Mad Max is a game that should’ve been made long ago. The films are cult legends, even the shitty one with Tina Turner. Fury Road reinvigorated the franchise and brought it back into public consciousness despite the game missing the film’s release by months (though landed alongside the DVD release). Open world games have grown in sophistication, opening up possibilities. Mad Max is about driving hard, being mad and fighting crazy people. As open world titles go this game a no brainer. So why hasn’t it gotten the love it deserves? As fun as Mad Max can be, it doesn’t feel like it’s gotten much TLC.
Let’s be straight about this though: the Mad Max franchise isn’t about intellectual discovery or a deep narrative. It’s about watching angry, psychotic people committing mass vehicular manslaughter as an unhinged Mel Gibson stomps the desert. The game pretty much reflects this down to the letter, minus Mel Gibson. Instead Max is voiced by a man I swore was Kano from the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie (it’s not unfortunately, for the record). Avalanche Studios did a great job making the world look very gritty and real. This is where the Photo Editor is a blast to mess with, as you creator your own Road Warrior-styled shots that look great.
Much of Mad Max’s gameplay has been cribbed from other games, sort of like how Darksiders played out. Combat is taken directly from the Batman Arkham series; it’s free-roaming, systematic base-blowing up/wire-shooting antics was provided by Just Cause (which was also developed by Max’s creators), and a fun photo editor as last seen in Shadow of Mordor. The whole package comes together alright but doesn’t feel wholly fleshed out. Combat feels sluggish and without fluidity. I get Max isn’t Batman. You’re a banged up wastelander, but combat still doesn’t feel responsive. It’s also easy to simply blast on the offensive and roll away, versus trying to take on crowds of people with a stunted counter system.
The game forces you into on-foot confrontations more than it should. Car combat is the star of the game, hands down. Fighting off four cars while blaring down the wastes is a blast, ramming into each other at high speed is exciting. Especially when you start tooling around with your grappling hooks and pulling drivers right out of their cars, or ripping their wheels off. Fighting fisticuffs? Not as great as you’d think.
On-foot controls feel sluggish and awkward, but have a satisfying sound to knocking someone out. While Max is always equipped with a shotgun (and a sniper rifle in the Magnum Opus), gunplay is super weak and awkward to control. Not to metion ammo is in short supply (both on the field and how much you can carry), so for the most part you’ll need to rely on Max’s fists to solve most of your out-of-the-car problems.
Outside of base-busting, committing public service by picking up scraps and playing through the story there aren’t much else in the way of distractions. There are desert legend quests given by specific NPCs that challenge you to hit certain jumps and kill small groups of enemies, but the biggest side missions are death runs. It’s what it sounds like: races designed with car combat in mind. To get to the point, they’ll likely be the last things you choose to do since they are largely frustrating races.
Mad Max is a lot of fun buried under a lot of repetition. Base busting, or just rolling in with your car and picking fights to clear outposts, is a lot of fun. Max is a bad ass and isn’t intimidated by jackasses painted white. After some upgrades Max is a force to be reckoned with both in and out of his car. Enhanced shotgun kills that freak your opponents out, prolonged rage mode to crush opponents quicker, crushing knockout blows are waiting. Granted you have the patience to keep engaging in the same fetch activities over and over and over.
Mandatory Score: 6/10
Fans of the films will get a kick out of taking to the wastelands Road Warrior style. It’s also a fun, post-apocalyptic distraction until Fallout 4 ships out in November. However there are plenty of other action games out there, so it’s hard for me to recommend Mad Max at full price. Much like the films this isn’t one of those games you need to look deep into. Instead it asks you to accept it at superficial value and just roll with it. If you can get past its short comings, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Especially since this is the first time proper fans have gotten the chance to be in the (very unlucky) shoes of Max.
Personal Score: 7/10
For the all the negativity I’ve had throughout this review, I really like this game because I like the source material. The game does a good job of putting me into the mindset that makes the movies so much fun. It’s not about a strong narrative, because there isn’t one. It isn’t about anything else exception knocking people out, starting fires, blowing things up and running goons over. It’s a game I can come home from work to play that doesn’t require me to focus hard. Just sit back, crack open a beer, and enjoy.