My time in Mad Max was spent making more enemies than friends, collecting car parts like they were jiggies in Banjo Kazooie, and driving around like some kind of deranged Dale Earnhardt (no I don’t watch Nascar, and no I’m not a redneck).
Supposedly the game takes place between Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road, so keep that in mind. It begins with Scrotus, son of Immortan Joe (the main villain of Fury Road, if you haven’t seen that masterpiece yet) battling Max atop a raging War Rig. Scrotus swings a chainsaw-on-a-stick at Max, and Max, being the master of combat that he is, manages to turn the weapon around and shove it straight into Scrotus’ face. After that, Max’s car gets stolen by the War Boys, and then Max and Scrotus’ dog are thrown off of the rig into the desert sand and left to their own survival.
Our hero wakes up in a pile of sand to find the dog (later named Dinki-Di) who leads Max to a shotgun with some shells. Dinki-Di runs ahead through a crevice in the rocks and you hear a yelp, so you follow soon behind. When you finally catch up, you find a malformed cancerous hunchback about to make a tasty snack of little Dinki. The hunchback is named Chumbucket, and he will be one of the few friends you find yourself with in the harsh wasteland.
Chumbucket is a blackfinger, an odd individual with a specialty (if a bit of a fetish) for cars. He calls Max ‘Saint’, and insists upon helping him drive back Scrotus, who survived Max’ assault, by building the mother of all automated vehicles… the Magnum Opus; and this is where Mad Max truly begins.
As I’ve hinted at many times, most everyone in the wasteland wants to kill you… not everyone, but almost. There are three main factions of enemies in the game: the War Boys, the Buzzards, and Roadkill. This doesn’t sound like a whole lot until you realize there’s about 20 (or more) different kinds of each enemy, with all different stats ranging from incredibly weak-but-fast, to hulking masses with shields.
I’m going to talk about the combat first to get it out of the way since it seems to be, for some reason, the biggest complaint of the game for most people. Yes, the combat feels like the Batman Arkham games, if a little unpolished, but that’s okay. Rocksteady has been on the Batman series for years now, not to mention that Avalanche is a much smaller studio.
Obviously on-foot combat isn’t the main draw to the game though, and it wouldn’t be Mad Max otherwise. Thankfully though, the vehicular battles are perfect. Driving through the vast wastelands are filled with explosions and bloody car-nage (ha, don’t you wish you could make this many puns at your job?). During the combat portions of driving, you can slam to the sides to break away your opponents piece by piece, or you can use the upgradeable harpoon to yank off the doors, wheels, and rams on the car. Or you could always just skip the middle man entirely and just snatch out the driver and make him taste the hot desert sand.
The high point of the game would have to be the great customization of the Magnum Opus. It starts out not looking like much and controlling like a car shaped piece of poo, but after some hard work doing missions, collecting scrap, finding car bodies, and killing ‘top dogs’, it looks far cooler. Upgrades range from souped up V8 engines, to spikes that cover the entire car, as well as the harpoon, sniper rifle, and the unfortunately named ‘Thunderpoon’ (say it out loud, right now, I don’t care where you are, it is so much fun to say, it’ll make your day better [it DID! – ed]).
There are a range of things to do in the game, but aside from the story it’s nowhere near fleshed out enough to keep you going for more than a few weeks in my opinion. There are Death Races, a Thunderdome (which is really flippin’ cool), oil compounds to take over, caves to go spelunking in, and convoys to demolish. I definitely had the most fun destroying convoys, but as far as I can tell, once the convoys are gone they don’t come back, which makes it feel like the last few bites of a good desert; you really want it, but you know the faster you eat it, then the sooner you won’t have any left.
The game’s version of Max, in true spirit of the Road Warrior himself, speaks very little, but the games voice acting is phenomenal for what there is of it (even if the lip syncing is off by a fair amount in several places).
One thing I do have to complain about, even though it didn’t really bother me that much, was the almost Skyrim level of bugs in the game. Occasionally while driving, the sound of my beautiful V8 would dissipate into nothingness, and the game would become silent. Other times I would find a car just flying in the middle of the air, not really doing anything, just chilling.
Once, and I recorded it because how could I resist, Max started spazzing about for seemingly no reason, like someone had turned ragdoll mode in Gary’s Mod, and there were other such glitches as well. Don’t get me wrong, none of these glitches ruined my game experience, if anything they actually made it better, giving relief to the otherwise ultra serious, grizzly tone of the game; however they were still flaws that need to be acknowledged.
And I can’t finish this review out without mentioning that, in spirit of the latest movie and occasionally while driving through the wastes, Chumbucket will shout out a warning that a storm is approaching. Within the next few minutes the land will be covered in darkness, only to be lit back up again by lightning, and quaked with drum rattling thunder. The storms were honestly my favorite part of the game, seeing people, vehicles, and supplies flying through the air knocking my car around was vastly entertaining, and nothing less than beautiful.
Overall, Mad Max was a great game experience. I don’t see the game lasting a casual player more than a couple of weeks, but if you’re hardcore and going for 100 percent completion, expect things to take you a decent length of time; not to mention the numerous customization options for the Magnum Opus and even Max himself.
If you’re looking for something to help kill the time while keeping your post-apocalypse appetite sated until the release of Fallout 4, make double sure to check out Mad Max. Just like the Just Cause series, it’s a sleeper hit.