Leather jacket and shotgun? Check. V8 Interceptor? Will a Ford Escort do? John enters the world of Mad Max.
Name: Mad Max
Format: Sony PlayStation 4
Released: 3rd September 2015
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
I enjoyed the original trilogy of Mad Max films but I wouldn’t consider my self a big fan. Mad Max 2 was always my favourite of the three and if I come across them channel surfing, I’d probably leave them playing.
In 2015, director George Miller, creator and director of the series brought a new entry to our screens, Mad Max: Fury Road.
The trailers had me fired up and I saw the film at the cinema. It was fantastic! An almost endless action road movie from start to finish.
Trailers started to appear for the Mad Max game that was to be released on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and PC (Apparently, versions for Xbox 360 and PS3 were scrapped as they simply weren’t powerful enough for the type of game).
I was already salivating over the prospect of obtaining my own PS4, the games looked amazing. Unfortunately, the console was out of reach, as far as my wallet was concerned.
Time passed and thanks to a 2016 Black Friday deal, I finally obtained a PS4. There was a list of games I was determined to purchase cheaply on the secondary market and Mad Max was one of them.
Mad Max at its most basic level is an open world game. There is a central storyline that runs through the game with many side quests which can also be completed at any time.
Whilst the game shares many elements from Mad Max: Fury Road, the game isn’t official tie-in to the film but still serves as a loose sequel to that story.
That car’s finished! Don’t forget to pick up the scrap it leaves behind!
The game starts with Max searching for fuel when he finds himself under attack from a group of War Boys led by Scabrous Scrotus, psychotic son of Immortan Joe (The bad guy from Mad Max: Fury Road) and ruler of Gastown.
Max loses the fight and Scrotus leaves him practically naked to die in the Wasteland. Max soldiers on and finds some clothes and a gun from a dead body. He pushes on and discovers and upturned ship half buried in the sand. Inside is Chumbucket, a hunchbacked mechanic.
Chumbucket tells Max of his greatest creation, a car named the Magnum Opus. He is trying to build it again but the Warboys and various Wasteland leaders have the parts required.
Max agrees to help Chumbucket retrieve the parts in order to get his revenge on Scrotus.
The Wasteland is the apocalyptic game world in which the story is set. It is divided into several areas with each one ruled by a specific leader.
Driving through an area is fraught with danger as there are regular enemy patrols, snipers, land mines and scarecrow towers.
The scarecrow towers are metal towers designed to intimidate the locals and show whose in charge. Bringing these metal towers down will lower the threat value of that region. This can be achieved by either ramming them with your car or using a harpoon. However, as the game begins, these two options won’t be very useful as your car and weapons will be too underpowered.
The area threat level can also be decreased by destroying sniper towers and encampments. Decreasing an area’s threat level will reduce the number of enemy patrols making travelling around easier.
Every area will have many encampments with some harder to destroy than others. The smaller, more simple encampments will just require you to kill everyone inside, whilst the larger variety will contain more requirements such as destroying an oil well for example.
It is in these encampments where you will engage in brutal hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. Max has a variety of moves at his disposal including ones that bring his shotgun or knives into play as well, helping kill the enemy at a quicker rate. Supplies of ammunition and knives are rather limited, so you don’t want to go using these all at once.
These guys aren’t going to wait to take turns!
The trick to fighting is to parry at the correct time in order to counter-attack. However, as the game throws the enemy at you in multiples, this can be quite a challenge as your quite often under attack from all sides.
To your advantage though is Fury Mode. Once Max successfully takes down a series of adversaries in a successful chain of attacks, he enters a dangerous and short Fury Mode. During this time, the enemy won’t be able to block Max’s attacks. Use this time to your advantage!
But this wouldn’t be a Mad Max game if it didn’t feature vehicle combat and this game has it in spades! The enemy usually travels in packs of two or three making combat quite a challenge in the early stages of the game, especially us your car will be fairly weak.
Initially, your first attacks will come from simply trying to ram your opponents until they blow up or maybe trying to shoot the driver with your shotgun from the driver’s seat. Luckily, whenever you’re firing a weapon from your car, the whole game will slow down momentarily allowing you to precisely aim where you want your shots to go.
Many times, the enemy will simply outnumber you and damage your car so much that it starts to burn in flames. You can stop and get out to allow Chumbucket to restore the car back to full health but now you out in the open, exposed. You must still try to survive the onslaught from the attacking cars.
When you successfully destroy an enemy car, it will leave behind pieces of scrap. This is the currency in the world of Mad Max. Scrap can also be found in the previously mentioned encampments and in smaller camps dotted all around the map for you to discover.
