Mad Max is the second major multiplatform release this week, and we took the Magnum Opus for a spin on Xbox One and PS4. Here’s the review.
Earlier this year, Mad Max: Fury Road was a massive hit in movie theaters. Coinciding with the approach of the BluRay/DVD release, the Mad Max videogame is now also being released – though it’s not a movie tie-in in the traditional sense as it has its own storyline and started development before the movie was even close to starting their first shoot. As a result of that, we first laid eyes on Mad Max – the videogame version – back in 2013. At the time, we saw a hands-off presentation for the game while attending Gamescom. Despite being hands-off, what we saw was already fully playable code, and we ended up previewing it shortly after.
Since then, a lot has changed for Mad Max. We’ve seen a very successful movie release that has put the Mad Max franchise back in the public eye in a major way. We’ve also seen the release of the PS4 and Xbox One, which resulted in the game being cancelled for Xbox 360 and PS3 systems. What hasn’t changed too much was the game itself. It’s hard to compare the visual quality to something you saw over two years ago, but when we played a pre-release build at Gamescom 2015 – it was instantly recognizable as the game we had seen two years earlier.
In Mad Max, two elements play a crucial role: a post-apocalyptic struggle for survival, and vehicular violence. And very often in the Mad Max universe, those two go hand in hand. Never looking to be much of a hero to anyone, Max is merely trying to get out of his current situation, and get back at the ones who got him in it. Aiding him in this quest is Chumbucket, his loyal buddy who follows you everywhere because he believes you’re some sort of prophet who’s meant to build and drive the baddest and toughest car that’s ever been seen in this post-apocalyptic environment.
Lucky for the both of you, Chumbucket’s vision happens to fit Max’s ambitions very well, since this dream car (the Magnum Opus) is going to be built from the scraps that rivaling gangs leave behind after you lay waste to them and/or their bases and outposts. It’s your way of getting back at them – since they took your old car and almost killed you in the first place – and fuels Chumbucket’s devotion to you.
Mad Max is very much an open world game with surprisingly (or at least relatively) few narrative elements that push you in a certain direction for most of the experience. There are plenty of missions to be found, but the core focus seems to be firmly on character and vehicle development. Collecting loot wherever you go, you’re able to increase your own skills and attributes, while also gaining access to new and better weapons. That’s all just for on-foot combat though, since vehicle upgrades are a different branch of progression all together. The Magnus Opus might sound grand, but is initially just a plain car that’s barely being kept together. Upgrading your armor, adding ramming grills, weapons and a whole lot more eventually turns your vehicle into something with a personality of its own – something you invested in.
And invest, you will. Avalanche’s Mad Max is a long game that you should be prepared to sink a lot of hours into. Of course having a game that is so full of content is a wonderful thing, but the open structure of the experience can also make the experience feel like a bit of a grind. Playing too much in too short an amount of time might result in missions feeling overly familiar, and there are no big shortcuts towards getting you closer to the end.
Perhaps it’s just a case of “too much of a good thing” though, since the actual combat in Mad Max is excellent and many of the missions are adrenaline-filled rides jam-packed with a wonderful kind of videogame violence. When you’re on foot, the hand-to-hand combat feels gritty and raw. When you’re in the Magnum Opus, the gameplay takes on an entirely new dimension – your harpoon becomes a trusted ally, and allows you to pull enemies out of their cars mid-drive. It also works great for taking down enemy watch towers, by attaching your harpoon and then pulling the entire structure apart like a house of cards.
The game environment is huge, and everything looks wonderfully detailed – the move to next gen systems (and gaming PCs) definitely paid off in this regard. The play area is (intentionally) bleak and desolate at times, adding to the atmosphere that’s so fitting for the franchise – where diversity is mainly found in the characters that inhabit the land.
While the game can feel repetitive at times, it’s a well-executed Mad Max adventure that is certain to resonate with fans of the movie franchise. Perhaps we’ll even see some additional story content later on – one can certainly hope because the foundations are here and the gameplay in Mad Max is ideally suited to a five to eight hour campaign.