Review: Mad Max (2015)

Release date: 2015
Version played: Xbox One in 2015

After the release of Mad Max: Fury Road to resounding success (even if I wasn’t a huge fan), it was only a matter of time until a video game in this new take on the post-apocalyptic universe was released. Developed by Avalanche Studios (of Just Cause fame), and released under the Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment banner (Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor), 2015’s Mad Max is simultaneously a sequel to the earlier trilogy, a prequel to Fury Road, and a standalone game of its own. The game hopes to both flesh out the (arguably rather lacking) character of Max, as well as answer a few other questions you may not have even known you wanted to ask.

+ the story, taking place at an indeterminable time in the Mad Max timeline (which later becomes more clear), sees Max abandoned to die in the desert after Scabrous Scrotus (son of Fury Road‘s Immortan Joe) steals his car. This puts you on the path towards meeting Chumbucket a wasteland “black finger” (mechanic), and building your new car, the Magnum Opus. The story isn’t going to be winning any awards, but it is deep enough to get involved in, and the few twists and turns along the way lead nicely into event from the films
+ in terms of characters, the two most important are great. Max is rugged and (thankfully, because he almost wasn’t) Australian, and his overzealous mechanic, Chumbucket, is fanatic and twitchy. Both are voiced wonderfully, though Max looks somewhere between both films film incarnations (Mel Gibson and Tom Hardy), as well as Liam McIntyre, of TV’s Spartacus. Chumbucket is like some sort of mixture of Gollum and the hunchback Ephiates from 300
+ the main selling point of the game is, of course, your completely customisable Magnum Opus, Max’s car after his classic Interceptor is taken from him. Finding the perfect mix between strength, speed and defense, as well as which weapons you take the most pleasure in, is the high point of the game, and thankfully so considering the large amount of driving you’ll be doing (with an option for first-person viewing, too)
+ the game is graphically quite impressive. The various dust storms and explosions you will see in abundance all look great, and all the characters have details such as stubble and scars that never look like they are just tacked onto the models. Finding Max involved in a scuffle with some enemy vehicles just as a storm rolled in was a personal highlight
+ there are many little things that keep the game enjoyable, even in long stretches of travelling or simply just between missions: the steering wheel is on the right, as you’d expect here in Australia; tire tracks and footprints appear realistically, and disappear relatively realistically in the sand-covered Wastes; the animations for certain actions, such as repairing your Magnum Opus, change according to the type of damage it received

Simple but satisfying combat doesn’t push the boundary like it should.

– I was tossing and turning between putting this in the positive or negative section, but it’s ended up here: the combat is basically a dumbed-down, clunkier and more violent version of the Batman: Arkham series’ combat. I’ve written recently about how I think this benchmark is wearing a bit thin, and that article was in fact brought on by Mad Max’s system. New skills are unlocked as your Legend grows, but it still boils down to ‘mash X until the big yellow counter button appears’
– there are a few strange control choices, although one important was able to be rectified with an alternate control scheme (which switched only those two action buttons; dodge was originally tied to the right bumper (RB) but was able to be switched to (B). This also changed the ranged attack /from/ (B) to (RB)). The other major strange button selection is that jump (which is more like a short hop anyway) is linked to the left trigger, and to interact with your surroundings requires you to hold the (A) button, rather than simply press it. Those few extra seconds can mean life and death when trying to pick up a weapon mid-fight
– the cutscene/cinematics are surprisingly quite unattractive. After the similarly-styled Shadow of Mordor had very accurate lip-syncing, Mad Max‘s are disappointingly back to the classic ‘flapping lips when that character is talking’
– the loading times to begin the game/after death are relatively long, but the seamless transition between open world driving and entering a stronghold on foot makes this reasoning clear; Still, it is jarring to die to either a glitch or pure bad luck, and have to sit through a loading screen
– converse to the little things mentioned above, there are a handful of little negatives: Max is seemingly one of only a handful of Australians in Australia (and even then, he says ‘gas’ instead of ‘petrol’ etc.); defeated cars and enemy personnel disappear in an instant even if you are looking at them, once they have been defeated for a certain amount of time; small typos in the subtitles

> as strange as it sounds, the best comparison I could make to other games is that Mad Max is Red Dead Redemption meets Burnout, with Batman: Arkham combat
> if you continually get into the Magnum Opus from the left, Chumbucket eventually mentions it. Fantastic foresight by the developers
> there are numerous Mad Max, Mel Gibson and Tom Hardy easter eggs throughout. A personal favourite was an enemy yelling ‘you’re a big guy’ as I went to attack him

Should you play this game: I enjoyed this game, and I think you will too. Compared to other open world games, such as the fantastic Red Dead Redemption or even something like Assassin’s Creed IV, it may be lacking in content, but the things it does have are certainly worth a look at least once. Maybe worth a rental (do people even do that anymore?) or just borrow it from a mate.

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