By Andrew Dodson on October 6, 2015 at 11:00pm
The Wastes are hot and vast. Ruins and dried blood are all that remain of our civilization after a devastating apocalypse. The people that do remain travel the desert in cobbled-together warmachines fighting over swallows of water and drops of oil.
"Mad Max" drops the player right into the middle of the Mad Max universe and in the game's opening cinematic, all we can do as watch as Max gets beaten and his signature Interceptor stolen. The rest of the game revolves around Max building himself back up and learning to survive in the wasteland again - and helping others do the same.
"Mad Max" takes place in a barren, post-apocalyptic, seemingly never-ending desert...and it is gorgeous. If you had to choose a desolate landscape to drive through, it would be hard to do better than "Mad Max." The developers have done a fantastic job of giving the player the a realistic desert landscape, and peppering it with all manner of interesting landmarks and ruins left behind from before the end of the world. You'll pass old oil platforms rusting in the middle of nothingness and you'll find huge ships sitting quietly where there was once water. If the game was just driving around in this landscape, it would be incredibly memorable.
If you saw "Mad Max: Fury Road" (or even the trailer, really), you'll probably recall early on when everyone drove into that massive sandstorm. The same sandstorms exist in "Mad Max" and they are awe-inspiring and terrifying. You'll look in a direction and see a wall of sand and debris a mile high rushing toward you at impossible speeds, and there is nothing you can do but let it overtake you and try keep on driving.
So, the developers got the environment down, but what about what makes a Mad Max game actually a Mad Max game: the driving. One of the major RPG aspects of the game is set on Max's new ride - the Magnum Opus. When you first get it, the car is a piece of garbage and it drives like it too. However, as you collect scrap and complete different missions, new parts for the Magnum Opus are revealed, allow you to customize the car to work however you like. You want a car that is light and ridiculously fast? You got it. You want a car that is a heavily-armored death machine? Do you want spikes with that? Along with customization that you can do to the car's body and engine, you can also acquire hood ornaments which give substantial boosts to specific aspects of your car's performance (speed, durability, handling etc).
Driving is fun. The action in car battles is fantastic and absurd in the best ways. Cars slam into one another, war boys jump from car to car (and kick you in the face), there's spinning blades, fire shooting out of places where there probably shouldn't be fire, harpoons and the occasional rocket or shotgun blast from Max. They are crazy and explosive and definitely one of the most exciting and challenging parts of the game.
Another big thing that "Mad Max" does really well is lore. You find it everywhere. If you encounter a new enemy, Max gets a little 'encyclopedia' snippet about that enemy and what their place in the world is. When scavenging for scrap, occasionally you'll stumble upon a historical artifact (typically just a Polaroid) which reveals it's own personal story. Just about every conversation Max has reveals some new point about the world that everyone is living in which really helps make the world feel more alive.
My biggest gripe with "Mad Max" is the lack of threat. There are tons of unique enemies and a lot of different ways to deal with them. But, really, all you have to do is counter as they swing (which super easy) and you can dispatch hordes of war boys with Max hardly breaking a sweat. Fight car-to-car is exciting, because there are explosions and spikes and so much speed, but fighting hand-to-hand...Max is basically unstoppable. It only really gets tricky against Top Dogs (mini-bosses), or if the environment is doing something tricky. Other than that, once you see all of Max's devastating movies, ground combat gets kind of boring.
Even getting hit by enemy car while on foot really doesn't do that much damage. A lot of the times, Max seems more durable than the Magnum Opus he's driving around.
While the characters in the game were interesting and fit well with the Mad Maxiverse, the story for the game kind of falls flat. The story starts with Max just trying to get his car back, and it kind of evolves into working with different "good guy" factions and helping them stand up against the tyranny of Gastown. And it's fine. There isn't anything wrong with the story, but going through it isn't satisfying - it just feels like you're going to work.
The game is essentially nothing but collection missions. With each story mission, you're essentially sent to a different point, you pick up a thing and then you go back. Most of the time, you gotta kill some people and maybe blow up something too. There isn't much variation from that.
When you aren't doing story missions, you can spend time collecting things for friendly strongholds to enhance them - I actually found this part of the game to be the most rewarding. Or you can drive around destroying Scrotus threat in the area. Or you can visit all the scavenging locations and pick up scrap. Or you can drive around helping wanderers with their problems.
There is a lot of driving to a place, picking up/destroying a thing and then driving to the next place.
If you really like the Mad Max movies - especially the newest one, "Fury Road" - then "Mad Max" is definitely for you. The game throws you right into the Wastes, and you get sit behind of the wheel of an awesome car and do awesome Mad Max...stuff. If you care about the world, then you're probably going to like what "Mad Max" gives you and you're going to have a lot of fun. If you're not a fan of the movies and you're just looking for a fun action-packed game to then the game is probably going to fall flat for you.
"Mad Max" gives basically exactly what it advertises - a Mad Max game. You're given the endless rolling Wastes, never before rendered so beautifully. You're given an awesome set of wheels. You're given countless opportunities to beat bad guys senseless or cause incredible explosions. It provides a primal satisfaction that is hard to top. Sure, there are parts of the game that get repetitive or feel weak, but that's not the entire game. When "Mad Max" is at it's best is when you're being chased down a dusty highway by half-a-dozen Gastown cars, swarming with pissed off war boys. When you're all out of ammo, and your only recourse is to take a sudden right turn and drive right into the incoming storm. "Mad Max" gives exactly what the movies offer - a wild ride.