Croft-esque explorer to this list too. Four gameplay elements brought together perfectly here.
With the looks and exploration of Tomb Raider, the variety of Far Cry, the polish of Shadow of Mordor, the melee combat of Batman, and the cheekiness of Just Cause, there is a hell of a lot to like about Mad Max.
The scene is set here with a dramatic opening cinematic of an apocalyptic world, ravished into a desert, dry, despairing and gritty land. Max, is attacked, kills a leader called Scrotus, is left for dead in the middle of this desert, busted and broken, and you pick the game up from there.
Visually, this game is achingly beautiful. Superb stunning skies, vistas, backdrop the detailed, and strangely alive world. I say alive, because although this is a barren desolate, desert land, it’s brought to life with stunning touches. The wind varies from a whisper to a full blown gale, to at it’s worst, a find cover or die electrical storm! Sand whips up in little tufts to small vortexes and smoke slowly billows from populated camps or wrecked cars and buildings.
The artwork is also phenomenal! Not since the playstation classic “The Last of Us” have i been so convinced of the scenery. Textures, lighting and the thought put into how the world would be if it was covered in sand is amazing. You can drive through, dried out coral reefs, the buildings have been weathered superbly, it was all just so convincing.
Explosions are emphatically the best i’ve seen in a game. It’s awesome to watch the destruction of things shatter into flying parts with great detail, and great visual effects of fire and power. When you rev up the Magnum Opus and roar off, the plumes of dust scatter from the cars wheel arches, and fire drips from the exhaust.
The audio is incredible too. The meaty ROAR of your car never gets boring to hear. Each time Max hops in, it always revs up with a bellowing, menacing thunder! As the car travels, various surfaces react differently and sound differently too. Sand softens any noise, whereas gravel crunches.
The gameplay is the sum of many, for one whole brilliance. There are influences of other games and Mad Max has cherry picked the best bits from all for an open world sandbox of brilliance.
While Max is on foot, he has similar mechanic’s to the Batman games and their melee system. Although not as complicated, as it’s hit, parry and dodge, it worked incredibly well to make you feel like a superhero when beating people up. Moving from one target to another was seamless, eminently controllable, and easy to express how you wanted the fight to go.
There is a surprising depth to the melee combat as timing plays a huge part, and the better you get, the easier it is to string together combos to enter ” Fury Mode”. Fury Mode is where after stringing together enough punches, for a small period of time, Max’s punches get far more deadly. Max also has access to melee weapons, like a shiv, a club, and exploding spear, and if all else fails, just blast them away with a trusty shotgun.
While in his car, car combat is a little trickier to get to grips with, but hilarious fun. The car soon comes equipped with a harpoon from which you can pull other cars to pieces bit by bit, or if in the right spot, tip them right over, or pull the driver right out! Max can also use his shotgun and sniper rifle whilst from within the car to great effect too for variety. Line up the shot on the fuel tanks of other cars and BOOM!
The car can also barge and boost other cars to bits, or you can just floor it out of trouble! The AI of the enemies are great too. They are aggressive when attacking, but if they are low on health, they turn and run!
With the total map size roughly the same size of Far Cry 4, there is a lot to do, and the similarities don’t end there. In some missions you meet the tribe leader of an area and for them to help you, they need you to lower the influence of the main bad guy and his cronies in that area ala Far Cry 4. Instead of towers to climb, here in Mad Max, there are hot air balloons to enter to view the surrounding area.
There are lots of side missions that all have rewards for various things. These are called Wasteland missions. These give a nice variety to the story missions. There are also collectable missions, where you have to either raid camps, or just explore, death races of two types, and finally, again like FC4’s shangri la missions, a stranger helps buff Max’s abilities.
Upgrades, there are Lots and LOTS of upgrade options. Rather than go into detail of them it would be best just to point out what can be upgraded. Max’s melee abilities, weapons, clothing, speed and power. The car he drives and all the attachments you could put on it. The bases he visits can all be upgraded to which make things easier for Max. For example find the parts in side missions for a base to have a constant water supply and each time Max arrives he has his canteen filled up automatically.
The overriding experience here is one of survival to develop your car and Max into a badass to reach the promised land for Max to finally find peace. Max and his car feel like one. You become to realize time spent on foot is dangerous and your car is your lifeline.
