Mad Max full review
Avalanche Studios is incredibly busy at the moment, developing not only the third instalment of the Just Cause series but also Mad Max, a game reminiscent of the Mad Max: Fury Road movie released earlier this year. When we say reminiscent, we’re not talking about characters and storylines, but more of an inspiration for the game. Yes, Max is essentially the same character, and the environment is similar in both the game and the film, but apart from that no other parallels can be drawn. With this being said, has Avalanche Studios done enough to simulate the chaos in the baron wasteland Mad Max is set in, or has it fallen flat? Read our review to find out.
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Mad Max game review: Open world and weather system
Mad Max is set in a desolate post-apocalyptic world with huge sand dunes, vicious gang-based warfare and scavenging rife throughout the land. The game itself is open world, with two main pillars focused on exploration and combat, both on-foot and (of course) in-car. Although it’s not known by the inhabitants, players soon realise that this is set in what would be San Francisco, with what’s left of the Golden Gate bridge visible in-game. It’s an interesting look into a post apocalyptic world where laws and dignity have all but disappeared, and human life has reverted back to a wild state.
Visually, Mad Max is stunning, especially when played on a PC where it can really flex its graphical muscles. You can see finer details like sand blowing in the wind over dunes, and the sunlight seeping through the cracks of an abandoned, desolate stronghold. Many open world games fall flat with texturing (think first-gen GTA V), as there is such a huge area to cover, but Mad Max captures the detail perfectly and buildings look as good up close as they do from afar. It adds a level of realism to the game, and makes you want to explore every nook and cranny of the world if for nothing else than to appreciate the graphics and design of the game.
The detailed scenery is only one way to appreciate just how good Mad Max looks. Mad Max also features a dynamic weather system complete with day and night time for a more realistic experience. Being the sandy wasteland it is, you’ll often find yourself in the middle of a sandstorm, which sounds like a nightmare but has its advantages. While it may mean your visibility is reduced, so is your enemies’, giving you the perfect opportunity to opt for stealth and speak past them.
Not so regular is the storm of a completely different kind, which at first glance looks like a regular thunder storm but is anything but. If you get caught in a thunderstorm you’ll have to find cover quickly in order to survive, as lightning will strike the ground constantly, creating huge explosions and devastating all in its path, both man and car. While inconvenient at times, it adds another level of danger to the game – not only do you have to be weary of War Boys, but the environment itself!
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Mad Max game review: Cars and upgrades
So, how can you traverse such an uninhabitable environment? With the help of the Magnum Opus and Chumbucket, your disfigured car-crazed mechanic. The Magnum Opus is the car Max has from beginning to end, as his original car nicknamed the ‘Interceptor’ is destroyed at the beginning of the game. The aim of the game is to upgrade and transform the Magnum Opus into the ultimate vehicle with a God-like status to drive to the ‘Plains of Silence’.
The Magnum Opus starts off as weak and basic, just about handling the rough terrain and low-level War Boys, the enemies you’ll come up against throughout the game. Scavenging scrap is a huge part of Mad Max, and is the only way you’re able to upgrade your car and install new and deadly features. These upgrades are installed by Chumbucket, your mechanic, and as he’s with you throughout the game, upgrades can be instantly applied anywhere via the pause menu. It also means Chumbucket is always on hand to repair the car after every skirmish, though the car has to be completely stationary for him to do so.
Scavenging scrap is something that gamers will get used to when playing Mad Max, mainly because scrap is needed to do pretty much anything in the game. Players can come across scrap in many different ways, from destroying ‘scarecrows’ (pillars with hanging bodies and are usually surrounded by spikes) to raiding and destroying War Boy strongholds. The only issue we have when collecting scrap is that it’s just that – scrap. When collecting scrap, we would only get six or seven pieces from a car that’d taken us almost five minutes to destroy, and when you consider even the cheapest upgrades costs 150-250 scrap, collecting can become a tad long winded.
Being able to access the Garage from the pause menu allows players the freedom to customise their vehicles on the fly depending on what they need to achieve, as players won’t be able to fully upgrade every area of the car. Instead, players must decide on the characteristics of their Magnum Opus – do they want speed, armour, destruction, off-road abilities or a combination of everything? These decisions, along with various ‘Arch Angels’ (preset car designs) mean that there’s a perfect Magnum Opus setup for every style of gameplay.
It’s not just the Magnum Opus that needs upgrading either. Max himself can be upgraded in several different ways, from the clothing he wears to the damage he does with his fists. The good news is that these upgrades are usually a lot cheaper than the car upgrades, and can offer advantages in various situations. One example is in combat, as Max can learn a series of additional combat moves as he levels up throughout the game, making him more deadly as time goes by. It’s not just combat though, as additional tools can also be bought and upgraded, allowing Max access to secret areas that were previously unreachable.
