By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on September 8, 2015
A post-apocalyptic wasteland, a lone road warrior, a disfigured mechanic named Chumbucket and the eternal quest for the biggest, baddest warmachine ever built. If you are thinking: "this sounds familiar", you're right. Following in the oil-drenched footsteps of one of the coolest movie series ever, Mad Max dumps us right in the heart of the conflict and sends us out into the wasteland, in search for parts, scrap and guzzoline.
Developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Warner Bros Interactive entertainment, Mad Max is an open world action adventure that runs on fuel, violent vehicular combat, huge open environments and fantastic gameplay. You take the role of Mad Max, who is set upon by thugs, beaten within an inch of his life and left for dead in the middle of a desert. Being the fuel-injected hardass he is, Max somehow pulls through and meets a blackfinger (mechanic) named Chumbucket. Together, they set out on an adventure that will put them squarely in harm's way most of the time.
In order to survive this ordeal, Max and Chumbucket will have to assemble a car that will protect them from the many dangers the wasteland holds. Your car starts off fairly simple and straight-forward: four wheels, a frame, a steering wheel and a not all too impressive engine. So first things first; you go out to get a body for your mechanical monster. Don't expect any fancy paint-jobs; Mad Max is all about rust and grime. The entire game breaths an air of complete and utter desolation and decrepitude. All vehicles, or people for that matter, you encounter have that worn-down, feral look we've all come to know so well from the eponymous movies. Everything just looks worn and run-down, from the environments to the mostly quite insane people who inhabit them.
Being a long time fan of the Mad Max movies, I can only say that the developers did one hell of a job bringing this rusted and dust-covered world to life. Both the scenery as well as the characters look absolutely stunning and most importantly, true to the Mad Max universe as we know it. Although this game looks a bit more like the latest Mad Max movie than the original trilogy, you're still half expecting to see the Thunderdome appear on the horizon and hear Tina Turner yelling at you: "Two men enter, one man leaves!". It just looks and feels like a brilliant mix of all four movies. The cars in the game really are jagged, metal pieces of art, and when you see a particular spiky one barreling down at you, you do actually get the urge to turn and run.
This running away is in no way an act of cowardice; in Mad Max, it is more often than not the smart thing to do. Especially when you just start out, you're car is not nearly the war machine you want it to be, so pick your battles carefully. When you doubt whether or not you can win a fight, most of the time you will be right. So be smart, drive in the opposite direction and hope they don't spot you, or hide behind a handy wreckage or sand dune until the bad guys have passed. When you finally scrounge up enough parts to upgrade your ride, that's when Mad Max really comes into its own. Thanks to the brilliantly simple control scheme and stunning visuals, motorized carnage has never looked so good or played so well! Dismantle your opponent's car by using the harpoon mounted on the back of your car, or blow up their exposed fuel tanks with a well aimed shot from your trusty shotgun.
But that's not all, ladies and gentlemen! No, not by a long shot (which also makes an excellent weapon, but we'll come back to that a bit later). Despite of the excellent car combat, there's more to Mad Max than upgrading your car and cruise through the desert. When you leave your car, the game turns into a more than fantastic third person platformer / brawler. Search abandoned and occupied scavenging locations for scrap, historic documents, fuel and ammo. Make your way into enemy camps and oil storages and blow the hell out of them in order to reduce threat levels in particular areas on the map and receive perks for doing so. Every base you take over, will be populated by allies and grant you scrap or other materials on a regular basis. So you're not just having fun by beating up groups of bad guys, taking over an enemy camp really gives you a lot of advantages over time. Also scattered across the vast desert are hot air balloons. Trust me, it doesn't sound like much now, but just wait until you take one up in the air. When at its highest point, you have an excellent view of the surrounding area. Not only does this look good, it serves a purpose as well. From your balloon, you can equip your binoculars and mark locations of interest. Once you spot a location, it is added to your map for future reference. Another cool feature that is unlocked by discovering these hot air balloons, is fast-travel. Although it might be great fun racing through the desert, sometimes it's just easier to fast travel from point A to point be, without being hassled by every bad guy in a ten-mile radius.
On your journey, you'll meet all sorts of people. Most of them don't seem to like you that much and will do their absolute best to help you on your way into the next world. But sometimes, just sometimes, you'll come across an individual that doesn't try to kill you right off the bat. This is where thing get even more interesting, because, next to the main story mission, Mad Max is filled to the brim with side quests and scavenging opportunities. So when you're making use of someone's stronghold, look around for side quests that let you build certain structures that, upon completion, reward you with various perks. When you build a clean-up crew for instance, this will reward you with scrap, gathered from vehicles you've defeated within that same region. Or when you build a water tower, it grants you free health replenishing when at that specific stronghold. There are lot's more things to build, so go out there and find out which of these things work for you.
What I especially like about Mad Max is the amount of planning that goes into raiding a enemy base. Sure, you could just ram the gate, jump out of the car and start swinging, but this is mostly not how you get things done. First off, camps and bases are equipped with perimeter defenses. Snipers that can spot you coming from miles away, war criers that rally the enemies inside of the camp, turning them into a frenzied mob that want you dead, and last but not least, flamethrowers mounted around the gate. So your first course of action should be to knock out these defenses by any means possible.
Flamethrowers can be dismantled by shooting your harpoon into the fuel vat that powers the contraption and tearing it down by pulling at it with your car. War criers can be killed in a similar fashion. Snipers, on the other hand are an entire story all together. Although it is sometimes possible to spear them with a harpoon, this is not always the case. Some snipers are just too damn far away. And this is where we come back to our aforementioned long shot. The long shot is, in this case, a big sniper rifle that enables you to accurately hit enemies from great distances. Ammo is scarce though, so aim carefully! When you've taken care of all the perimeter defenses, it is time to smash the gate and take care of the enemies inside of the camp and claim it for your own. So yes, you can attack something head on, but it pays to survey your surroundings or talk to people you encounter in the wasteland in order to coordinate your attack and make the job of taking over an enemy camp a bit easier.
So, to conclude my ramblings, I can only say that Mad Max is a very good game. It has it all: Great artwork, an awesome soundtrack, tons of cool features, fascinating characters, gnarly looking cars to take into battle and a fantastic story to tie it all together. It's all I'd hoped for, and then some! So if, in the immediate future, you're trying to find me but keep coming up empty-handed, turn your eyes towards the wasteland and try looking for a huge dust cloud in the distance. That's probably me, either tearing up or blowing up the place!