Max has to take time to find water, fuel, and food to keep him and his car going in this adventure as all are expendable assets that need replenishing. Thankfully not regularly enough to falter the games pace, but often enough that you need to keep a look out for them and take advantage of them when you do.
No the game doesn’t have a huge variety of mission types, as it’s mainly race, explore, blow stuff up or both but then the ones here are all relevant to the games ethos of the genre, ie survival. You will not find much in a barren world that isn’t relevant. There no self indulgent side missions for better player skins, and nor should there be in a barren world where your focus is survival not looks. Everything here is geared to helping Max be a survivor and become more efficient.
When combat was needed, be it on foot or in the car, it wasn’t always best to go in all guns blazing either. You had to be circumspect of your abilities and the foe you faced very much in the same vein as the other awesome WB game, Shadow of Mordor.
As you spent the time to upgrade, both Max and his car, so then that feeling for being an utter badass grew. Even more when you take down an enemy camp which even the easiest of camps are arn tricky! Although at first it might appear these camp missions are the same, the joy with these missions is each camp is a veritable rabbit warren of places to explore and items to find. It dare i say felt like i was Lara Croft tomb raiding!
Then as you find secret passageways, tanks to blow up, people to fight, the game truly shined. Any wanna be pyrotechnics will get their fill of fire and explosions here as this game is a pyrotechnics wet dream!
All in all, although there is nothing groundbreaking in any new gameplay mechanics it’s just the way it’s all been blended together that makes this game utterly captivating and brilliant to lose yourself in.
There is one big elephant in the room I’ve not mentioned yet though and that is if you are unlucky there is a game ending bug. Yes you’ve read it right, Mad Max is yet another ” broken on release ” game which is unacceptable in this day and age, and insulting if you forked out the full £49.99 for it.. About 5 hours into the game, mission 5 called ” A Wasteland Classic “, depending on if you have already collected enough scrap at this point, you won’t be able to trigger the last sequence ( the car upgrade ) and so ends your story here.
( EDIT – Having re started the game from scratch and getting to the same point again I have now cleared it. You need to make sure you have more than 100 pieces of scrap on you BEFORE you enter the Gutgash stronghold for the first time. Also a patch has been released which possibly addresses this issue too )
Assuming this bug will be fixed, and that you don’t have to re start the game like i did, the only real disappointment from the game was the lame voice acting. The golem like character called “Chumbucket” as Max’s sidekick, has far too many lines of inaudible babble, and I don’t remember Max himself having more to say than one gruff line at a time. Having adjusted the sound settings this helps as the default settings aren’t geared towards TV speakers.
Having seen all the Mad Max films, you could appreciate why Max was such a moody, angry motivated character. However without that knowledge of the films, the games story barely touches his character, with the end result that Max appears as a boring thug.
Also on a technical note, as well as the mission 5 glitch, I also don’t have access to the DLC I have with the game, a car called “the ripper”. Searching the control payout there is also no instruction to tell you that to get into first person view when driving (which looks awesome by the way) it’s hold LB, then tap on the D pad down twice. Do the same to get back to third person view.
However, gripes aside, it’s SOOOO easy to get distracted and enjoy what the game offers. One mission required me to just drive the last two km away back to the base and I was done. I finally got there after an hour or so of being “distracted” by various things, having fun, exploring, chasing things, being chased, or just blowing **** up! It’s equally as much fun with car combat as it is melee combat.
As sandbox games go, only Shadow of Mordor, Just Cause 2, and Red Dead Redemption have enticed my time to play the side missions as well as the main quest. Mad Max is now part of this short and elite list too. Side missions here have much relevance to the game, and not just to pad the content out at all as the collectables you get from these missions make it easier for you as you play the rest.
Mad Max is the best, most accomplished, most like for like movie game I’ve ever played. WB’s Shadow of Mordor was a superb game, and Mad Max is even better. The story is much more coherent, and the graphics are much better too. It’s just a shame WB released Mad Max on the very same day as MGS5, as the notoriety of that may overshadow the brilliance of this.
Add to the great story and the fun things to do I have very quickly now plowed 17 hours into the game, partly just developing my character and car with side missions, partly progressing the story, partly just because this game is a pyrotechnics wet dream, but mostly because it’s all a lot of fun!
Each aspect has been rewarding and fun to play, explore, and I can’t wait to do more, for I am Mad Max, the road warrior, and I like to make things go BOOM !