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Backlogging: 'Mad Max'


Backlogging: 'Mad Max'

Shaun Cordingley

I am a sucker for all things Mad Max; for whatever reason, I have always had a soft spot when it came to that franchise, and my intense enjoyment of Mad Max: Fury Road helped me remember my love for the series, as well as upped it to a new level. I had heard mixed things about the 2015 PS4 (and XB1, PC, MAC) game Mad Max, but I eventually settled on the idea of giving it a spin to see what I thought for myself when the game had recently been on sale. it's not set specifically in the film universe (read: it's not canon), Mad Max is inspired by it, and George Miller was (apparently) consulted during the games' pre-production, as it is very much Mad Max, and relies on some of the lore...particularly from Fury Road

In Mad Max, the player takes the role of Max Rockatansky who finds himself without his iconic Interceptor (car) after a run in with Scabrous Scrotus (one of Immortan Joe's, from Fury Road, children), leader of a band of War Boys and ruler of Gastown. From there, your Max joins forces with Chumbucket, an exiled Blackfinger (read: mechanic) who dreams of building the holiest car he can imagine: the Magnum Opus.  Over the course of the game, Max and Chumbucket drive around the wastelands, helping out local, non Scrotus-affiliated leaders, and building up the Magnum Opus so Max can get....well originally he is driven by a desire to "cross the Plains of Silence" (essentially to get away from himself, and his past...), but eventually it turns into a revenge story wherein you're building the car in order to take down Scrotus.

The story was interesting; as far as a Mad Max story goes, it was rather interesting, and takes an incredibly strange turn at the end of the third act, but the trick was, a lot of the in game time was not spent on story. 
At it's heart, Mad Max is an open-world game third person action game, filled with various locations to explore, collectables to pick up (mostly in the form of history relics--images and signs before the world fell into the apocalypse), and a whole lot of sand, and jerks trying to blow your car up. Some open-world games struggle with emptiness, where their world does not feel alive, but Mad Max actually revels in that--the environment feels like Mad Max, and every time you come across something that isn't just another dune (an old, rusted hulk of a ship, or a blasted out gas station), you feel that rush of "maybe there's something good in there for me to grab/it could be filled with psychopaths with knives". I spent hours just driving around the wasteland, looking for parts for my car, or to help a local leader build up their stronghold.

The car combat in Mad Max is spectacular, and easily some of the best that I have experienced in a long time--there's such a diversity in combat possible that every situation, every rival car/convoy/war party I ran into felt different, and played out differently as my car got stronger, and more heavily armed. I found myself inordinately fond of "Thunderpoons" (explosive tip harpoons), but every weapon I found had it's uses, and Mad Max was one of the few games where I found that I did not settle on just one, but would actually rotate between and come up with different strategies. 

Unfortunately car combat was only about 2/3 of the combat--hand to hand combat in Mad Max was repetitive and rather dull. It felt like the combat in the Batman: Arkham series or Shadows of Mordor, but without the diversity, or tactical shifts that either of those games had. Regardless of the situation, I often just ended up hitting two buttons over and over again, and the only (literally, the only) time I would get hit is if I was tired, or started paying attention to something else...This reminds me, unfortunately of the Assassin's Creed franchise (and why I stopped playing it). The thing with the earlier Assassin's Creed games (like say, II), was that it still felt new, and the story quests were interesting (especially for someone who studied that era of Italy in University)...

The story quests, and quest variety (especially side quests) in Mad Max, however, felt tired. They were largely the same from top to bottom, usually involving driving somewhere, punching dudes, driving back. Again, and again, and again. Want to clear that stronghold of Scrotus' soldiers? Drive in, get out of your car (you have to, always), punch dudes until there are no more dudes...when you couple this with the repetitive combat I talked about above...
Let's just say, I had to convince myself to finish this one, and I ended up just skipping a lot of side missions to at least experience the fun cut-scenes, and the interesting Mad Max story, to get to the end. 

So what do I think about Mad Max? It was fun, especially when you are bombing around the wastes in your car, and pieces of the story got to be interesting (especially if you are into the Mad Max universe), but the repetitive quests and frankly dull hand-to-hand combat makes me think that this is a game that...if you're really into Mad Max (particularly Fury Road), and can grab it on sale (and now know what you're getting into), or you really want some good car combat, you should give it a go.

Otherwise, I can think of several third-person action games you would probably enjoy more, and a few that are coming out that I have much higher expectations for. 

-S (@Shauncord