I’ve taken my time to come to a decision about Mad Max for two reasons. One being I was a huge fan of the original film and to be honest I haven’t ever really liked where the source material has gone since and secondly, my views of the game have changed more times than a model at a fashion show.
So, I decided that if I tried to hang on to my own opinions of the Mad Max franchise, I wouldn’t be able to give the game a fair review. So in doing this I had to forget there was ever an original and try to leave that influence behind (I am still to see Fury Road for the record).
In fact, the checklist of essentials came down to the game being set in Australia and the main character being called Max. It is and he is, so fine, I can approach this game on its own merits moving forward. Another point to note, is that I am played this on the PC, where previous Warner Bros titles have had many, many issues. So I am happy to report that even on my modest system, the game runs really well at high settings.
To get the issues out of the way first, I am going to bring up the control system. The defaults here are just odd, with actions mapped to buttons that just don’t feel right having played other action/adventure games. You expect some kind of continuity across controls these days, even if games are from different developers.
Now I know this isn’t a shooter and the idea is that ammunition is scarce, but not having the shoot button on the shoulders just didn’t feel right and I found myself accidentally shooting my weapon when pressing B on the controller way too often. It’s not the only change to the norm, as there are so many times where it just feels a bit awkward and hasn’t been properly tested from the development stage.
Now I did get used to them eventually and I could remap them, but as a default they just didn’t feel right out of the box, which meant it took me a while to really find a groove with the game.
The other thing that does frustrate a lot, is that whilst the overall arc of the game is very enjoyable, there is a large chunk where the game feels like it is adding filler just to extend the length and even hits a point where you are telling yourself “too many more of these and I am calling it a day”.
The start of the game is very stop/start too, where you are waiting for it to let go of your hand and let you explore the barren wastelands and start engaging with enemies across the land. The opening as a story is important and the acting is enjoyable, but when interspersed with teases of gameplay, it gets frustrating and you just feel that had the developers mixed the start a bit differently it would have flowed a lot better.
The main issue comes around mid-way through the game, where it feels like you are doing a lot of forced rinse and repeat fetch-quests just for the sake of it, which are sandwiched between some really well constructed missions and writing.
Now that being said, where this game does excel is in the combat, both vehicular and on foot. When in your car, which can be upgraded as you progress, there is an influence of sorts from Wheelman, where you can side-swipe another car to do damage. But instead of just turning into them, you use a button press with a directional input to make the slam. It is stupid but it works really well.
As does the firing of weapons from your car. These aren’t ever really your main point of attack, but can be pretty spectacular when used. The upgrades you get too can turn your vehicle into a dangerous killing machine. It really never gets dull seeing what you can add next to inflict even more pain.
On foot the game isn’t simply influenced by the Batman fight mechanics, it is pretty much using them like for like. And I can tell you now, that is the best possible decision Avalanche could have made here, because Batman’s fighting mechanics are still the best I have used in this genre.
Whilst you never feel as powerful as Batman, the close quarters combat in Mad Max still feels just as satisfying and there is just the right amount of tension that you could be overwhelmed by the groups of enemies, mixed with that feeling of being a complete badass.
Now as I said, there are issues with Mad Max and it certainly isn’t a game that will win many awards, but it is a damn enjoyable game, where you can in the end overlook what are, at the end of the day, pretty minor issues in the grand scheme of things.
This is a game that came out in the same week as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, yet it still grabbed my attention enough to want to finish this, rather than ignore it for the poster child release of the week.