Developed by Avalanche Studios
Published by Warner Brothers Games
Reviewed on PlayStation 4
It’s been a wonderful year for the fans of the Mad Max universe. This summer we had the almost religious experience that was Fury Road. Now we have the Mad Max video game. Many of you are going to ask if this game is a direct tie in to its phenomenal movie counter part. I can say it is only loosely tied, since you can play this game without having seen the movie. That being said…how does the game stack up to the gargantuan legacy of the series? Read on, road warriors.
I’ll start with the visual aspects of the game. This game, despite the fact that massive tracts of desert wasteland are what you see, is full of beauty. The character models, sky box, and most importantly the vehicles all look great. Not the greatest, but still very well done. While it is true that many will find the the blankness filled with your occasional scrap to be drab and boring, I found this to be rather nice. This game revolves around driving your car to get to certain points to start up the story. Driving those long stretches of nothing is oddly relaxing. The fortresses you can invade are not particularly imaginative. As for the characters themselves, they range from plain humans with dirty clothing to war boys with physical deformities. Max himself looks bad ass after you upgrade him as does Chum Bucket, who is grotesquely deformed. Avalanche did a great job on making variety of scarcity.
A beautiful game is nothing more than pretty visuals if there isn’t good game play behind it; this is another area where Mad Max was fine tuned. If you’ve played any of the Arkham games, the hand to hand combat is the exact same system. Strike, parry, dodge, and repeat. One of the key differences is, unlike Batman, Max is NOT restricted from killing. Max is a brutal hand to hand combatant and is not sluggish either. While fighting, if you can land enough hits while parrying, you trigger Fury Mode, where Max becomes a violent tour de force. He gains access to increased damage and a bevy of new finishers. It’s a real thrill to land a multi-hit combo and then pile drive your enemies into oblivion. Or land a powerful uppercut followed by a shotgun blast to the gut. I found myself with a big dumb grin on my face more often than not.
Driving and car combat are stellar here as well. The game has a strong focus on customizing your car, the Magnum Opus. What starts out as a pile of parts and metal frame soon becomes a powerful beautiful war machine. A fully upgraded Magnum Opus not only looks awesome, but it’s also a real menace in a fight. Hearing the engine roar as you side swipe a war boy and then fire a harpoon to rip him out of his car never got old for me. The only major problem is there is an odd disconnect between driving and being on foot. Driving around and taking out enemies feels great, but when you switch to the other side it feels less thrilling.
Story has never been a particularly strong focus in the series, but I found this story to be more forgettable than many other games of recent memory. Story amounts to Max losing his Interceptor, meeting Chum who can build him the Magnum Opus, upgrading the car through story missions, and taking out the hierarchy of war boys. It never really amounted to much more than that sadly. There are some great moments, like meeting Griffa, a mystic who helps you power up your abilities. Other great moments include putting the body on your car and testing out the nitro. There a few scenes were Max confronts his inner crazy and these are great, albeit a poor attempt for character development. It’s just sad that the rest of the game wasn’t filled with these great moments. The ending left me feeling like there could have been more meat on the bones. It’s obvious there was more of a focus on the game play here than anything else and it’s disappointing considering the studio’s previous efforts had a decent story to go with the game play.
To end on a more positive note, I want to give some praise to the sound design. Explosions, the sound of bones cracking, and the subtle sound of sand being moved by tires are all superb. NONE of these however, can match the tumultuous roar of an engine during rapid acceleration and hitting top speed. Hitting a straight segment of desert and just gunning it will make you a happy camper. While I found the score to be a little bland and sometimes non-existent, there are pieces that feels unnecessary. I will also give some kudos as the voice acting here is solid. Bren Foster does an excellent job as the voice of Max, but the two who really steal the show are Chum (Bruce Spence) and Griffa (Jonathan Oldham).