Short Takes: Mad Max - I Exist In This Wasteland, Reduced To One Instinct...Having Fun!
Since its reveal on the PlayStation stage during last year’s E3, Avalanche Studios has been rather coy about Mad Max. At that time, I wasn’t familiar with the franchise and just shrugged it off. However, after seeing the instant classic that was Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year, I turned my attention back to learning what I could about the game and its progress. Once it was revealed Mad Max would share a date with Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear swan song, I immediately feared this was a title destined to be lost in the wastelands of the fall release schedule. After loving what I’ve seen of the game prior to launch, I’ve been pulling for the game to be this fall’s sleeper hit and, at close to 16 hours in, I’m sticking to that statement as Mad Max is a lot of fun so far.
The game wastes no time introducing you to its game world and mechanics as your very first task is to find water. Players carry a canteen that can be refilled at water sources scattered throughout the game’s massive Wasteland, and is a crucial gameplay component as it is the only way to regain health lost during combat. After finding water, you’re sent on a quick scrap run and cast into your first combat encounter. Utilizing a more intimate and simplified version of the popular freeflow combat system from the Batman: Arkham series, hits have a weight behind them and feel hard as Max can punch people up against walls, stomp them on the ground, and even knock them off bridges or ledges.
Upon returning with the required scrap, players are given control of a Buggy. Being that players will spend a lot of time driving through the Wasteland, it was key that Avalanche nailed the driving mechanics in Mad Max and, boy, did they ever! Unlike my unsatisfactory time with the Batmobile in Batman: Arkham Knight, driving and partaking in some good old fashioned car-on-car combat has never felt better than it does here. Each vehicle (at least the half-dozen I’ve taken from slain enemies so far) handles differently and brings along the ability to use your shotgun should you need it to fend off other factions you may encounter driving around. Factions stake their claim to various territories around the game world, and driving the car associated with one of these factions will allow you to drive through their terrain undetected, which comes in handy when heading to one of the game’s various waypoints. There is a fuel system in place, however, it has yet to become a nuisance as gas cans are found around many locations and one can be stored in the back of the car at all times. Apparently, the Magnum Opus is pretty much a Toyota Prius when it comes to its MPG!
The Wasteland is littered with activities to do. From destroying big metal scarecrows and taking down sniper towers, to infiltrating and blowing up gas and oil camps to help rid a territory of terror, there are no shortage of things to keep you busy in the Wasteland’s expansive open world. Liberating camps aren’t simple “ram your car through the front gate and just run everyone over” missions either, as they offer groups of enemies to face with scrap to loot, ammo and water to find, and historical relics to secure that give players an idea of how things were when life was simple.
Each territory has a stronghold that Max can hunker down in and help improve by completing projects. Projects are another form of loot that can be found hidden away in scavenger locations or camps. They are essentially gathering missions that involve locating a series of parts in order to complete. Once all parts have been recovered and the project is finished, Max will gain access to a variety of perks when returning to a stronghold, such as refilling his ammo or automatically gathering scrap from victorious car combat encounters.
All of these tasks exist on top of not only the requisite story missions, but special Wasteland missions as well. These are tied to each faction’s leader and several wanderers posted throughout the game’s massive world. These missions can vary from blowing up hideouts to catching some “mad” air on an epic jump ramp. As if that wasn’t enough, there are Death Rally races to participate in which lock players into a predetermined car and task them with completing a race. These races can be made easy by taking out as many enemies as possible at the starting line. There are also convoys that you may stumble across in your scavenging. Convoys typically consist of a handful of armored cars with a lead vehicle that may drop mines or try to douse the Magnum Opus in flames. Successfully taking out a convoy leader will yield a new hood ornament that, upon installing on your car, will grant a boost to one of your car's attack or handling stats.
Each activity feels important as Max levels up and unlocks new abilities and perks. Not only can players toughen up Max, the Magnum Opus contains its own set of upgrades that grant players better handling and more options for combat, such as utilizing a harpoon or adding more ammo to the shotgun. Scrap is key as players earn it from completing the many activities presented to them throughout the game.
Should I buy it?
Mad Max is one of those games that’s going to take many hours to complete. I have ADD when it comes to open world games. I often find myself setting out with the intention of completing a story mission, only to take down a sniper and mortar tower so I can infiltrate a camp that was conveniently on the way. At nearly 16 hours in, I’m still in the first territory trying to build up Jeet’s stronghold and upgrade Max as much as I can as I know the road ahead is a tough one. I’m still encountering new enemy variants and new mission types as I work my way north to Gastown, and that’s saying something. I look forward to many more explosive hours racing through the Wasteland, and I highly recommend this anyone who enjoyed fighting through fortresses in Far Cry 4, found themselves yearning for a deeper car combat system in Rage, loved causing tons of chaos in Just Cause 2, or saw and didn’t leave the edge of your seat during Mad Max: Fury Road!