Adapting the Mad Max franchise into video game form is a bumpy road. Whilst they are indeed action films, particularly the latest release Mad Max: Fury Road, the unique form of combat within this post apocalyptic world treads uncharted territory in video games. With new mechanics based around car combat and survival, Avalanche Games achieves its mission of replicating the Australian wasteland of Mad Max in many ways. The issue is in how it brings these features together in its attempts to capture the player for any extended length of time.
Following our titular character, Max, we venture on a quest to get a brand new car within the empty deserts surrounding Gastown. Joining you on this survivalist shopping trip is the deranged mechanic, Chumbucket who acts as your companion throughout the course of the game. As a premise, it’s weak at best and it acts as Max’s sole motivation for bothering to help out any of the far more engaging warlords that you encounter throughout the land. In essence, it works as a great expansion to Mad Max: Fury Road with new details of the world that you can explore yourself, but Max’s place within it and reason to explore feels incredibly lackluster.
Travelling around the expansive map, you ride around in your “Magnum Opus,” a car designed by Chumbucket that you can purchase various upgrades for as the game progresses. With the Magnum Opus being not only a heavy plot point, but also your primary mode of travel, it creates this sense of actual plot progression as you start to attach spikes, new tires and armor plating to your angel (as Chumbucket seems to put it). However, as you might expect, this narrative is little more than a facade in the game’s attempts to push you along its main storyline quest through promises of a shiny new bumper.
Mad Max has so many disconnects between its narrative and main questlines that they may as well be different games altogether. For some reason, Chumbucket is perfectly capable of designing a new V6 engine with enough scrap metal but when pressured for a new coat of paint, apparently that’s out of reach until I’ve killed someone called “Rim Jobbie.” I didn’t particularly have a problem with Rim Jobbie, but apparently he’s the only man standing between me and my cool steel colored car. It’s completely unapologetic when it comes to these inconsistencies and there’s a severe issue when it comes to its lack of creativity.
There is so much more that could have been done with Mad Max, but whilst the driving mechanics are incredibly solid and the visual design stands out as brilliant, the way you interact with the world by driving around and take over camps gets insanely repetitive as time goes on. Although these are all issues that seem to become apparent later on within the experience and the first five to six hours of Mad Max do appear to feel fresh and innovative in its design. The car combat is something that sets Mad Max apart from other similar open-world titles and with the use of the harpoon, thunderpoon and good old fashioned ramming, you can make short work of enemy vehicles. It’s just the progression involved with this and how more difficult opponents just seem to involve more armor that takes the creativity out of car combat as a whole.
The melee combat faces a similar issue with the entire system being based around punching and pressing to counter at the right time. As you trek through these camps on your way to your objective, whether it be a fight with a warlord or an oil pump just waiting to be blown up, the combat seems to turn into a rhythm game at specific points where you keep your eyes on the screen checking for any floating triangle symbols. It’s clearly a combat system that’s been inspired by other Warner Bros. games such as Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor or the Batman: Arkham series. Although it lacks the smaller nuances that turn those games into their own beast and instead exists as a bland copycat without any sort of unique twist.
There is one selling point, however and it may offer a clincher for a select audience. This is most definitely the world of Mad Max: Fury Road and it displays this on so many levels. Remember Immortan Joe from the film? Apparently he had another son who acts as the antagonist throughout the game as leader of the various enemies you will come across. With empty deserts, a world insanely reliant on oil and water and enemy vehicles reminiscent of those that appear in Fury Road, it’s a game for fans of the film in so many ways. If you ignore the fact that Max is far too chatty and helpful, of course.
In all, Mad Max is alright. It’s compelling enough to grab your attention for a certain amount of time with compelling driving mechanics and a beautiful world, but ultimately lacks enough variety or creativity for extended play beyond the first half of the map. It’s a forgettable experience but one that I would love to see expanded on in future titles as Mad Max does hold potential within itself. It’s the large open world game that may not be worth finishing by the end, but it could be a decent purchase if you can find it on sale and don’t expect too much out of it.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Mad Max for the Playstation 4 provided by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.