Over the festive period I finally managed to complete Mad Max. Really, this should have been called Mad Max: The Videogame in the style of an 1980s Ocean release to differentiate it from Mad Max the film, Mad Max the book and Mad Max the, um, Max. But it wasn’t.
Mad Max (the game) is a rather sprawling open-world affair published by WB Interactive and very much follows the template laid down by various Ubisoft titles. Playing as Mad Max (the person) you drive around the barren Wasteland going to icons on your map, completing activities and ticking things off on multiple on-screen checklists. The Wasteland is, oddly, rather beautiful, full of the kind of sun-drenched desert vistas that make you yearn for global environmental catastrophe. It’s pretty empty, and switching between this and GTAV really makes you notice how quiet Mad Max (the game)’s world is. This is presumably all intentional: it’s the Wasteland after all so you wouldn’t expect it to be chock-full of skyscrapers and shopping malls. Unfortunately whilst thematically it makes sense, this doesn’t really make it any more interesting.
It doesn’t help that everywhere you need to go and everything you need to do is either highlighted on the map from the get-go or can be discovered using the Ubisoft-tower-style balloons that Mad Max (the person) can. strictly vertically, take to the skies in. There’s no sense of exploration, really; you just go where the game tells you.
All of this sounds negative, I realise, which is a bit unfair because Mad Max (the game) is actually pretty good. Videogamer.com (Videogame Website of Champions) described it as the best 7/10 game ever, and that’s a fairly accurate assessment. Everything about the game is good but just not that good. It doesn’t help that most of the components are borrowed from other games, but the standard is not as high as the better examples of them. The combat, for instance, is fundamentally the same as that in the Batman Arkham series and Shadow of Mordor, but isn’t quite as fluid or as much fun. There’s an extra sense of brutality to it, which is nice, but to me there seemed more times when I was fighting against the controls than I remember in those other titles. Most of the activities in the world are very similar to those in the later Far Cry titles, with you infiltrating camps and performing set objectives (all of which boil down to blowing something/beating someone up) . The problem is that there are too many of them and they’re just too similar. Once you’ve infiltrated your sixth camp you’ve pretty much seen most of what they’ve got to offer, but the game insists on making you do more.
The game’s map is split into four major segments, each one ostensibly ruled by a warlord. Each has a base that acts as a local hub of operations and provides a handful of optional and compulsory missions. There’s also a threat level associated with each map segment and Mad Max (the person) can reduce this by performing numerous activities within the area. Depending on the size of the map area and the activity carried out, the threat level can reduce by a fractional amount, and again it all adds to the feel that you’re just filling in a giant checklist set by the developers.
From all the pre-release marketing, it was clear that Mad Max (the stand-out feature) was its car combat. My experience of in-car fighting from the various GTA games and similar titles like Watch Dogs hasn’t been a very good one; it’s just too often too cumbersome using a controller to drive, aim and shoot at the same time. Mad Max (the game) gets around this by cheating a little bit: whenever you use a weapon in a vehicle, time slows to a crawl and you can freely aim and fire without needing to worry about driving your car into a ravine. Whilst this works and does make the combat fun, it also renders it a bit too easy. There’s no limit to the amount of time you can spend in slow-motion aiming mode, and once you’ve progressed a bit through the story and got the ‘Thunderpoon’ weapon there’s precious little challenge. Still, kudos to the developers for the thought they’ve put into this part of the game.
For all it’s visual beauty, I did find Mad Max (the game) ugly in terms of its world and storyline. This is a personal thing, but I just didn’t enjoy the post-apocalyptic setting and found the characters mostly reprehensible people. The story itself is quite flat; there’s a few beats to it but nothing that will surprise, and – without giving away too much – the ending does make you feel like it was barely worth you bothering with the whole thing.
Again, a lot of what I’ve said seems pretty negative but that’s not really fair. I enjoyed Mad Max (the game) but just constantly felt that I could be playing something better.