Avalanche Studios set out to create a dark and unerring atmosphere within Mad Max, one that is one born out of desperation and sorrow. The social aspect of the surrounding land has corroded into emptiness, a land where to survive one must either live and hide in the shadows or learn to fight. When mankind reaches a point of no turning back, when there is simply nothing left that keeps us human, humanity tends to turn on itself all too quickly, resulting in a catastrophic downward spiral.
There is no law to control the now overwhelming groups of War Boys, their factions run riot all over the barren plains, terrorising, killing and pillaging anything of value, with no remorse for mankind. The story detaches itself from the film, Fury Road, setting out to tell an altogether different story, one of the most unlikeliest of partnerships and a personal quest for solace.
Mad Max: Xbox One [Reviewed], Playstation 4, P.C
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros
Release Date: 1 September 2015
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Publisher]
Mad Max tells the tale of one man’s crusade against humanity’s sheer desire to tear itself down from within. What once was a glorious, flourishing planet, brimming with vitality has now become a playground for the unimaginably insane, the devious and the wicked. A place where a mixture of forged metal meets the beautifully scenic desert backdrop. Traversing the wasteland in his iconic Interceptor we find Max, a man who has lost everything important to him, his family, his life, his very sanity. He drives through the barren, apocalyptic land in search of valuable fuel resources. He seeks to find peace, this particular peace lies beyond this long forgotten wasteland in a place called Silent Plains.
As Max travels the vast dry and desolate wasteland he is attacked by a group of vicious looking War Boys, acting on the behalf of the rather unfortunately named Scabrous Scrotus, son of the infamous Immortan Joe of Fury Road who also happens to be the lord of Gastown, this could indicate that the title may in fact be a prequel of sorts to the film. After expertly fending off the first attack, Max is eventually worn down and stripped of all his valuable possessions including weapons, clothes and his iconic vehicle before coming face to face with Scrotus himself.
Left for dead in the dry and humid heat of the barren Australian wasteland, Max stumbles across a lonely hunchback by the name of Chumbucket, a man and wizardry mechanic, who believes Max to be a prophet sent to him by the Angel of Combustion, Chumbucket believes Max can help him to build the ultimate vehicle ‘The Magnus Opus’ in order to better take on the harsh, daunting environment, together the unlikely pair set out to gather the required materials.
While Mad Max does have a story behind it, it lacks any real depth. Given his current predicament, Max should appear desperate, yet this does not come through during the game. The story is fortunately saved by the various activities to perform throughout the world. Scattered across the vast derelict wasteland lie strongholds which are vital to Max’s plight, these bases can be used to gain allies and receive new missions while ensuring important maintenance to the Magnus Opus can be undertaken. Through scavenging, strongholds can be reinforced and can be a key source of ammunition.
The leaders of each faction all share the same disdain for Scrotus and his treacherous grip on the dying land, this is felt with every conversation held and every mission received. Though most of the missions within the game have a recurring theme, they all exist to serve a purpose, making the Magnus Opus the legendary vehicle Chumbucket eagerly believes it can be. In order to gain a vital vehicle part, the faction leaders want something in return, in Mad Max, nothing comes for free.
With the use of positioned balloons, Max can ascend above the beautiful open world in order to gauge a layout of the land, scouting areas of importance within the nearby proximity. Equipped with binoculars, the map can be filled up with locations to enemy base camps, vital looting areas, sniper locations and sources of water. While enemy camps can appear dangerous, with prior planning, most of the main threats to Max’s survival can removed from outside with the use of the harpoon gun, sniper rifle and explosive bolts. Removing threats around the strongholds is an essential part to pushing forward in the game and that brings me to the games combat mechanics.
The close quarters hand to hand combat within Mad Max feels very simplistic in nature, not overly complex but visually very appealing. When surrounded by large groups of enemies, Max can quickly dispatch of them with the ease of quick punch and counter attack combinations, although not hard to understand, these short interactions leave the game with some brutal cinematic type fight scenes, a select number of enemies pose more of a threat, armed with sadistic weapons and tough shields, War Boys can deal heavy damage if not avoided but can equally be taken down with ease if timed correctly. Max has an advantage over any would be attacker and that is ‘fury’ which is unleashed instantly while fighting and can easily dispatch of groups in mere seconds.
With upgrades purchased through the sale of precious steel, scavenged from the wasteland, Max is able to strengthen the way he fights as well as acquire some truly powerful execution moves, which, when used during combat can cause some utterly devastating damage to foes, along with some excruciatingly bone crunching moments which are thoroughly enjoyable. Overall I can’t help but feel slightly let down by the games combat system, despite the sheer weight of brutality and panache at times, it is merely a concoction of dash mixed with simple button co-ordination, I was expecting to have to truly fight for my life and for a small portion of the game I did, however more often then not I found the combat to be a little too predictable.
Of course this wouldn’t be Mad Max without vehicular combat, which is an overriding key element of the game. As Max spends a lengthy amount of time within the confides of the Magnus Opus, he and his newly found friend draw constant attention from the ever present, prowling War Boys, who want nothing more then to see the iconic road machine out of action and Max deep in the ground. Metal clashes with metal, with crunching velocity, these moments help to provide some of the more entertaining action the game has to offer, with a plethora of reinforcements at hand, the Opus can be as deadly as anything the barren land holds.
Harpoons, upon purchase can be used to dismantle a hostile vehicle limb by limb, wrenching doors and bumpers away with powerful ease. With one precise shot from the gun, drivers can be pulled from their vehicle and flung through the air with force, leaving their car a sitting target for resource. Every aspect of the car can be modified to suit players needs. The outer shell can be reinforced with spikes to damage any would be assailant and nitrous upgraded to avoid any unwanted pursuer.
Combat on the road may at times feel a bit overused and repetitive but it has an undeniable quality to it that helps to keep the game exciting and the adrenaline levels at their highest. Engaged in a four vehicle fight with a convoy transporting precious resources can be either out of the desire to destroy or through sheer necessity. Vehicles in the game handle well for the most part with only a small tendency to waver, leaving the car spinning wildly out of control. Overall, the mechanics are easy to master while leaving some great effects, such as spinning the wheels through dust, which is a joy to watch.
While there may be some fault with the story, visually Mad Max is flawless by design, in glorious 1080p the game is a true spectacle of its generation. Beautifully immersed in atmosphere, the wasteland is very befitting of the legendary name. There is a true sense of the apocalyptic with every piece of ground covered throughout the hazardous terrain with great detail going into preserving the iconic films of days past. There is nothing more eye catching then the suns rays striking down onto the dry salty plains while out in the Magnus Opus, the game has an undeniable beauty to it.
Weather conditions can change within the blink of an eye and with short prior warning, the sunshine is quickly and dramatically replaced with dangerous sandstorms that form abruptly, lowering visibility and causing utter destruction as the force of the wind reaps havoc throughout the wasteland, picking up scrap steel and tossing it around like a rag-doll. The environment is diverse and changes as Max drives throughout the huge open world. Orange Sand and dry salty ground play home to the games characters. Makeshift homes and bases are constructed using any material or object at hand including buses and ships.
Mad Max is an explosive, action packed story of one man’s journey for peace across the harsh environment of the wasteland. Although the story sadly drifts too often without any real depth it is overshadowed by some truly stunning visuals, breathtaking moments of combat set inside a brutal and bloody wide open world, ready to be explored at will. The differing styles of combat within the game make for some exhilarating moments and there is no lack of upgrades available to tailor Max’s adventure. Chumbucket and Max may at first glance seem to be the most unlikeliest of friends but as the story progresses, the two share a bond, their relationship shines through and both are incredibly likeable characters.
Timing may have not have been a friend to Mad Max but this is one title that should not be overlooked lightly. The game is a shining beacon for the next generation, a true love letter to the cult films. Combining glorious, polished visuals with all out bloodied action, Avalanche Studios set out to bring the icon to life and have succeeded in developing a dark and unforgiving land with some insane characters and surroundings, a real gem.