For anyone that has followed my Dear Game Diary series, they would have seen that for the past three weeks I have been playing lots of Mad Max. The title, developed by Avalanche Studios, was a game that was being worked on during the same time as Just Cause 3. Surely for a games developer to co-develop two titles at once, at least one of them would suffer, right? Fortunately, Mad Max was not the title, whilst on the surface Just Cause 3 should technically have been the more interesting open-world game, Mad Max stole the crown.
In Mad Max, you play as a protagonist who’s own battle of survival has inflicted upon him a life yearning for peace, except he is in a chaotic post-apocalyptic world of death and destruction over resources and territory. As the opening scene see’s your car was stolen by Scrotus (the main foe in the game) your mission throughout the game is to seek revenge, fortunately for more than just the car, because had it just been that it would have been a rather half-baked experience. Your early encounter with Scrotus is during the opening scenes of the game, it sets a precedence for what is to come, but how? You have no car, you are on foot abandoned in the desert. Shortly after walking up a hilltop you meet your companion, Chumbucket. Chumbucket has his own religion, a religion of worship to the gas guzzling machine, to a point I think it’s likely sexual. He becomes your onboard mechanic as you plough your way through the wasteland doing favours for NPC characters in order to upgrade your car (The Magnum Opus) into a deadly enough piece of metal that can seek revenge on Scrotus in Gastown.
Throughout the game, you will meet other characters who you earn trust and do favours for, Jeet, Pink Eye, Gutgash to name just a few. They all have their own followers and are trying to build strongholds for survival in the wasteland. In order to get essential parts for your car you will need to run errands for these characters, as well as reduce the Scrotus threat in their territories. On the world map, there are key Scrotus areas that you need to weaken, these include; Scarecrows (think of them as huge scrap metal statues that mark Scrotus territories), gas pump facilities, Stank Gum strongholds and Top Dog Camps. These all present their own challenges from defeating bosses and causing big explosions, you can definitely tell the similarities between Avalanche’s other title Just Cause in terms of the layout. Fortunately, these areas are well designed and populated with different enemies that present a variety of combat challenges, some are nimble and can evade your deathly punches, others are well armoured and boss fights require you to take them down in a specific way. Along with these areas are vehicle convoys that provide hood ornaments to boost properties of Max’s car if you take them down and also Minefields that need to be cleared using Chums Buggy, much helped by a mine-sniffing dog called Dinki-Di.
Throw in the ability to upgrade strongholds and you have a game that is literally huge in order to 100% complete. Upgrading Strongholds requires you to find valuable scrap which can be used to create maggot farms, water pumps etc. By upgrading these strongholds it allows Max to recover ammo, water (health) and fuel to continue his missions much easier. Fortunately, these strongholds along with balloon outpost vantage points, all act as fast travel locations which make avoiding annoying car battles encountered on the open road. Car Battles are great when there is an objective attached to them, but just travelling between missions essentially losing car health along the way can be frustrating at times, but never enough to make you rage quit. Side missions are digestible but ultimately forgettable, you do them for unique car perks more than anything else. However, the story missions really come into their own once you pass Dead Barrens and find your way into Buzzard territory. The Underdune is perhaps one of the best areas fleshed out in the game, two main missions are set in this dune covered old airport, it creates an aura of suspense and action that changes the pace of the game at the right moments.
Given that you spend quite a bit of time in a car, there is a race-based main story mission as well as Death Runs which enable you to add more cars to your collection throughout the game. I have, to be honest, though, it’s the Magnum Opus that I use the most, mainly because it’s your main car for adding weapons and upgrades. The two main strong points of Mad Max is the hand to hand combat and the vehicular combat, they both pack a punch, provide strategy and ultimately is probably the main reason why you don’t mind grinding a little to upgrade your character. Your car is equipped with features such as the Thunderpoon (a hybrid rocket launcher) and a strong grappling hook, as well as fire-breathing rims and a sniper rifle. All of these can be used to take out different car types and take down the perimeter defences of certain camps. Speaking of upgrades, Mad Max not only has the ability to expand his look, repertoire of combat moves, but also RPG like perks which enable him to perform more damage, need less fuel, recover health quicker and find more scrap. You can visit the Griffa throughout the game, a shaman-like character who will upgrade Max’s inner ability through the use of Griffa tokens, these tokens are acquired by performing unique things around the world. So it goes without saying, there is certainly plenty of opportunities to upgrade your car, max himself and perks, it’s a beautifully simplistic but very rich system that entices you to play even when the main storyline is done.
Graphically the game is beautiful, the depiction of the Mad Max films in this game has been really thought out, the desert wasteland is a marvel to look at, which probably explains Avalanche’s own photo editor built into the game. Whilst there is plenty of repetitive elements to Mad Max, it’s culminated in such a way that you feel compelled to play, which explains why I amassed 43 hours into this game. It is safe to say I may go back to some of the side missions and take down the remaining stronghold threat levels to bust the as many achievement points as possible. In essence, then, Mad Max is an enjoyable romp with a less than fairytale ending, it’s biggest flaws are some of the characters you face in the game, many are forgettable, but some have stuck with me. Stank Gum, Outcrier and Chumbucket are the strongest characters in the game, Lord Scrotus seems like a boring counterpart by comparison. For an open world title, it manages to do achieve on which so many fail in holding your attention all the way to the end without it feeling like a mindless empty slog. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
- Chumbucket is awesome
- Great fighting mechanics
- Excellent upgrade system
- Story isn't mind blowing
- Tight achievements
- Annoying random battles