Mad Max is one of those few movie-based properties that truly captures the spirit and essence of the source material without making it a dull and utterly lifeless attempt at just cashing in on a big blockbuster movie. From developer Avalanche Studios and publisher Warner Bros., Mad Max succeeds in letting players step into the leathers of the titular character as he attempts to survive in a lawless and unforgiving world after the apocalypse.
While Mad Max: Fury Road had Max dealing with Immortal Joe's crazy schemes and massive war boy army, the game has Max facing off against another one of Joe's sons, Scabrous Scrotus. Although the design similarities are clear, the game does not directly tie-in to Fury Road, but has designed as a stand-alone product. Initially picked up by a roving band of war boys, Max faces off against Scrotus, managing to wound him in the process before being left for dead in the unforgiving wasteland. This sets Max in motion to rebuild his treasured Interceptor and finally make his way to the fabled green land across the salt wastes.
Mad Max is an interesting game in that it combines both third-person ground combat akin to the Batman: Arkham Asylum series with enjoyable car combat. The driving mechanics are fantastic, and hearing the roar of your engine as you speed across the wastes is a phenomenal feeling. Car combat revolves around boosting, ramming enemy vehicles, using a harpoon to rip enemy vehicles apart, or even shooting gas tanks with Max's sawed off shotgun. Throughout the game, I found driving and participating in car combat to be one of the absolute best pieces - it made me feel like I was playing a genuine Mad Max experience.
On the other side of the spectrum though the on-foot segments of the game feel clunky and lacking. That's not to say it's all bad - the hand-to-hand combat itself is well done, but the general platforming segments are tedious due to Max's inability to jump. Exploring multilevel hideouts feel tedious, as Max is seemly incapable of moving at anything faster than a shambling gait at times. Thankfully, the fun brawls and Max's endless supply of rage and special moves make up for some of the literal stumbling blocks I experienced when running around on foot.
The game is completely open world, allowing players to go about and do as they wish. While certain pieces of the map are blocked off until progressing far enough into the story, much of it is available from the start. The map in itself is massive and traversing it, even in a souped-up car, can take quite awhile. The wasteland is perilous, so expect to face roving marauders who want nothing more than to see Max dead.
Helping to prevent Max from becoming roadkill, you can upgrade and modify everything from his car to his facial hair. The car itself has a sizeable number of customizable options, allowing for new weapons and abilities. Max himself can gain new looks, new fighting skills, and more. Lastly are the strongholds, where Max can help the local population, which in turn helps him complete his primary objective. All of these, for the most part, require scrap found throughout the wasteland. Some items, like upgrading your car to have a V8 engine also requires you to be far enough along in the game's story to unlock.
One of my chief complaints with Mad Max isn't with the platforming or occasional odd glitch, but just the lack of substance in the world. Listen, I get it, it's a wasteland, and there isn't much out there in terms of life, but many times I found myself terribly bored driving from location to location. Even in a game where I expect the world to feel lifeless and bleak, it seems incredibly devoid at times of anything more than just rocks and dirt. Sure, there are some places to explore or side quests to complete, but once I've completed them, I had little reason to not drive straight to mission markers.
Thankfully, the truly bright points of the game were the enemies strongholds and outposts that required I duke it out for a while or work at taking down a mini-boss; more of these types of events would have made for a much more satisfying wasteland.
Mad Max is a solid game. There's a lot to do and barring looking through every piece of rubble like myself, the game's story is fun and keeps you entertained. Throw in some massive car carnage, excellent brawls with ten or more enemies, and beautiful graphics and it completes the package nicely. My only wish is there was more to do in the world than just driving to mission markers to look for scrap or other assorted items. Things like the warbosses were wonderful additions, but I felt like the bulk of my time was exploring old shacks and boats to find some scrap for upgrades.
Note: The Mad Max review is based on a digital PC copy of the game.