Clouded by a vague addiction to playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain it’s taken us a little while to get enough gaming time on the Avalanche Studios Mad Max game to finish up our review. Now that we’ve destroyed a fair few camps, got to grips with the unadulterated driving and fighting engine and roamed around the massive open world wasteland setting we can officially say that it’s an assault to the senses when it gets up to full frenetic speed.
For the most part that’s a good thing as it delivers a fast-paced, adrenaline rush experience along the way, but every now and again the camera controls are whipped away from you when you drive over a bump in the desert or get cornered in a dark underground pit. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that this normally happens when you’re in a pinch with a gang of Scrotus War Boys on your tail in heavily armoured machines of death, or a pack of frothing mentalists tooled up to the high teeth trying to take it in turns to beat the dog food out of you. It invariably leaves you feeling disoriented and a little bit frustrated, which makes for a slightly annoying gameplay feature in what would otherwise have been a near faultless game.
Released in September 2015 on the Xbox ONE, PlayStation 4 and PC, it’s a classic 3rd person action adventure with a dystopian twist that brings the scorched earth of the Mad Max concept to the world of computer gaming. On the whole it achieves this very incredibly well and while it doesn’t necessarily tie in all that much with the Fury Road movie storyline, apart from a few character references, it does deliver a very accurate representation of George Miller’s post apocalyptic vision.
It was always going to be difficult for the game to get things too far wrong from a story point of view. All Avalanche really needed to do was to stick to Miller’s general gist and they’d deliver a solid plot to go along with all the hard-hitting impact of the game and that’s exactly what they’ve done. It fits in well with the history of the series and even has a minor link in to Mad Max: Fury Road with the presence of Immortan Joe’s brilliantly named son, Scrabulus Scrotus.
It’s based on the film series, but doesn’t tie into it directly, acting more like a breakaway plot with significant similarities and links with the big screen series. You play Max Rockatanski and you find yourself caught up in the sand dune battles of warring factions out in the wilds of the Australian outback. Most of the characters you encounter are just as crazy as they are in the film, with Chumbucket being the most featured as Max’s newfound buddy, acolyte and mechanic.
With Chumbucket’s help you need to construct the ultimate road warrior car, a project the humpbacked mechanic calls the Magnus Opus. This makes for a good plot device to link in with the gameplay action of the game as you take on all enemies, find allies and collect the scrap and parts you need to make the car the most ferocious on the road in order to exact your revenge on Scrotus’ horde.
While this works well enough to set the game up, it doesn’t really do a great deal to add to the story all that much, both in terms of the development of the character or the emotional drama and relationships that are usually at the heart of every other Mad Max outing. One of the reasons games like The Last Of Us and Grand Theft Auto V work so well is because they have a sweeping and immersive storyline that hooks you in completely and while the Mad Max game moves in this direction, the story isn’t quite a masterpiece.
Plot review score: 3/5
There are a lot of positives to the gaming experience. The occasional disorienting camera control issue aside, it’s kind of hard to fault the gameplay action that is packed into ever resumed game we played while making it through the adventure. The only problem is that it doesn’t really do all that much to add to the 3rd person shooter, fighter and driver concept that has been done so well previously by Grand Theft Auto V.
The most notable development is the vehicle combat element of the gameplay, which kicks in a lot as Scrabulous Scrotus’ road warrior psychopaths try to destroy you and the Magnum Opus. It’s about as advanced as it comes with slick controls, responsive action and all terrain driving, with the addition of damage levels and Chumbucket’s mechanic skills making for a clever added game management factor. You’ve only got to get close to one of Scrotus’ war dogs and you’ll suddenly find yourself in the thick of a fast-paced road battle, using everything from side barges and nitro boost rams to shotgun blasts and the incredibly useful grappling hook harpoon.
All of these, along with the sniper rifle comedy handy whenever you want to assault one of the many enemy outposts that are dotted around the terrain. Cracking these is a big part of your progression throughout the game as they’ll give you access to more fuel, upgrades, scrap, parts and a dramatically lowered hostility level in the region. However, more importantly they’re also a lot of fun to front up to and bring down single-handedly, with a lot of Wars Boys to pummel along the way.
