Mad Max Review: Ruling The Wasteland

Mad Max Review
out of 5

It’s been a pretty good year for “Mad” Max Rockatansky. First the movie franchise revved back to life in May with the sublime Mad Max: Fury Road, and now, Avalanche Studios and WB Games have released a game based on the iconic character, and it’s pretty damned good.

Like the recent film, which replaced original Max (Mel Gibson) with Tom Hardy, Mad Max the game has presented their own take on the cop-turned-apocalypse survivor-turned-road warrior. This game Max is just as lonely and as desolate as the previous versions, but the twist here is that Avalanche was able to craft this Max to fit their story without worrying too much about previous versions. This makes a huge difference.

Mad Max Review


Mad Max opens with a depressed, haunted Max preparing to cross the Plains of Silence (which may or may not be an allegory for suicide). Before he can jump in his custom-built Interceptor and drive away, he is assaulted by Scabrous Scrotus, the ruler of GasTown and the son of Immortan Joe (from Fury Road). His car is taken, as well as his clothes, weapons, and dignity, but Scrotus does not take Max’s will to live, and sets up a nearly 60-hour-long adventure for Max to not only rebuild a vehicle worthy of the trip across the plains, but to also exact revenge on Scrotus by helping local territorial warlords to oust Scrotus’ influence from their regions.

Max is joined early on by Chumbucket, a troll-like black finger (Max-speak for mechanic) who sees Max as a savior (or “saint,” as he calls him) and Chum gives Max his Magnum Opus, a car that he has been building for years. Max and Chum then set out to collect the necessary parts needed to complete the Magnum Opus so Max can cross the plains. Chum sticks by Max for most of the game, offering advice and calling out sights as Max drives the desert plans of this dead world.

Mad Max Review

The story in and of itself is very classic Mad Max. At its core, it’s a story of a man and his car. Max is forced to help those less-fortunate, and some even well off — in apocalypse standards — to achieve his personal goals of surviving this bleak, deserted world. As he does, the in-game world changes as well, as the warlords take control of their regions and hope is delivered. Again, this is pure, pedal-to-the-metal Mad Max.

Mad Max is an open-world affair where scavenging and brutality are at the forefront. The game is broken down into missions — story and optional Wasteland missions — and the player chooses how much of an imprint Max will make in this world. Warboys and other gangs rule the roads, and settlements and camps are ruled by “top dogs” that Max has to take down. Each zone has a handful of sub-missions and things to do, like disrupting fuel convoys, taking out snipers, and pulling down corpse-ridden metal scarecrows, and it makes each zone a full-on game within itself. Case in point, to get 100 percent clearance on the first territory, ruled by a man named Jett, it took almost 20 hours of gameplay. And there are four territories to be set free, not including GasTown itself. To put it simply, Mad Max is a lengthy game experience.

Mad Max Review

The issue with this is that the game does tend to repeat itself, as the player will find themselves doing the same thing (see above) in each territory, with only the territories’ leader’s motivation changing to fit their part in the grand game story.

I didn’t find this repetitiveness too distracting, as I enjoyed the vehicular combat — especially taking out convoys, which earns Max cool looking hood ornaments — and the melee fighting mimics the recent Batman: Arkham series, where square/X is the main attack button and triangle/Y is the counter. In fact, my recent play-through of Batman: Arkham Knight prepared me enough for combat here in Mad Max that my combo streaks were out of this world, and kept me in near constant Fury state, which essentially makes Max invincible after stringing together enough hits to activate it. An upgradable shotgun is mapped to the circle/B button rounding out the non-vehicle combat. I also found Mad Max cathartic as I was able to release some stress by taking it out on the enemies in this game. So, there’s always that.

Mad Max Review

The vistas and environments in Mad Max look absolutely gorgeous, but the game does suffer in the cutscenes, as the in-game graphics are smoother, both in framerate and in resolution, than the full-motion videos used to move the story along. Mad Max may not have the prettiest character models around, but in a world decimated like this one, I’m not sure I need hyper-realistic graphics when Max pulls a handful of maggots out of corpse to eat and replenish his life bar.

Both the driving and on-foot game play is solid. As Max drives across the barren land, marauders will attack him, forcing him to flee or engage in combat. The Magnum Opus can be equipped with an upgradeable harpoon that comes in handy during these events. As Max gets stronger (or, as the player buys Max’s upgrades with collected scrap), the more invincible he becomes, leading to the in-game ranking of Road Warrior, which is the highest rank. The Magnum Opus is full upgradable with many offensive and defensive weapons that are used to make the car as legendary as its name implies.

Mad Max Review

On foot, Max attacks each stronghold by first taking out the perimeter defenses (snipers, molotov launchers, and flamed gates), and even has to knock out the settlements “War Crier” which is a man suspended in mid-air that calls enemies to attack the intruder. It’s up to Max to find and eliminate the War Crier as to stop the waves of enemies rushing into combat. Each settlement also includes various collectables, such as scrap, destroyable Scrotus insignias, and historical items from the world before. Max can also collect components in each territory that will build very valuable — and needed — items for each leader’s stronghold. Once built, these items can refuel the Magnum Opus, Max’s canteen, and ammo supply each time he visits. That’s pure gold in a world where water, gunpowder, and gasoline rule the day.

Adding even more layers to an already huge game, Avalanche has given Max the ability to collect various cars to add to his garage and can use as he sees fit. The cars have different strengths and weaknesses, and each car drives slightly different, giving each ride a personality of its own. Also, there are various locations on the huge map where Max can participate in death races, or death runs, as they are called here. In fact, a promotion going on right now through the end of month with Rockstar Energy drinks is awarded real-world prizes to the top in-game racers, up to and including a real life off-road vehicle. The event is kicked off with a free in-game vehicle that can be downloaded via the Playstation and Xbox Live stores.

Mad Max Review

Mad Max makes for a wonderful inspiration for a video game. It is equal parts brutal and beautiful, and the story translates very well into the video game environment. The Max vs. The World conflict, which has been the heart of each of the four Mad Max movies is present here, but in a much bigger way. While there is repetition in the missions and goals, at its heart, it’s still Max, fighting to survive this rugged, terrible world, and Avalanche Studios has pulled it off wonderfully. As a publisher, WB Games (Or Warner Bros. Interactive) is having an incredible year. Starting with Dying Light last January, and continuing on with Mortal Kombat X, Witcher III: Wild HuntBatman: Arkham Knight, and now ending with Mad Max and at the end of the month, LEGO Dimensions, WB Games, as a publisher, is absolutely killing it this year. Those are some very big, very popular franchises, and make no mistake, Mad Max belongs in there with them. As Nux, the War Boy from Fury Road would say, Mad Max is Historic.

Mad Max is available now for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, in both retail and digital formats. This review is based off a review code for the PS4 provided by the publisher.

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