Mad Max’s narrative may not be as tight or progressive as Fury Road’s, but the addictive leveling system and intense combat in and out of the car make the game irresistible for fans of the property.
Mad Max: Fury Road took moviegoers by surprise and became the stand out film of the summer with both casual audiences and hardcore critics alike. The progressive take on George Miller’s wasteland brought old Max fans out of the woodwork and created a new generation of loyalists. The series has been an inspiration to many other post-apocalyptic movies and games (including Fallout), so it’s about time gamers get a chance to drive through the desert as Max.
Mad Max isn’t a direct tie-in to any of the movies, but does borrow a few characters and some themes from Fury Road. The game starts by stripping Max of his beloved and deadly V8 interceptor and sending him on a series of fetch quests to build and upgrade a new car, the Magnum Opus, which will deliver him to a life of peace far away from the wars of Gastown. The hero may resemble Nathan Drake, but his grunts and minimalist way with words will remind you who the anti-hero is.
The third-person action game feels a bit like a mash-up of the best parts of a few other AAA titles. With Avalanche behind the wheel, it’s no surprise that the vehicular mayhem has a similar, though slightly more grounded, feel to Just Cause. Players race around the wasteland with the help of a seemingly insane mechanic who believes Max is a gift from the heavens and collect scraps to upgrade the vehicle.
Tearing down fences and using the grappling hook to take out other vehicles is a ton of fun, but the game does often remind players that this is a dangerous world. It’s not too hard to roam far into the open world and run out of gas or water, which can lead to some terrible outcomes. Although the companion mechanic, Chumbucket, can repair the car anytime it is standing still, players are often punished for taking risks like jumping over dunes or soaring off a cliff, so the game lacks the incentive to be as crazy as in the Just Cause series.
The game’s map, exploration, and questing system are all very similar to the Assassin’s Creed series, particularly Black Flag. Although the world is open, the narrative is incredibly linear and players can easily drive from one spot to the next and power through the game’s main campaign. The quests aren’t incredibly exciting or engaging because most of them just ask the player to go find a certain amount of scraps or a particular tool needed to upgrade the car again. That said, stopping at every camp along the desert wasteland and finding scraps is incredibly fun because of its rewards.
Players are able to use scraps to level up Max and his vehicle and unlock new armor, attacks, and weapons. The leveling system incentivizes exploration and gives players a reason to keep hunting down new resources. Players can also level Max’s own special powers with the help of a desert shaman who shows up from time to time and offers the opportunity to trade a special resource in to level up Max’s legendary status.
Once players step out of the car and find some war boys to battle, the game starts to feel more like the Batman Arkham series. The melee combat system pins Max against mobs of minions and he must string together a chain of attacks to ward them off. As gamers might expect, a perfectly-timed parry is key to success in these fights. The leveling system allows players to give Max more health, faster combos, and increased time in his Wolverine-esque Fury Mode, where he deals extra damage to all enemies. Players are able to break into compounds throughout the wasteland and claim the structures for the weaker man. Once the war boys are eradicated, NPCs will start collecting scrap for Max, which can be used for more level ups.
Although all the individual components work quite nicely in a vacuum, Mad Max is still far from a perfect game. Hopefully patches will address some of the minor issues, but the game currently suffers from some bizarre physics problems and the occasional graphics glitch. These issues can definitely be forgiven, considering the likelihood that they will be fixed within the first month, but the game’s narrative also leaves quite a bit to be desired.
It’s hard to follow up a story as tight, progressive, and well-paced as Fury Road, so in many ways the game was doomed to fall short on this front from the start. The game’s narrative is an acceptable enough revenge story with a fantastic setting, but its delivery is incredibly obtrusive. Cut scenes pop in every time exposition needs to be delivered and although the voice acting is strong, these moments still take us out of the wasteland.
Although players will be able to power through the game’s main story without dedicating their whole lives to the game, there is still plenty of reason to return to the wasteland once the main narrative is finished. Players can continue collecting scraps, leveling up, and hunting down bad guys for dozens of hours after the end credits. Mad Max may be a bit of a mixed bag, but the faithful recreation of the film universe, the ridiculous car combat, and loads of content will keep players coming back to the desert for a long time.
Mad Max is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. For this review, Game Rant was provided a PS4 copy.