Review: Mad Max (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): September 1, 2015
- Release Date (EU): September 4, 2015
- Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Developer: Avalanche Studios
- Genres: Open world action adventure
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
- Also For: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Mad Max started off as a series of movies with the first one being released back in 1979. At the time, Mad Max was so successful in box office sales that it held the Guinness World Record for quite a few years. The gruesome post-apocalyptic world hit the right places, and fans have awaited a new release ever since. While the fourth installment of the series, Mad Max: Fury Road was in development hell for quite a few years, it was finally released in 2015 with outstanding success. How will the series carry on in the video game industry? Read on to find out!
An uneasy beginning
Mad Max starts off with the traditional feels of open world RPG-styled game: everything "Mad" Max Rockatansky owns is destroyed or stolen, including his precious supercharged V-8 Interceptor featured in the movie series. Left for dead in the middle of the desert, there seems to not be much hope. Luckily, fellow wastelander and mechanics extraordinaire, Chumbucket, happens by and saves the beat up protagonist from certain death and takes him under his wing for care and comfort. Case closed and a happy ending? Think again. Welcome to the unforgiving world of Mad Max.
The story starts with a pretty straight forward goal: get revenge on all involved in the destruction of the Interceptor as well as customize and improve the Opus Magnum, a replacement for the previous legend of the desert. This is not an uncommon goal, but with not much to begin with, it is a goal nevertheless. Chumbucket patches you up and gives you the basics, but after that, it's up to the player to decide the direction. The information regarding gasoline, ammo, food and water is critical as these are very limited resources in most areas of the surprisingly vast wasteland.
At this point I was mainly impressed with how well the game and environment worked. I had many flashbacks of visually impressive games such as Uncharted 3 and The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, but without frame rate hits. The visuals adapted amazingly well with different hardware both new and old. I was able to push 1080p/60 with max setting on a gaming rig from a few years back just like I was running the game on my less than 1 year old rig. Sadly, more and more games as of late have had quite a few issues with either frame rates and crashing. This was not the case with Mad Max, which is a very positive surprise in the gaming industry with games being released in unplayable sates until they've had a few months of patches.
Mad Max’s character development is a bit different than many RPGs. Instead of an experience point system, you collect metal and parts known as scrap. This is done in a matter of ways. The most common method is to pick scrap from destroyed vehicles, slayed enemies or different locations. The amounts can vary from a single piece to a few more, but in general the amount can be improved with skill improvements. Other methods of collecting scrap include hijacking scrapulance vehicles worth 500 scrap or facing deadly storms with crates full of glorious scrap.
At first it may feel tedious with the second or so button pressing to collect the loot from the ground, but soon you will find other methods of acquiring scrap. Liberating enemy camps such as oil production facilities and storage sites will generate scrap during game play, while upgrading the ally strongholds will do the same while you’re not playing. Both of these methods work well and remove the need to actually grind different locations for more and more scrap. This was a mistake I did at first, as I figured I needed to have the best upgrades to proceed. While they made the game easier, it was in no way necessary and could even be avoided as the game makes it possible to progress quite nicely while enjoying the scenery and environment.
As you start to gain more knowledge of the hardships Max will face, you'll start wishing you didn't have to drive that piece of dung, Opus Magnum you received from Chumbucket. This is the part where the game actually gets interesting. Frustration will be the first thing you will feel with the controls, and the Opus Magnum is really a bare bones car. Upgrades with scrap will change this drastically with improvements ranging from new tires and suspensions to engines and nitro. Contrary to many other RPG games with similar upgrades, each upgrade has both advantages and disadvantages. Boosting your engine up a few tiers will add to your acceleration rates, but at the same time will make your car handle like an overpowered drag racer in the desert. Keeping some kind of balance is essential or you'll end up downgrading your upgrades in order to make the car drivable.
Max himself can also receive upgrades by using scrap. Scrap upgrades generally improve Max's combat finesse with improvements ranging from better clothing and thus armor, to improved brass knuckles. The most diverse improvements are the skills in the skill tree, which make changes into the combat system itself with better combo skills and finishers being made available. While not a must in order to proceed in the open world, they make life a lot easier. The second improvement system for Max is done via Griffa tokens, which help Max's survival skills by improving features such as health regeneration from eating and improved damage in melee combat. This two tier upgrading works surprisingly well even though Griffa tokens can be used for upgrades only in specific locations on the map.
Leaving desolation in my wake while it lasts
The world is huge. This is something of a given for today's open world games, but in many cases it doesn't mean there's room for everyone. You'll be bashing heads and bending the metal of enemies with traditional hand to hand combat, sniper rifles, harpoons, thunderpoons (sort of an explosive on a stick) and vehicular destruction. Sadly hand to hand combat with a few shotgun rounds here and there are the only ones available in areas, where your car cannot access. This would not be a huge problem, but in my opinion the most fun can be had with the harpoon. It would have been an interesting development route for the game to have a grapple hook to compensate for the harpoon.
Mad Max is a world of finite resources, and this shows in the game. Unless you have a fully upgraded stronghold available, you'll be seriously lacking in the ammo department. I noticed this by accident after having built the ammo replenishing upgrade in Jeet's Stronghold: without the upgrade, I was having highly limited ammo reserves. While water, gas and scraps are limited in the wasteland, ammo seems to be even more scarce. It can be received from enemies or loot locations, but in general these provide only a single shell or two. As such, renewable weapons like the harpoon are the best types of weapons.
And now to the final verdict. Did I like Mad Max? Yes and no. The world and environment was thought out from start to finish with clear differences between areas on the vast map, which meant you will probably stop every now and then to enjoy the views. The combat on the other hand became repetitive quite quickly as you can't use your other damage dealing options apart from melee combat. This could easily be fixed by adding more to the ammunition available, but would just as well be against the world of the game. Driving also suffers the same at some degree, but luckily your options are more varied and not so much affected by limited resources. These issues could be dealt with, but the story is still the thing which brings down the game's score quite a bit. The summary can thus be had as "stay for the view, leave due to the core".
+ Amazing open world
+ Smooth gameplay with lots to accomplish
+ Optimization for even older rigs
+ No massive patches for the first weeks post launch in order to make the game playable
- Mediocre story
- Somewhat repetitive gameplay especially for completionists
- While in line with the world the game is based on, limited ammo resources take away quite a bit of the combat's diversity
The world looks amazing and the game runs with maximum settings on even lower end rigs. This means that even more people can see the world as it was meant to without dishing out extra cash on a new GPU.
Take the combat system of the Batman Arkham series and add an open world with driving combat and you have a winner. At times the game will feel plain with the repetitive fetch quests massing the world and the story not progressing. Nevertheless the core game works well.
Not much to do after the game's story has been completed. The completionist in you may want to hit all of the locations and upgrade the ultimate ride, but the tasks don't vary much.
out of 10
(not an average)
An enjoyable game with a stunning world, familiar combat and interesting driving. Falls short on the story development and somewhat repetitive gameplay. Worth a shot after the slower summer days if you're waiting for some other games to release closer to the end of the year.