The new Mad Max movie featured precious little of Max himself, so to fill the gap in the story, we have the video game that focuses almost exclusively on him. Let’s get set for some sun, sand, ridiculous cars, and brutal mayhem as I skip across the dunes to bring you this review.
In the Mad Max game, Max starts out driving across the desert in his car, the Black on Black, when he is attacked by a war party led by the maniacally insane Scabrous Scrotus, son of Immortan Joe from the film. In the ensuing tangle, Max is robbed of his car, his weapons, and his clothes. He is found by a creepy, disfigured mechanic named Chumbucket, and Max must create a new magnificent car to take on the war bands of the deserts. Most of the game takes place behind the wheel and in the desert, and the entire game plays like the crazy lovechild of Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, and Burnout.
The driving itself is surprisingly good; the car you spend most of the time driving, the Magnum Opus, is a fairly stout thing with the kind of handling you only see on higher-end cars in most driving games. The Magnum Opus is also fairly configurable, and throughout most of the game you have instant access to the garage, allowing you to upgrade and modify the vehicle on the fly. There are times, however, when you’ll need to drive other vehicles, and the terrible way these vehicles handle just reinforces how amazing a car the Magnum Opus is. Chumbucket drives shotgun—literally and figuratively—while you’re in the Magnum Opus, and he’s always on hand to fix the car when you gallivant a little too hard.
Much of the game’s combat is vehicular, too, and while ammo is too precious and rare (initially, at least) to waste on vehicular marauders, the Magnum Opus is outfitted with a glorious harpoon in the early stages of the game. You soon learn that the best way to stop an enemy car is to fire a harpoon into it and yank the driver out. I honestly never got bored of watching the enemy drivers catapult wantonly across the landscape as I retracted the harpoon.
The game’s map is huge, but once the game is loaded, you’ll barely see any loading between areas, and you can drive the length and breadth of the map with nary a load bar in sight. It’s glorious. Given the vast tracts of desert you have to drive through, it’s a good thing that the game includes a fast-travel feature. You’ll find that, like many sandbox games, you’ll have an insane amount of trekking to do just to clear the icons from your map. And there are a lot of things to see, do, and fetch.
There will be times when Max has to leg it, though, and these will usually be the enemy camps, where you have to either kill someone or destroy something to clear it. Some of the camps have hidden ways to get in and do things sneakily, but you’ll be called upon to do more fighting than sneaking in this game. Max is a well-seasoned brawler, thankfully, and the combat will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played Assassin’s Creed or Batman. While not as deep as Batman’s combat, it still is more fluid than some “button mash button mash” titles.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. I never thought I’d come to appreciate post-apocalyptic sandscapes as much as I do, but golly there are some beautiful scenes. The way the crepuscular rays stream majestically forth through the plumes of dust as the vermilion sun sets on the undulating dunes…wow. I played the PS4 version, and it’s abundantly apparent that this game could not have been done as beautifully on last-gen hardware.
There are some niggles with the game, natch. The story is slow to get going for some reason, and the best bits of the game are actually closer to the end of things. Sticking around that long might tire some players out, since amassing the amount of scrap needed to properly upgrade and outfit the Magnum Opus will take some time and doing. Thankfully, as you clear enemy camps, allies take over and send tributes of scrap your way. The more camps you clear, the more scrap you receive on a regular basis. Clearing the map of icons can also become repetitive (although the vehicular combat doesn’t, funnily enough), and even clearing enemy camps becomes a routine of “clear the defenses, kill the campers, destroy all the things”. On the other hand, it’s not a game that required me to do much thinking. I could quite easily play the game with my mind disengaged, and there were days when it was just the thing I wanted to do.
I know the game has received some mixed reviews, but I liked it, and I’m fairly sure you, my dear readers, would too, if you enjoy the kinds of murderous rampages that games like this are famous for. It’s a beautiful story about a man and his car, and the utter mayhem that one single person can wreak in the outback wastelands. What more could a man ask for?
Final Score: 7.5 Mad Prawns out of 10
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: WB Games
Distributor: Ster Kinekor
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), XBox One, PC
Age Rating: 16