Game Name: Mad Max
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher(s): Warner Bros
Release Date: 4.09.15
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Avalanche Studios must have a penchant for mayhem. They publicly declared their love for all things balls-to-the-wall by birthing the effortless Just Cause franchise back in ’06, and it seems only fitting that they now turn their attention to George Miller’s behemoth of bonkers – Mad Max. Filling that odd space between ‘spiritual successor’ and ‘companion piece’ – Mad Max faithfully observes the mythology of the Mel Gibson film-era whilst borrowing visual cues from this summers’ runaway hit, Mad Max: Fury Road. Surely this is all a recipe for success?
Fury Road was my film of the year but I have to admit the plot was the cinematic equivalent of watching a Stoke City football match – the ball is booted straight up the field, then comes straight back down again. I’m sad to concede the Mad Max videogame borrows a little bit more than just aesthetic advice from Miller’s latest film, it borrows the entire absence of narrative too. This actually doesn’t bother me in the slightest – I doubt there’s many gamers out there picking up a copy of Mad Max with a hand-cannon wielding copper on the front cover, a trail of death and destruction in his wake, thinking “Ooh, I hope this is the next Gone Girl”. The plot simply boils down to this: in pursuit of his stolen vehicle ‘The Interceptor’, Max Rockatansky must buddy up with a deranged mechanic named Chumbucket and slowly piece together parts of an all-together more impressive vehicle, the Magnum Opus. Once the Magnum Opus is complete, absolute carnage can rain down on Max’s enemies like a cup of hot cocoa. Get it? Got it? Good.
As a sad result of the Metal Gear Solid V launch this month – Mad Max is a game that has undoubtedly swerved the hype, Tokyo-drifted under the gaming radar and full-throttled its way to the top of my to-do list. The game plays like the love child of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Twisted Metal and Batman: Arkham Asylum, with Max’s combat reduced to a simple series of light, heavy and counter-attacks and the vehicular combat reduced to a few button combinations that increase in complexity as you unlock more weapons for your Magnum Opus. The gameplay and controls aren’t over-egged and simply serve as a pleasant crux for gamers to get their adrenaline fix.
Whilst doing my research, I spied one critic who had complained that Avalanche Studios’ latest outing was “trying to be too many things at once”. I’m not sure what game they were playing – if anything, the game is trying to be too little at once. It feels like an excellent PlayStation 2 game and while that definitely sounds like damning with faint praise, I mean it wholeheartedly as a compliment. It’s a game with a very simple core idea and unlike the aforementioned Metal Gear; it doesn’t bombard you with a ridiculous bible of content to memorise. There is loot to collect, scrap to source and upgrades to earn – aside from that, the game is a sharp, concise arcade-like shoot-em-up/racer hybrid that just wants you to have fun with it. It’s definitely what the doctor ordered; a loud, louder, loudest game about blasting your way through hoards of road-warriors as you fight to become the king of the ring.
Driving your car is a little tricky to adjust to in the beginning, as are the slightly indie-alternative set of controls (RT sprint, LB aim, B to shoot on the Xbox One) – however over time these become second nature. The more time you commit to searching for car-upgrades the better; you start with a basic chassis and wheels but can quickly modify your makeshift tank with an intoxicating variety of flamethrowers, shells, spikes and more as you complete story missions. You can also steal cars from various enemies littered across the map – however your key focus will always be your own personal hot rod. Making modifications is good clean fun, particularly when you have a lot of scrap to purchase upgrades or have the support of friendly factions who oppose Scabrous Scrotus’ (don’t ask) evil regime. Those friendly factions are home to helpful strongholds which become pivotal to stocking you with plenty of scrap (currency), water (health) and fuel (err, fuel).
The games’ very own magnum opus comes in the form of its beautifully realised Australian-outback wasteland. I haven’t seen such an enthralling wasteland in a game before and the attention to detail is utterly astounding. Tiny footprints in the sand as you tiptoe around an enemy ‘top dog’, scorched earth in your wake as you avoid bullet storms and molten death, the way the day and night cycle teases you with beautiful vistas – this is a playground worthy of exploration and flat out enjoyment. Because of its sheer vastness, the game doesn’t quite nail the same spirit of ‘everything louder than everything else’ that the 2015 film does; you’ll go through dry periods of driving to and from the repair shack to see Chumbucket – but that eventually falls by the wayside as you realise Avalanche Studios have achieved the seemingly impossible by building a literal and metaphorical sandbox that you simply need to play in.
Overall, Mad Max is a popcorn title of the highest degree. It’s beautiful to look at, effortless to pick up and a joy to play; well worthy of franchises’ name. While I applaud its simplicity and core gameplay ideas, MM leaves room for a lot of repetition, which you’ll undoubtedly encounter as you surpass the 6-hour-mark. For some players it’ll be a simple case of taking a few breaks in your play-throughs, although I know for a lot of hardcore gamers there will be too much continuous button-bashing for their liking. For me – MM isn’t anywhere near as mad as it should be, yet I doubt you’ll find more bang for your buck from a videogame this year. Expect high-octane pedal-to-the-medal carnage from this one and I wholeheartedly implore you to experience a videogaming first: a wasteland without rules.
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