When you sit down and think about it, Mad Max employs so many excellent elements that would impeccably fit a video game. From the action to sequences and the personalities in between, the world of Mad Max seems like an easy transition. While that is true and the game has its brilliant moments, it sticks far too closely to the formula of many other games that ultimately makes the game slightly disappointing.
As you can probably imagine, you play as Max who is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. While in his car, he is intercepted by Scabrous Scrotus and his convoy and they leave Max in a bad way and take his car from him. Your quest becomes two pronged: Rebuild your Magnum Opus and take down Scabrous Scrotus.
This premise is perfect for the open world and honestly, despite it being a literal wasteland, is one of the most beautiful open worlds I’ve ever seen in a game. The view distance seems endless and visually its stunning. The lighting adds to the atmosphere and overall visual quality that is sure to give you moments where you will simply stand around and take in the surroundings.
And developers Avalanche Studios know this as dotted around the map are hot air balloons that allow you to ascend to the sky and utilise your binoculars to marks locations on your map. It’s hard to not be impressed when you’re a few hundred feet in the air and you feel like you can see the entire map even if it is huge.
What you do in the world is exciting at first but runs its course long before the game is ultimately finished. The map is broken into regions, each with a set base and an influence level. You must destroy scarecrows, blow up oil pumps, take over camps and a lot more in order to reduce Scrostus’s influence on the map. This is done very gradually and it’s not long before you realise there isn’t a lot of variety to any of the activities.
The variety seems to come from your own approach as you level up both Max and your vehicle. Everything you do in the game from destroying camps to just wandering the wasteland will be dictated by finding scrap. Scrap is used for everything in this world and honestly it doesn’t build up nearly as fast as it probably should. Mad Max is a 35-40 hour game and it feels like it could and should have been half that length. Everything feels prolonged in order to get a longer running time and in doing so, harms the overall experience. Nothing really changes from hour 5 to hour 30 except for Max’s strength and abilities.
One thing that is surprising is just how much customisation and improving can be done to your vehicle. There are around 20 different aspects to level up regarding your vehicle and every single one of them half at least half a dozen improvements meaning it takes a long time to get your beast dominating in the wasteland. The growth however feels good and eventually hits a sweet spot but then it surpasses that and the challenge disappears.
Just driving around the world looks and feels great and with the random storms, things stay exciting. You may be chasing a convoy or planning to attack a camp and all of a sudden you receive a warning that a storm is on its way and you must take shelter. You could of course take shelter and wait it out or you can take on the storm in order to find muthaloot which gives you much larger intake of scrap in order to level up quicker.
Unfortunately, the biggest disappointment is when you get out of your vehicle which you are required to do far too often. When this happens, chances are you are about to take on enemies in hand to hand combat which in the beginning is downright frustrating. Animations can’t be cancelled so it loses the smoothness of games like Batman Arkham and Shadow of Mordor and until you level up the fury meter which gives Max higher damage, it’s just a slog. Far too often, just as you press the punch button, another enemy will start their attack and his animation is faster meaning chances are he will hit you and you’ll lose your combo and a chunk of health in the process. When you level Max up though it becomes acceptable but never fun.
Mad Max felt like a rollercoaster of a game. In the beginning, it’s not enjoyable and becomes frustrating far too often. After some levelling though, it hits its sweet spot and everything clicks. Then the game continues for another 15-20 hours and the real challenge becomes seeing out the story which has some interesting characters.
Throughout the entire game you have a companion in Chumbucket who will automatically fix your vehicle when you are not in it. He’s a good character and keeps things interesting in his dialogue when driving around and states things to help you know your surroundings like if a sniper has spotted you. You can have another companion in a dog called Dinki DI who’s primary job is to help discover mines in a minefield in order to disarm them
Had the game not followed the structure of so many other open world games, it would have been a lot better. Despite it being open-world in nature, it feels like the developers were restricted in what they were allowed to do in the world. Avalanche Studios, developers of the Just Cause series allow you to do anything you want in their games but here they had a formula and stick to it throughout the entire games leaving a lot to be desired. It’s a shame though because at times it really does show some brilliance only to be brought down to doing the same things all over again