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Mad Max game review: Factions
Mad Max’s post-apocalyptic environment is split between various factions, each with a stronghold that Max can access at any time. Establishing a friendly relationship with these factions by eliminating hostile enemies and bases yields great results, including additional side quests and unique upgrades for your Magnum Opus.
As well as eliminating the competition, Max can scavenge parts for stronghold utilities that’ll give the player access to ammo, fuel and water whenever entered. It doesn’t stop there though, as the benefits also include having faction members pick up scrap from destroyed cars automatically, saving you the effort of having to get out and pick it up after every explosion. Improving utilities also improves the stronghold visually, and over time you’ll be able to restore each stronghold to its former glory.
Mad Max game review: Combat systems
According to the developers, gamers spend around 60 percent of their time on Mad Max in-car, which meant there was a lot of pressure on the developers to get the control system just right. The result? One of the best in-car control systems we’ve ever used, even if it took a little bit of getting used to at first. It’s extremely satisfying to crash into a War Boy vehicle at top speed to see it explode into a ball of fire and debris, and it gets even better when they fight back. In-car combat is dirty, gritty and can be tackled in a number of ways using weapons at Max’s disposal.
You could, for instance, completely stop the car in its tracks by firing a harpoon at the driver and pulling him out, an ideal move when trying locking horns with a huge convoy. You could also use the harpoon to pull of tires and bumpers to damage and slow the cars, or just blow them up entirely using a modified harpoon that you gain access to midway through the game. The best part is that whenever you aim, time slows right down and allows you to perfectly place each shot for maximum effect and unlike in many other games, there’s no time limit on the slow-mo mode. The combination of weapons and a slow motion aim can bring huge chains of destruction, which is always satisfying to see. Whenever a car is destroyed, loot is dropped, which is where having a clean up team from your allied faction comes in handy.
So, how does the on-foot combat compare? The in-car combat was so much fun that we were slightly worried that the on-foot combat system would let it down, but we were wrong. It features a similar free-flowing combat system to the one we all know and love from Warner Bro’s Batman game series, which allows gamers to take on large groups of War Boys and still make it out the other side. Although there’s only a single button for punching and one for blocking/parrying, it doesn’t hinder your experience at all.
That’s mainly thanks to your equipment – a shotgun and a knife. These can be used during combat to help stack the odds in your favour, with gamers able to use Max’s shotgun to execute an enemy instantly and intimidate those around him. It’s not just a case of button bashing either, as different enemies may have different abilities, including one rather annoying type of War Boy that’ll charge at you with a knife and cut you up. You can’t counter these types of attacks either, you have to pre-emptively dodge the move and attack from behind, as experienced gamers would’ve guessed. It’s these kind of differences in enemy abilities that keep the combat system fresh and interesting.
Another integral element of the on-foot combat system is ‘Fury mode’ which unleashes Max’s inner-beast and takes his already dirty fighting style to the next level. The Fury meter will fill up when in combat, and once full will make Max’s attacks much more powerful, while also gaining access to a variety of brutal finishers. One of these finishers involves lifting a War Boy over your head then slamming him down onto your knee, breaking his back. Nice and subtle, Max. We’ve taken on huge crowds of 20+ War Boys and won with a combination of hand-to-hand combat, weapons and fury mode, which is satisfying for us and bodes well for the combat system overall.
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Mad Max game review: Storyline
But what about the storyline, one of the most integral parts of any successful game? Sadly, this is one area that draws a parallel to Mad Max: Fury road, as neither have a very good story behind them, and in the case of the game, the missions themselves aren’t very interesting. Main mission’s kind of feel like side missions – collect X from here, destroy base Y, race at location Z, etc. and without a solid narrative, we feel like it falls flat on its face. The storyline is usually our main motivation for completing a game, but we feel like Mad Max has concentrated a little too much on the customisation and destruction of its post-apocalyptic wasteland and forgotten to cater to the story. Don’t get us wrong, we had a great time exploring the open world and blowing things up, but we’d like a good narrative to sink our teeth into, too.
Mad Max game review: Pricing and availability
So now you’ve heard all about Mad Max and its insane antics, where and when can you pick it up? The good news is that Mad Max is available to purchase for PS4, Xbox One and PC users – sorry PS3 and Xbox 360 users, you’ve missed out on this one. You can head over to Amazon and buy it right now for £36 on Xbox One and PS4, and PC users can buy the Steam code for only £30.
Mad Max: Specs
- Open world
- Day & night time
- Dynamic Weather System
- Great combat system for cars and on-foot
- Visually stunning