The Furious Road
I’ve been playing Mad Max since launch, and while I’ve certainly made good progress I don’t think an out-and-out review at this stage in the game would reflect everything Mad Max has to offer, considering the game clocks in at around 30 to 40 hours. So here’s a review in progress, which will detail how my experience with Mad Max has been so far. I’m around ten hours into the game right now, and this review in progress may not be fully indicative of how I feel about the game when I get through it all, so be on the lookout for the full review next week.
Mad Max, as a franchise, has been renowned for its unique story, setting, and brutal car and on-foot combat. Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max very much accomplishes those three feats, as the game breathes the atmosphere we’ve come to expect from a Mad Max movie while embarking on creating its own legacy within the Mad Max universe.
Taking on the role of Max, you’re thrown into the desolate and unforgiving world of The Wasteland – a post-apocalyptic rendition of a world that once was. Max has been taken through hell and back, and he ends up encountering an odd wastelander by the name of Chumbucket, who praises him as a saint and then follows the outlandish claim by announcing that he’ll follow Max on his journey to make it out of The Wasteland.
This is basically the crux of Mad Max’s story, and you make your way throughout the massive, gorgeously detailed Wasteland working on missions and goals that rewards you with scrap that you can use to upgrade the Magnum Opus, Max’s car, as well as Max himself so you can make it out of The Wasteland alive.
Mad Max’s story has actually been quite interesting so far, as you meet new characters and interact with new foes you’re constantly greeted with how harsh and brutal the landscape of the world has been, as some bear scars, marks, and even tokens from battles that have been fought throughout the land. The stark contrast between the life we live in now and that of Mad Max’s universe is further enhanced when you stumble across history relics, which are photographs from the world that came before the apocalypse. These are almost always found with captions on the back of the photo, further emphasising how far the world has fallen.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Mad Max so far has been the driving, which is obviously quite a mainstay in both the films and the game. Considering you’re thrown into a vast open-world, driving is really your only option in getting from Point A to Point B, and while fast travel is certainly an option, you still have to visit waypoints and scan the area before the game allows you to use them.
While you’re on the road you’ll encounter dozens and dozens of convoys and War Boys, and they’re, as you’d expect, quite hostile. Getting in their way will send them into a frenzy, in which they will then seek you out and try to kill you. In the case of a convoy, if you deviate from their path they’ll let you go, but sometimes you’ll unknowingly end up in a fight with six-or-so cars and especially early in the game you’ll perish fairly quickly. If your Magnum Opus is of substantial strength following a slew of upgrades, these fights might seem somewhat easier – although the difficulty ramps up in different territories.
When you aren’t in an all-out fight with the inhabitants of The Wasteland, you’re quite free to do what you please – story missions, side quests, waypoint hunting… it’s all up to you. There are territories littered throughout Mad Max, each controlled by different leaders. At the beginning of the game, each leader has mass control over their territories, but you’re encouraged to visit Oil Camps, Oil Transfer Camps, and Stank Gum camps to start taking control back. There are many camps littered throughout, and they can take anywhere from five minutes to twenty to fully take down, and I found that these side missions of sorts were actually extremely enjoyable and made for some tense fights. Mad Max doesn’t hold your hand at all, and the game’s actually quite difficult – but that further emphasises the bleak and desolate land you’ve been thrown into.
There are Scarecrows and Sniper Outposts to also destroy to decrease a leader’s control over their territory, although they take much less time than that of a camp. When you get your harpoon it’s only a matter of hooking it up to the aforementioned objects and pulling with your vehicle to take them down, although some require an upgraded harpoon to pull down.
When you get out of your car, things can get even more exciting and quite feverish. Mad Max employs a fighting system akin to that of the Batman Arkham series, although successfully parrying or countering a strike is all about precision. Unlike the Arkham games, if you’re mid-swing and hit the counter button, the game won’t recognize that and you’ll end up getting hit – and Max really can’t take more than few hits before he dies. This makes for a steady back-and-forth between you and the enemies around you, and focus and precision is what really stands between life and death.
Following a fight either on-foot or in the Magnum Opus, Max will no doubt need to heal – and that comes by the way of scavenging water throughout the environment. Mad Max gives you a water bottle that needs to be replenished at various areas to really keep Max alive. While his health won’t deteriorate on its own, it’s always handy to have your bottle filled with water before engaging in encounters, whether that’s as little as a scarecrow or outpost attack or something more large-scale like an offensive move on a camp, if you don’t have water to heal you when you set off on an objective you’re asking for trouble. Mind you, it’s quite hard to find these water stations – although they are scattered throughout camps and scavenging locations, you just need to be aware.
As is the case with the Mad Max movies, the sound within Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max is absolutely superb. The Australian voice acting is excellent, the vehicles sound grounded within the universe, and every punch and kick you deal while fighting is heard in bone-crunching realism. The sound design of Mad Max truly adds to the experience and makes for a game that feels like it’s stayed true to its source material.
Most of my impressions of Mad Max following my ten hours in-game have been quite positive, though there are a few negatives – although they aren’t major. Unfortunately glitches are littered throughout the wasteland and a couple of times they were game-breaking, forcing me to reset my save. Some cutscenes have also been quite rough and stuttered a lot, although I didn’t really mind considering there aren’t a whole lot of cutscenes to worry about considering you spend a large portion of your time in-game. If the game was more story-focused than it is, I can see that this would have been a big problem, though.
Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max is so far living up to the expectations I’ve had for it. I’m a big fan of the Mad Max universe and it’s exciting to really indulge and explore what the Wasteland has to offer. I’m really enjoying how good the car customization is and how brutal the combat ensuing can be. While I’m intrigued with the game’s story I’ve been too distracted with the open-world activities to really truly care for it, although that may change in the final two-thirds of the game. The sound has been the most obvious positive so far though, and while glitches and bugs have been reigning throughout my experience – I’m still quite optimistic for what Mad Max has in store.
Be on the lookout for our Mad Max review next week which will have a conclusive score and all of my thoughts on the game’s full 30 to 40 hour experience.
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC