I've had time to sit and soak in just what happened during Mad Max from Avalanche Studios. I'm a massive fan of the film franchise and unreservedly loved Fury Road.
I mention Fury Road
because the game does have some ties to the universe, even if they are not explicit, this might as well be a prequel to the film. You play as Max, a man who has lost everything - his family, his sanity and all that was left of him was his car, the Black-on-Black, the classic interceptor from the films and even that was taken away from him by a monstrous barely human creature called Scabrous Scrotus.
After the intro, the dust settles and Max finds himself unwillingly befriended by a hunchback called Chumbucket, a Blackfinger (zealous worshippers of all things mechanical, but especially vehicular) who leads you back to his hideout and surprisingly doesn't try to eat you or the dog you rescued!
Instead he offers you a partnership. He has a car but lacks the muscle to get new parts. You need a car and are capable of hitting things very hard. So you both begin your unlikely journey together to build The Magnum Opus.
I've spent just shy of forty hours with Mad Max
, enough to finish the main story and journey long tours through the wasteland getting drawn in to side content, of which there is a lot. Most of it short, explosive and most importantly fun. Fun is something missing from the world Max inhabits. There is no sanity left, only crazy can survive the wasteland - a onetime sea bed before the water receded and the world dried up, but the actual gameplay makes up in fun what is lacking from the setting or story.
Moment to moment gameplay will see you driving across the seabed, marvelling at the sights of old ships rusting and decaying. You'll have a destination in mind, probably a story mission, but as you drive you'll see a salvage location and you just know there might be something useful in there or just enough scrap to get that next upgrade. So you'll stop and spend fifteen minutes clearing out a location, at that point you'll level up and get a new 'Grippa' token (more on these in a minute). Seeing this you'll enter the menus to check your 'Legend' tab and see you have ten of these tokens to spend so, once you're back in the car, you'll change your destination to where ever Grippa has appeared and drive on over (usually stopping along the way to do more stuff and in my case forget about Grippa and not get to him until you have twenty tokens to spend.
Eventually, though, you'll need to track down this desert mystic: Grippa by name, levelling-up-system by nature. You visit him to spend the tokens earned by completing challenges. You have ten things to spent them on that give you a variety of advantages out in the world, from simple health increases to being able to use weapons for longer before they break. He will also give some insight in to Max's mental state, his fears and (much denied) hopes, his past and potential future.
Car combat is something synonymous with Mad Max
and the game does not disappoint. It is loud and visceral. You earn a steady stream of upgrades that turn the Magnum Opus into a weapon of mass destruction and most of your time will be spent finding ways to improve this beast of a car. It is ridiculously satisfying when you plough through an enemy vehicle and it just disintegrates around you in a mass of fire and shrapnel, or using your harpoon to skewer an enemy driver and fling him out of his vehicle.
The same can be said for the hand-to-hand combat. It borrows heavily from the Batman Arkham
games, but the difference is that Max feels like a weighty slugger, his every landed blow has the intent to kill behind it. He shows no quarter and holds nothing back, and when he gets someone against a wall he makes it count. The finishers and extra move sets you can unlock with the in-game currency of Scrap only extend the brutality Max shows to his enemies.
The game isn't perfect, there are some sections that fall prey to cheap failures that will see you repeating something over and over until you hit the right combination of variables to get the desired outcome, the worst of these was a death-race about two thirds of the way through the main story. I found myself getting unfairly blown up or getting caught on geometry that should not have stopped my car. These blemishes are few and far between and don't really do much to spoil the game on a whole.
Max's story, as I began recounting at the beginning of this review, is not a happy one. That has always been the case in the franchise - despair is the only constant, with hope only existing on small islands that the ocean of sands quickly moves to smother. The game, on the other hand has been an absolute joy to play with an almost perfect balance of intense action and quiet, eerily empty open wastes.
A note on the PC version, which I played for this review - it runs really well, even on a machine that is three or four years old. Graphically it is stunning and works wonders with the desolate setting, if you run an Nvidia card be sure to download the latest driver as it featured a massive performance upgrade for Mad Max
There are many things I haven't touched on, from taking over enemy outposts to the sometimes silly Wasteland Encounter missions, but these are things you're best exploring yourself.
The game is bursting with content to suit all playtime sessions.
+ Stunning beautiful depiction of the Wasteland.
+ Rock solid gameplay mechanics both on foot and in the car.
+ Chasing down entries in the challenge log.
+ The story is a perfect for the Mad Max
- ...But it can be very bleak.
- Some encounters can be rough no matter how well you play.
- Some may find it monotonous.
SPOnG Score: 8/10