As you collect scrap you can upgrade Max with more powerful fighting moves as well as upgrading his shotgun and his knuckle dusters. Max’s car can also be upgraded in all manner of ways with better armour, wheels, weapons and even the engine.
These upgrade options are available at any time from the options’ menu, you simply need to have the right amounts of scrap to purchase what you need.
The fuel tanks on the back of those cars, I wonder what a shotgun blast would do to ’em?
The sounds and visuals of the game, in my opinion, are fantastic. The Apocalyptic wasteland is vast and each area has a unique look so you can always recognise where you are. One area might be primarily a dessert whilst another is what used to be a seabed and is littered with the rusting hulls of old ships.
Whilst you never discover what caused the world to end up this way (although I think we’re doing a perfectly good job of getting there in reality!), there are clues everywhere of a world now left behind. One area features planes and an airport terminal buried in the sand, the aforementioned seabed, old main road bridges and wind turbines broken and bent, no longer a use to anyone.
The game world also has day and night cycles which also brings a beauty to the night as well. The moon will shine in the night sky and in the distant landscape, you’ll spot burning fires and the approaching headlights of enemy cars.
Every so often, powerful storms will ravage the entire area and the only way to survive will be to find shelter. The storms feature powerful lighting which can easily inflict heavy damage to you and your car.
The audio also perfectly matches the visuals. Hand-to-hand combat sounds harsh and incredibly painful with the sound of snapping bones. The throaty roar of vehicle engines, which never gets old in this game, is mixed with metallic crunches as you ram the enemy. War boys laugh maniacally from behind the wheel as they try to run you over.
There is also four hours of music composed by Mats Lundgren that I think deserves a special mention. A perfect accompaniment to the game, this soundtrack features thumping, racing drums, metallic sounds and twisted screams and chants from the War boys.
The story moments feature a traditional score and help bring a emotion to the games main story. I’d like to experience the music away from the game but unfortunately, it has never received an independent release.
Before you attack larger vehicles, you’ll have to pick off their protective escorts first!
However, despite my rambling praise for the game, it does have some flaws that may dissuade others from trying the game.
My love for this game stems from my love of the films and their apocalyptic aesthetic. If this isn’t your thing, then I have to admit that the game will just feel like a big grind at times.
The hand-to-hand combat never really changes as the game progresses. If you upgrade Max in the right way, fighting just becomes easier as he becomes more powerful.
The big boss fights are also very disappointing and I say that even as a big fan of the game. To mix it up a little, you usually have to fight a few normal enemies whilst also avoiding the boss and his special move.
But essentially every boss fight follows the same rules,
- Stand still and let the boss come at you with his power move.
- Roll out of the way, dodging the attack and then hit the boss while they’re disorientated.
- Boss recovers and your fists no longer have any effect.
- Goto step 1.
The other disappointment will depend on how you play the game. If you try to progress through the storyline at a rapid pace, the challenge will be there. You’ll get to points where Max or his car aren’t quite powerful enough.
For me, however, I decided to play the game methodically, probably caused by a touch of OCD. I decided to clear away all enemies and collect all items/scrap from each sub-area of the map before moving on with the plot to the next area.
This allowed me to collect many power-ups and large amounts of scrap. I was able to upgrade nearly every item as soon as it became available to me. Some major story events and challenges by the end of the game were fun but not that difficult because Max and his car were upgraded to the highest levels.
For example, Max’s car features a V6 engine which is upgradeable in stages and I did so throughout the game when I had the scrap to afford it.
The V8 engine comes very late in the main storyline but when I did achieve it, I was able to immediately upgrade to its maximum level because I had a large stockpile of scrap from my method of playing.
Chumbucket will keep your car in tip-top condition.
Even though I have recently completed the game, I’m going back to the open world to pick up the last few items and encampments that I have missed simply because I love playing in that world.
From a technical standpoint, I found that the sound also cut out for a second or two occasionally (playing via headphones plugged into the controller). Also, especially later in the game when there is more happening on-screen, the games frame-rate does drop significantly for a moment or two.
This only happens when driving in the open world, but this does, of course, make controlling your vehicle even harder and If it happens at a crucial moment, it can be frustrating.
As already mentioned, I love the game world, it’s apocalyptic aesthetic and its links to Mad Max: Fury Road. This is why I played it through till the end and I still want to go back and 100% certain items.
If you’re not such a big fan, you’ll probably still enjoy the game but I feel the repetitive gameplay elements may stop you after a while.
Mad Max can be bought for around £10 second hand and is currently free to PlayStation Plus subscribers until the end of April 2018.