Some of you may be familiar with Mad Max, but some of you won’t. So what is Mad Max? In one word: glorious.
I mean that in the truest sense of the word. It feels out of this world. At first glance, one might think it’s they are over-the-top movies, but they’re much, much more than that.
Everything in this world feels painfully real. The suffering, the tragedies, the characters, the wasteland, … The films have a very distinct style that has influenced pop culture more than you might think: it launched Mel Gibson’s career, the raiders in Fallout are heavily inspired by those in Mad Max and it spawned countless rip-offs by Italian and Turkish directors, as well as American ones. I feel like I need to discuss the films briefly before getting to the game. After all, that is what inspired its creators to make the game.
The great thing about the Mad Max films – and the game – is that they all feel different. The first film was very grounded in reality and quite slow-paced, though that is not a bad thing. The second film, The Road Warrior, was generally considered to be the best one. It established the character as he is still known and loved. He’s deeply flawed and haunted by his past, but that makes him feel very real. The third film, Beyond Thunderdome, has its problems; most of them caused by Hollywood mingling. And then there’re last year’s Fury Road, now regarded as the best of all four films. Tom Hardy plays Mad Max, not Mel Gibson, and his performance is excellent.
Now Max is a bit of a difficult character to talk about, because he is both simple and complex at the same time. He’s simple, because most of his actions throughout the films and game are selfish. Even helping people is often because it makes things more convenient for him, but at the same time he won’t harm the innocent. He doesn’t really care about who lives or dies, as this is a harsh world and survival is key, but he won’t just kill anyone for the sake of killing or just for fun. It is a very hard thing to explain. It’s almost instinctive. You just understand him on an emotional level, not an intellectual one. You just know if something is in-character for him to do or not, but you can’t really explain why. I say this, because there’s something I want to discuss at the end of this article after the SPOILERS warning.
Now onto the game! I’m not exactly sure when the game is set in the timeline, but it feels like it takes place right before the events of the fourth film: Fury Road. But, like with the entire Mad Max saga, the exact time has never been important. You start off the game losing the famous Interceptor, the car Max drives, and battling Lord Scrotus. You put a chainsaw through his skull, but he survives and throws you off a fast moving truck. You then set out on a very simple quest: get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus. This is very much in theme with the films, where the story is often quite simple and just a structure for strong characters.
And strong characters is what this game has. The portrayal of Max is pretty much spot-on (except for a little thing that bugs me in the ending). You find a hunchback named Chumbucket who is a car nut and believes you are some sort of Saint sent by the Angel to clear the wasteland. He offers you a car that you can upgrade and change the appearance of during the game. He is a fantastic character, obsessed with cars and fixing cars and thinking you’re some sort of deity. And of course, Max goes along with it, because it helps him. Where in other games having a companion around can be frustrating, Chumbucket is nothing but helpful. He brings you the car when you signal him with a flare gun, fixes the car when it’s damaged and most of his dialogue is really entertaining.
Visually, the game encapsulates the look and feel of the films very well. It’s a gorgeous game with a wonderful art style. The graphics won’t blow you away, but it’s not trying to either. It’s aiming for aesthetics rather the latest and greatest in graphical settings.
The story is very simple, as I mentioned before. There isn’t that much to talk about here, other than that it’s very much in theme with the films. The end goal is to get your car back and kill Lord Scrotus, but it can take you a while to get there. You can choose to just follow the main quests and do the bare minimum to unlock new upgrades for your car, so you can continue with the missions, but that will make the game a lot more difficult. Still, you’ll probably have to put in twelve to fifteen hours to beat this game in a hurry.
As a sort of side story, you can try to loosen the grip that Lord Scrotus has on the different regions by doing certain mini missions. You can clear out camps, destroy their totems and sniping towers, clear minefields, et cetera. Lowering the threat levels in regions unlocks more upgrades for Max and his car. This is where the game really shines in my eyes, as it makes the gameplay more varied. Clearing the camps requires more combat, destroying the totems and sniping towers is mostly done from inside the car and you need a special buggy that can carry the mine-sniffing dog to clear out minefields. Some camps have difficult bosses or certain things you have to destroy. Having done almost everything there is to do in this game, I racked up a very respectable 54 hours in this game. Not bad at all for having paid less than €15 for it in a Steam sale.
There aren’t a whole lot of negative to this game, I feel. The driving controls could’ve been tighter, but most of the time they’re just fine. Two locations in the game are locked off after the mission is over, which means that if you didn’t pick up the collectables or scrap, they’ll be lost forever. This is odd, since none of the other locations become inaccessible. Lastly (and I’ll get into more detail in a bit) there’s one thing that happens right at the end that I feel is out of character for Max, which makes the ending a bit less enjoyable for me.
So overall I highly recommend it if you like the Mad Max films, but even as a general gamer, it’s a very fun game. The combat is fun, modding the car gives you lots of options and the characters are very enjoyable. The highest praise I could possibly give it is that if I were to rank this game alongside the films, the order would be (from best to “worst”): Fury Road – THIS GAME – Road Warrior – Original Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome. So yeah, very close second 🙂
–SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE GAME BELOW–
This is what happens at the end of the game that bothers me a bit. After the final boss battle, we see the truck that Lord Scrotus is driving close to the edge of a cliff. Max decides to ram it with his car and Chumbucket, still believing the car is the sacred tool, sent by the Angel to be used by you, doesn’t want you to destroy it. While charging at the truck, he climbs on the bonnet of the car, trying to convince you to stop. Max tells him to jump of and Chumbucket says he’s willing to die with the car. Max then proceeds to jump out of the car, right before it hits the truck and both vehicles fall off the cliff. I know Max is a character who will do pretty much anything to achieve his goal, but I feel like killing Chumbucket was very much out of character. Max doesn’t hurt people, unless he feels it’s absolutely necessary and I feel like killing Chumbucket was not. You may disagree with that, but it’s how I feel about it.