Mad Max is all about it’s crazy characters and over the top vehicle combat. Following the success of Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year we are now giving the treat of a Mad Max game. But after the big screen moments that impressed us greatly does the game live up to the same standard? Will a strong focus on the characters and world, Mad Max offers an open world adventure in the post apocalyptic vehicle-based world we have all come to know and love. So does Mad Max, developed by Avalanche Studios, live up to the name?
In Mad Max your find yourself running, punching, and driving your way through the wasteland all with the aim of plot development as you work your way towards Gastown. That said though, building the Magnum Opus is ultimately the real goal here in the Mad Max game, as you begin by losing your vehicle, supplies, and even clothes before then setting out to regain it all. With the help of a friendly, if somewhat annoying, car mechanic who treats Max like a religious idol, but serves as your main support throughout the game. Additionally when in the wasteland he will work on repairing the Magnum Opus when you leave the character, which is a nice help as it basically means the car is indestructible… to a point. Max however, is not, and ensuring your survival is another key element in Mad Max.
Thankfully though the Mad Max game handles the survival elements of the game in a way that doesn’t become a troubling factor for players. Though food, water and fuel are very limited and spaced around the wasteland it never felt like they were too rare that it became a serious issue. Food and water are used to refill your health, with food refilling it most of the way up and water filling it in exchange to how much water you have available. It is however always best to keep your water filled up in case you find yourself in a rather harsh fist fight. Fuel is much the same in that only a few times did I run out completely. You can carry a spare in the car to help you out, but really you’ll be using fuel cans to blow things up and start some fires. It’s with that in mind that Mad Max becomes more of an open world action game over a survival game which is a big benefit.
The setting for Mad Max is rather confusing as it takes most of it’s design and ideas from the latest film, Fury Road, yet seems to have nothing to do with any of the films at all. That doesn’t have to be a negative however as the game works to tell it’s own story and characters with reference to the films. It is also a shame when Max himself feels almost out of place to the rest of the world in the game even though he is still a badass.
The real trouble comes with the story which ends up feeling like a series of small tasks that overstay their welcome as you move from one goal to another. This is a real shame as in the early stages of the game you’re given a rather pleasing opening series of events followed by a learning what your next big goal should be. Only then however does the story start to fall apart as you then find yourself grinding to the next unlock or mission to then grind some more. One of the biggest complaints about the Mad Max game is just how slow it feels at times. For example getting in and out of the car feels slow and sluggish but this is something you will do a lot as you must exit the Magnum Opus to grab loot and scrap metal.
This also applies to other aspects of the gameplay such as having to hold down the X button for just about everything or even having to mash the button sometimes as well. All the actions are fine but sadly Mad Max makes you repeat all of this on the same gameplay loop which last about five to ten minutes at the most.
Though at the start of the game the available cars you have all handle like completely rubbish and lack any real fire power. Fortunately you soon get some killer upgrades and become more able to hold your own in the wasteland. It seems odd for a game mostly about driving however to have poor car handling but you soon learn to deal with it.
Of course when you’re in the middle of a fight you might forget that you need to focus on the handling when really you should watch out for attacks. It is in the madness of Mad Max’s car combat that the game really stands out and becomes highly enjoyable. For starters, who wouldn’t have fun firing a harpoon at the driver of another car and then pulling them out into another oncoming car? Or how about ripping wheels of cars with said harpoon gun or even firing a single shotgun shell at the exposed fuel tank to unleash burning death upon your victims. It is the brutal violence that makes the combat so much fun. One moment I recall was when a passenger jumped onto my car, and with no ammo to use in the removal of this new addition to my car, I charged full speed into another vehicle crushing the Warboy and dealing massive damage to another car in the process.
The car combat is fast, brutal and to a degree, requires some quick thinking as you adapt to the changing state of each vehicle and the wasteland. If a storm rolls in like in Fury Road you might want to take the chance to change the flow of the combat for better or worse. It is small things like this that impact on the gameplay in a way that helps to keep each encounter fresh and fun. On the ground however hand to hand combat takes a less dramatic approach as you enter a super violent Arkham series styled combat.
You hit, block, counter and build up your chain to enter fury mode and unleash massive damage. Pick up a weapon, use a finishing move or two and that sums up the fist fights. That is not to say that they are boring, not at all, in fact they are a pleasure to play as you get to see Max really be mad as he doesn’t hold back.
It is also worth taking a moment to appreciate just how beautiful Mad Max is on PlayStation 4 and I don’t just mean the character but the whole game. For a post apocalyptic environment there is a great amount of detail in every aspect of the world that brings the game to life. From the colours of the world to the sand that blows past you even down to the far off backdrops within the world. The wasteland of Mad Max is simply gorgeous and the fire effects are by far the most impressive i’ve seen in some time. Performance is another point that Mad Max hits a high on as it runs smooth on PlayStation 4 with no drop in performance even during the craziest of scenes. There were however a few bugs with the physics due to Max being to close to explosions but I didn’t experience anything other than those which honestly were rather funny to watch as Max flew around for a moment.
A nice feature included within Mad Max that helps to show the visuals is the included photo mode that allows you to capture images and video. Just push both L3 and R3 and the game will pause mid action allowing you to move the camera and take the best shot. Most of the time however I used this just to enjoy the action mid flow and look around. The only downside to the photo mode is that the camera controls are a bit rough which can be an issue. All together though it is a nice additional to the game.
Mad Max does a lot of things right, even if there are a good few things done wrong at the same time. There is a lot to say about the game but only really so much I feel needs to be said. Mad Max can be the game you have been looking for but also the game you just do not want to play anymore. It is hit and miss as you move from enjoyment to frustration during your time in the wasteland. Those moments when Mad Max feels right make you feel awesome but then it drags you back down. With poor controls and annoying gameplay systems it’s hard to enjoy the beautiful graphics and brutal combat. Mad Max isn’t a bad game, it just isn’t a very good one at that.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of Mad Max provided by Warner Bros..