The 2015 game, Mad Max, was developed by Swedish company Avalanche Studios and published by Warner Brothers Games. It is an action/adventure/Role-Playing Game based on the hit 2015 film, Mad Max: Fury Road, and it is pretty bloody amazing!
The spectacular intro sequence indicates what’s to come, but after prolonged play I have to say that Mad Max is one of the most violent, kinetic and exciting video games I think I’ve ever played in my life. Which is saying something. At times gruesome, shocking and funny; Mad Max is a game that will get your heart pumping and your palms sweating (if you’re not a dead inside sociopath) and its gameplay will likely sear itself into your memory like few other games seem to manage these days. Mad Max reminded me a bit of id Software‘s Rage, only it’s so much better.
The main aim of the game is to build your own car, called The Magnum Opus, with the help of a friendly (and slightly demented) mechanic called Chumbucket. You drive through the post-apocalyptic wasteland as Max, battling with enemy vehicles, attacking and clearing hostile settlements, and trying to scrape together enough scrap, fuel, food and water to survive your way through a variety of missions.
After a brief bit of exploration you establish a stronghold that you can return to between missions, to save and recuperate. These strongholds sometimes change depending on what happens in the story, and later on in the game you can have multiple strongholds that you can enhance as you collect project parts, scrap and experience.
Combat is split into two distinct components: car-based vehicular combat, and ground-based combat. In the former the aim is to ram enemies off the road or explode them for scrap with your car. In the latter you must punch, kick, stab and shoot your way through a variety of opponents by using beat ’em up-style gameplay. When fighting on foot the game will indicate when an opponent is about to strike you, allowing you to parry their blows and counter with a variety of attacks. Some opponents use melee weapons against you and you can pick these up and use them against enemies for a short period of time, before they break. You can chain together hits and activate ‘Fury Mode‘, where Max goes into a frenzy, increasing his damage, and you can also use special finishers where you can kill opponents who are dazed or on the ground. As the game progresses you can level-up Max to add more moves to his repertoire; to increase his defensive and offensive capabilities, and even change his appearance. Upgrading your car in the garage is also a key part of the game and gaining experience (and scrap) will allow you to beef it up to give you an edge while driving.
A large map, that you can zoom in and out of, shows the six zones (and seventeen sub-zones) of the wasteland that you can explore. If you discover a hot air balloon in one of the sub-zones you can fly up high, use your binoculars, and pinpoint certain locations of interest on the map. This helps you plan your expansion into this increasingly more challenging world.
Missions are quite varied and see you dismantling enemy camps most often, but they can also require you to beat a particular boss, win a Death Run race, take out convoys, clear minefields, destroy scarecrows (totems that mark enemy territory), or take out snipers. And when the game reaches a certain point, other, different missions are added that usually require you to do something specific, like find car parts, rescue a prisoner, or make your way to a specific location to progress the story.
Another interesting and important aspect of the gameplay is upgrading Max‘s abilities by regularly visiting a mysterious desert character called Griffa, who you meet early in the game. When speaking to Griffa you can boost Max‘s power and health; reduce his fuel usage; increase the amount of health restored by eating food; increase the damage and time available for melee weapons; increase Max‘s legendary status, and also increase his ability to loot ammo, scrap, food and water found in containers.
One excellent feature of Mad Max is that it doesn’t automatically destroy your car if it becomes too damaged. If the car starts burning (indicating that it’s reached a certain level of damage), you have five seconds to get out before it explodes. And, if you jump out, your mechanic will immediately prevent it from exploding by using a fire extinguisher and then start fixing it. That does mean that you can often be dumped out into the midst of enemy vehicles desperately trying to run you down, but some well-timed rolls (or hiding behind something solid) will counter this until it’s fixed, at which point you can climb back into your car and continue. This is far better, and more interesting, than your car just blowing up.
There is so much to Mad Max that it’s impossible to list everything here, but other features include: adding captured vehicles to your garage (by taking them back to your stronghold); day and night cycles (and different types of enemies that patrol the desert, depending on the time of day); a harpoon gun, a sniper rifle, and later the “Thunderpoon” (all hugely fun to use); stomping lizards and rats for food; sliding down zip wires; squeezing through gaps or shimmying across ledges; the screen breaking as you take more crash damage; the colours draining out of the game when you’re close to death; a large and interesting encyclopedia of people, places, cars and items; awe-inspiring (and deadly) desert storms, similar to those seen in Fury Road (but with more lightning!); challenges that unlock new items and abilities; re-fuelling vehicles and hot air balloons; lighting and throwing gas canisters; pools of crude oil that slow you down when you run through them; and even emotional, philanthropic moments, like when you give some water to non-hostile desert wanderers. And so much more besides.
While Mad Max isn’t perfect (I did encounter a few bugs, where enemies occasionally disappear or get trapped inside rocks), it is still extremely well-designed, absorbing, and lots of fun to play. It also looks and sounds incredible. But the real gem here is the gameplay, which has been crafted to make it as easy-to-play and immersive as possible. You really do feel like you’re playing inside Fury Road…
I have seen a few people online saying that Mad Max is “no good“, and – while they’re entitled to their opinion – I do think that they’re spectacularly wrong. If you’re criticising Mad Max because it’s “not your kind of game”, then go and play something else instead. Leave the grown-ups to enjoy what is one of the best open-world, post-apocalyptic action RPGs ever made. Mad Max truly is a brilliant game and is well worth buying and playing if you see it in a sale (if you’re eighteen or over – it’s an adults only game). Heck, it’s probably even worth paying full price for. It’s that good.