Review: Mad Max
In keeping with the visual continuity of Mad Max: Fury Road, the second game after the 1990 release on the NES finally landed on consoles and PC. A huge playing area, dusty and rough car chases, a rich customization level for vehicle and the promise of total immersion in a grim universe is what to expect, but is it well made?
The first thing that will strike when you launch Mad Max is the multiple influences that jumps right in your face. Shadow of Mordor, Far Cry 4, Batman Arkham… one thing is sure, Avalanche Studios is not redefining the open world genre, at least not on the surface. The studio (that is known for its Just Cause franchise) honors Miller’s masterpiece, with magnificent panoramas, bluffing sandstorms realism or even in the diversity of stages.
As one would expect, Mad Max revolves mainly around the vehicles you can drive, the Magnum Opus. From the opening cinematic, you are attacked by War Boys who strip you down of your gear, your V8 Interceptor, but at least not without a fight, as you gruesomely chainsaw their leader’s forehead that goes by the name of Scabrous Scrotus (who in the spirit of this year’s movie, is Immortan Joe’s third, psychotic son). Not the kind of person to give up, Max continues on foot searching for his beloved car, and meets a sort of Gollum infused Hunchback of Notre Dame mechanic called Chumbucket. This one peculiar character shows him the way to building the prefect vehicle for Max’s needs, called the Magnum Opus which will almost be the game’s second main character. And thus begins Max’s long journey to find enough upgrades for his newest wheeled stallion, to make the journey to the promised Plains of Silence where he aims to seek refuge and redemption for his sins.
Avalanche Studios is not redefining the open world genre, at least not on the surface
Throughout your adventure, your car will evolve, and you will also have the opportunity to recover other vehicles by the name of Archangels. However, before we get there, you will need several parts that will be accessible only by reducing the threat level of specific territories or by defeating gang leaders. A perfect opportunity to enjoy the artistic direction that is so close to the universe of Mad Max.
In short, everything is related Avalanche Studios’ game is based on scavenging for scrap that will be required to build or purchase equipment for Max and his gasoline stallion. Once enough scrap in your purse, you can then grab improved engines, shields, etc. In total, there’s more than 18 part that can be upgradeable, from side burners, to sniper rifle or even repair speed of Chum.
All this leads to a gaming experience that is revolving around driving, because you will get more overpowered monsters on the road and you will feel forced to attack convoys or defend yourself from a stronger opponents. Moreover, driving, necessarily arcade oriented, is quite pleasant although it will require a period of adaptation depending on the vehicle. Keeping in mind you can steal or hijack a gang top vehicle should give you an incentive to aim for big and dangerous catch, but it’s not worth it on the long run as you can’t upgrade its armament and specific Magnus Opus parts like the nitrous.
As with other post-apocalyptic games, Mad Max is linked to survival, an element core to the lore of franchise. You will constantly need to refuel your car, find water or even very scarce and valuable ammunition. The first resource, scattered in jerry cans around the open world map, also serves you as weapon, once ignited, destroying doors. Do not forget to fill your water bottle when you pass a water source, as it acts as a health regenerating currency, crucial when you find yourself unprepared for a swarm of enemies or in a violent sandstorm which can be deadly for your health. However, if you are sufficiently well prepared, nothing will prevent you from facing the storms (which are randomly generated instances and can sometimes take a heavy load on your frame rates) and find large amounts of scrap. Finally, the ammunition will also be essential to overcome some gangs especially as your weapon may be the only tool during chases and crowded brawls.
Like most open-world games, there’s a plethora of side mission and crucial quests to be done to for critical upgrade for both your characters (plural because I consider the Magnus Opus a main character). Once you have freed up camps, these will be rebuilt by allies who, at regular intervals, will offer you free scrap. You can also build several projects for each of the allied gang’s fortresses, in order to obtain a regular supply of food, water and ammunition when you reach it. In short, everything in Mad Max push you to search every corner of the map which, which can be a great addiction for OCD players.
When it comes to sound factor of the game, Mad Max is rather simple on that note. The soundtrack feels likes its been fitted with royalty free tunes, which is a letdown considering the teasing trailers of the game were using the likes of AC/DC Hells Bells and Soul of a Man by Steven Stern (which you also listen to in the opening cinematics). On the note of voice acting, Max himself has a perfect Australian accent fitting for the Miller’s character, but it felt weird to hear all other characters in an American voice. Are we supposed to be in a post-apocalyptic Australia? What are these Yankees doing there?
Although the title is as good surprise, like how Shadow of Mordor was to me, there’s several problems other than the frame rate drops in some instances. The main story, for someone who is quite fond of Mad Max as a franchise could’ve been better. Second annoying thing is Max’ clumsy animations, especially when it comes to the demanding precise interaction actions with the scenery and loot to progress or operate mechanisms, his weird jumping mechanics (he can only jump like 5cm off the ground) and a huge lack of variety in the objectives, which are optional yet imposed in some way. If we had to summarize all objectives, they are mainly split into destroying gang fortresses, totems and races around the wasteland.
Ultimately, Mad Max remains strong enough to not make us regret our purchase, especially when combat phases have a hint of the Batman Arkham franchise’s Free Flow system. While the result is clunkier and more aggressive than the bat mode, the enemies’ movement are easily exploited to your advantage, the counter system is clunky, but the whole remains compelling enough not to feel aggrieved. In the end, Mad Max is still a generous game that will easily appeal to lovers of the franchise and anyone waiting to get back into an open world with a controlled atmosphere, but can be boring in some instances.
Mad Max was reviewed using an Xbox One retail copy of the game provided by Warner Bros. Games. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC in both retail and online store releases. The review was done after the release of the day one patch. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• A vast open world
• A beautifully painted universe
• Max’s voice acting
• Driving dynamics and violent clashes
• The very thorough customization
• The Capture mode
• Enough content for a long lifespan
• A huge lack of variety in missions
• Max's interactions with the scenery is limited
• A very boring story to be honest
• All these secondary american voice acting don't fit
• Some huge (but rare) framerate drops on consoles