It may not add all that much in terms of new ideas to the fight system of the game, but it does deliver a well crafted block and attack mechanism that makes any confrontation more than a bit exciting, especially as your skills and move set develop later on. The frenzy attack mode that Max goes into if you perform perfect blocks is brutal and you get a real sense of impact when you contact full force with a roundhouse in the face of one of the slathering horde.
As with a lot of modern day 3rd person action adventures, upgrades are a big part of the game with a lot of options to add to Max’s arsenal, skills and resources. However, the most important upgrades come to the Magnum Opus, which will make it a lot easier to take on the more ferociously difficult enemy camps a and take big strides through the game’s storyline, like the need to fit the explosive thunderpoon to make it through the heavily guarded Jaw. All of this can be fitted through Chumbumket’s garage system, which is pretty easy to navigate around with intuitive controls, but it puts a lot of emphasis on getting the scrap and parts you need for each upgrade.
This does a good job of prompting you to head out in search of the resources you need, scouring the landscape from the high flying balloons to hind down all opportunities for bumper hauls. It also forces you into taking on bigger and bigger challenges and before too long you’re completely immersed in the savage reality of the game.
One thing is for certain though, Mad Max game anything but a stealth exercise, which is kind of refreshing after all of the sneaking we’ve done in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Here the emphasis is on an all out, full frontal attack style of gaming and it’s a whole lot of fun as a result. If you want to take out an enemy camp you’ll need to snipe the snipers, tair down the gate and run in with a devil-may-care attitude to smash your way through any War Boy stupid enough to get in your way.
However, you will need to reign in your frustration whenever your decimation is ruined by a nasty glitch, which results in your loot, post carnage, disappearing into thin air. It’s even more annoying when it happens to be a scrap wagon that you’ve caught against to unseat the driver, which would have given you a big boost of upgrade material. Needless to say, that’s already happened to us quite recently, so a month or so of updates haven’t taken all of the bugs out of the system.
Another minor annoyance is the fact that Max is constricted in terms of his vertical movement. Present him with a ledge that doesn’t have a yellow ‘climb’ marker or a rock formation at just shoulder height and he’s completely flummoxed. While it’s not quite as big a deal as it was in our review of The Phantom Pain, it does make us question the total emmersion of the game if you can’t at least attempt to scramble over some rocks. The Magnus Opus has got better climbing skills than Max, which just seems kind of wrong.
Gameplay review score: 4.2/5
The only real negative for us where the game’s graphics are concerned is in the disappearing enemies and cars glitch mentioned above. Other than that it’s a massive triumph for the artists and developers at Avalanche, who have constructed a very believable Mad Max universe in which to stomp around in. The visuals are stunning with some beautiful environmental features, lighting, texture and terrain.
Draw distances are long and the vistas are epic, providing more than a few jaw dropping moments. In addition to a brilliant landscape, the animation of the cars and characters works very well to deliver a credible gaming experience in the post apocalyptic world of doom and disorder.
Faces and character artwork is decent, but not stand-out, but Max’s movement is pretty slick, whether he’s running or fighting a pack of War Boys. There are also some cool effects to look out for like the hyper speed sensation that you get when you hit the nitro boost or the varying focus on the binoculars you use to scope out camps and snipers hidden in the impressive terrain.
Graphics review score: 4.4/5
Though it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, what it does it does well. The Mad Max game is a solid 3rd person action adventure with a decent story, strong gameplay features and cool graphics. There’s a lot of content to make it through and it will keep you entertained for hours on end as you try to bring a certain order back to the twisted wasteland.
It delivers a truly credible version of George Miller’s messed up world of the future past with an attacking sentimentality that’s fitting of the Max Rockatanski name. The focus on vehicles works well and with the addition of tough fight sequences, challenging game development and a sophisticated upgrade and resource system there’s a lot to keep you on your toes as you career around in the Magnum Opus.
Mad Max game review: 4/5