One sentence review: Mad Max is a visceral and brutal driving game that succeeds in making the player feel like the ‘wasteland legend’ that Max is supposed to be- even if the story is pretty sparse.
Tailing off of the popularity of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Avalanche studios have created a brutal and hostile wasteland that mirrors the feel of the movies in a very refreshing way. If this could be called a ‘movie adaptation’ then it is definitely one of the most successful that has ever been produced. Mad Max is a single-player ‘arkham-like’ all mixed in with the classical Avalanche studios open world and destruction that has been seen in the Just Cause series. Combine these elements with a car customization system and some pretty awesome destruction and you have Mad Max. In short, Mad Max is the master of moments. What I mean by this is throughout this game you will feel like the strongest and most fearsome force in the wasteland so many times that you end up really letting it go to your head. So many times I wandered into a camp full of war boys only to fight them all head-on and *just* scrape by with my life intact. The combat system is a fairly carbon copy of the Batman Arkham series that has been popping up more and more throughout the last few years. While it is a solid combat system, it is becoming a little dated and overused. The inclusion of the Fury meter helps liven up the combat. When you chain a long enough combo, Max goes into a state called ‘Fury Mode.’ In this state, all of Max’s combos hit harder and on successful counters he will break arms and legs like they are made of styrofoam. While this is all very cool, it doesn’t have much of a lasting effect on the enemies. After snapping a war boy’s arm in half he gets right back up and continues to fight. This is the main reason why the combat is the biggest detraction from the game by far. The sound effects are spot on and gruesome when chained together, but it is probably the same fighting system you have seen time and time again from Shadows of Mordor and the Arkham series, if not more brutal. Because you spend a good amount of time in your car the combat isn’t a huge detraction, but it is a detraction nonetheless.
The driving however, is fantastic. The developers definitely knew what feel they were going for when they created the Magnum Opus (the car you drive and upgrade throughout the game). While you can drive other cars, you will spend a good majority of your time in whatever version of the Magnum Opus you currently have. This was a great idea on the part of the developers because it attaches you to your car- in the same way that Max is attached to the ‘Black-on-Black.’ You customize and tailor the machine to your whim and eventually come out with a car that is your own creation. You can add every defensive item to your car, but even with the biggest V-8 engine you will be a lumbering giant struggling to keep up with anyone. You can be an offensive machine and be extremely fast and hit hard but explode at the slightest touch. You can also sit in a comfortable middle ground if you so wish. The car is yours to do what you want with and it really is an important part of the Mad Max universe to have that attachment to a machine. The driving combat on top of all of this is great as well. You have a few different types of specialized cars: cars designed to suicide bomb you, cars designed to throw ‘thunder-poons’ at you, cars designed to ram you at full speed, cars designed to carry scrap from one place to another, cars designed to slowly wear down the armor on your car- you get the idea. With so much variation, the car battles rarely unfold the same way and often take a fairly signifigant amount of time to take down. The convoys are especially tough because they often have about 7-10 cars as an escort that you have to destroy to then get a chance to take out the target vehicle at the front of the convoy. This game thrives on a certain amount of difficulty that is always present but never overt. From the first to the last battle you will always be struggling to stay alive and that is something that makes Mad Max special as a video game.
Lastly, the environment has to be mentioned. Whatever amount of people that designed the environment and the team behind the art direction did an incredible job. While large swaths of the wasteland seem the same, at a closer glance you notice that even though it is a desert, there is an incredible amount of story-telling being done through the environment itself. Personally, I loved the fact that most of the game takes place on a dried out sea bed, and that Max is intending to cross the “Plains of Silence”- otherwise known as the ocean. Through the rusted out hulls of ships you can tell that you are in what was an once an active port and that humanity altered the modern day objects to fit the new post-apocalyptic world. Finally, we come to the sandstorms. The first time you encounter a random sandstorm you will definitely remember it- mainly because it will more than likely come at a really inconveinent time.The sandstorms are the absolute coolest part of this game. As mentioned earlier, the difficulty never really goes away as the game progresses and occasionally the game will throw a sandstorm at you to have you remember who’s in charge.
If a normal sandstorm doesn’t completely tear apart your car, you can very rarely encounter a black sandstorm. A black sandstorm blocks all noise except for the wind of the storm, has large chunks of metal just flying through it that rip apart your armor, and has lightning that will strike you if you aren’t careful. The reward for braving a sandstorm and not cowering under a rock is the large boxes of scrap (the in-game currency) floating around through the storm, usually ranging from 100-150 scrap per box with up to 4 boxes. Personally, I love that the developers added a pseudo-extreme mode directly into the gameplay and opted to reward players with a huge payout of scrap for braving the storm.
Moments are a thing that Mad Max expertly crafts. From the first time you land a combo and snap an enemy’s arm in half, to the first time you ride triumphantly through a black sandstorm and survive (or don’t), you will have moments to recount with fellow Mad Max players. Mad Max puts its arm around you and asks you to try being Mad- try being a little crazy and see what memories you create.