After watching this Years Mad Max Fury Road I was still itching for more of the Road Warrior. Will this game be enough to satiate my lust for explosions, the precious juice and shiny chrome?
Published by Warner Bros and developed by the War Boys at Avalanche studios Mad Max certainly makes an impact. You play the main protagonist of the franchise, Mad Max. The game starts with a set up scenario where you lose everything due to a run in with a particularly nasty Warlord called Scrotus. They steal your car and tear the clothes from your back and leave you for dead. A hunchback mechanic that goes by the name Chumbucket, who reminded me a lot of Smeagol from Lord of the Rings, soon finds you. He worships you as some kind of saint of the combustions gods and vows to help you get your car back. So your Journey for revenge begins.
Straight off the bat you are taught survival skills and get a basic car after completing the tutorial mission. Scavenging is something you will become accustomed to very quickly. Understanding your limited supplies and where to reacquire them again is key. Eventually after yet another tricky situation you get to one of the few main bases of the survivors of the wasteland. This is where the game opens up as new options become available. You can upgrade bases to replenish your supplies upon entering a base. There of course, is a catch; you have to steal components from enemy bases and camps. In typical Mad Max style it gives you very selfish reasons to explore and plunder.
To do this you will require personal upgrades that are governed by your legend meter. Simply doing anything, especially completing challenges, will increase your level. Eventually giving you access to improved personal armour, weapon and cosmetic options. Most upgrades for you car only become unlocked by completing specific missions. You also have Archangel custom models that give better base rate stats for you to build around. These have to be built by unlocking certain parts in a similar fashion by completing specific missions.
The music score is haunting and purposeful. By far this game has possibly the most gorgeous desert I’ve seen in a video game. The wastelands are dead and barren and yet somehow alive and vibrant. Part of buildings and boats pierce through the landscape as remnants of a world that once was. There are occasional sandstorms that are just as devastating as they can be beautiful to watch the attention to detail is extremely impressive. From fire-spitting out of your engine and igniting the floor below, to the visible breath at night as the desert goes from scorching hot to deathly cold, you can tell a passionate team made this game.
The car is an extension of Max and is primarily used to destroy base boarder defenses and general nuisances of the wastes. Primarily snipers that are deadly the moment you see a glint of their scope and rocket towers. Both of which can be overcome with your handy harpoon. The Harpoon has unlimited ammo but has a slow reload time that can be sped up with upgrades. You can pull parts off cars and pull down weak towers and gateways. However, the most fun is to target snipers or drivers with it for comic results. You will acquire a sniper rifle that is extremely satisfying to use on enemies that think themselves safe within fortified walls. You can use your trusty shotgun though bare in mind this is your most useful weapon in close combat so you have to keep an eye on ammo conservation. Later you will get the Thunderpoon upgrade and be able to fire exploding harpoons. These tend to help you conserve shotgun ammo easier. However, the ammo is also limited and they are especially good at removing rocket towers and stronghold gates so you will need to use them just as sparingly. Overall the car handles well with a simplified driving control system. R2 Accelerate and L2 is break, reverse and tap it while turning to handbrake at speed. X is boost and L1 is kind of like V.A.T.S. from Fallout 3 as it slows time and gives you the opportunity to select a targeted weakness. Whether it is drivers, snipers or fuel canisters on the back of enemy cars use this skill and press O to take it out with precision. If you want to drive in first person simply press the D-pad down twice.
The strongholds tend to have multiple routes through them. There’s no stealth or cover system of any kind. You run through the bases blowing up fuel dumps and fighting enemies of increasing variety. The close combat is reminiscent of Shadow of Mordor more so than the Arkham series. It feels more like a scrap, which fits the Mad Max persona. Maintaining combos are key as they build a rage meter that instantly activates opening up much harder and more damaging moves. Your parry is a bit more interesting than usual as you can time a perfect parry that initiates a counter grapple. Each punch feels like it connects and has impact. The only problems I found during combat the occasional camera angle made enemies hard to see. This is because in vehicle of human mode you are in charge of the camera and need to keep adjusting it. I often rolled out of harm and then manually changed the camera by clicking R3 to center it. This still doesn’t excuse it happening in the first place.
One of the most useful items you will come across is fuel canisters. They can be ignited and used to blow open armoured doors or be used as a grenade on a group of War Boys. At first I wasn’t sure about the surprising abundance of fuel especially when there’s so little of anything else. However, it makes sense when you take the context of the game into account. The massive oil refinery in the distance is supporting the War Boys. So water and food are rightly the most rare of valuable resources you need to scavenge. Fuel there’s plenty of but you will have to take it from those that have it. A nice touch was being able to hold fuel canisters weapons while climbing ledges and ladders. For some reason you can’t take weapons with you when you enter the car. There are air balloons that once activated become fast travel points. These balloons enable you to get high enough to look over the landscape with your binoculars to pinpoint key enemy locations. Some of these positions have a balloon that needs refueling but has no fuel on site. Fortunately you can store a full fuel can at the back of your car for such an occasion.
There are certain strongholds that have a Top Dog boss character to beat. You will complete the stronghold as usual until you get to a certain area. This becomes a close combat arena surrounded by flamethrowers. The higher the difficulty of the base the more War Boy grunts you have to contend with. The Top Dog himself is a run of the mill bullfight boss. Not much more than dodge, hit, dodge and repeat, which was ok but nothing really special. The Final Boss of the game is slightly different, as you need to have your car ready to race in order to get close to Scrotus.
The characters in this game are interesting and each has their own agenda. There are various different missions from main characters that can be done whenever you want. Each is interesting in its own right often scouring areas of the wastelands that are remnants of the past. Driving around inside a now derelict airport was kind of cool. Meeting yet another new enemy type there was even better. Not only are these missions fun and engaging they unlock some of the best upgrades for your car. Max is portrayed correctly as a selfish man who only makes seemingly altruistic acts because they turn out to be profitable. Giving water to wasteland wanderers dying of thirst for example will open up a new place to scavenge.
Ultimately Mad Max is huge, detailed and thoroughly satisfying. Anyone who enjoyed Shadow of Mordor I highly recommend Mad Max as a must buy title. This game is similar in many respects while still maintaining enough of it’s own identity to be a different experience overall. There are weekly events to replay for but other than not much else. I’m actually glad the game remained focused on the single player experience as it’s actually paid off. I actually struggled to find faults with Mad Max. Yeah, it has a few areas that it falls a bit short but it’s nothing that’s really game breaking or prevents the game being a hell of a lot of fun. There are some control conflicts like refuel being the same button as ignite causing many a fuel container to go to waste. That’s said, the game is fun and rewarding with decent difficulty scaling throughout so even in the end game the challenge is still there. I always felt powerful but never over powered. There is always a legitimate risk of dying to overwhelming odds. The games characters especially Chumbucket carried me through an amazing ride of explosions, grinding gears, metal on chrome, action and adventure. I can’t say this clearly enough. You ARE Mad Max in Avalanche studio’s Magnum Opus that cries, “Witness me!” before blasting you with a violent explosion of just how awesome it really is to be in the World of the Road Warrior.
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