Mad Max is a game that slipped under my radar for several months. My husband and I tried a demo at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, but it didn’t engage us enough to pay full price when it came out last year. I also thought the trailer was underwhelming, despite a good friend (who worked to promote the game at conventions) who tried to convince me it was a lot of fun.
Eventually, I was burned out on Fallout 4, but I wanted another post-apocalyptic world to explore. Holiday deals and a Best Buy GCU discount net me the game for $24 bucks, so I couldn’t put it off anymore.
Thankfully, for me, Mad Max delivers in almost every single way for a post-apocalyptic adventure!
Quick Summary if You’re Too Busy to Read This Whole Thing
- Open World
- Main Missions and Side Missions
- Character and Car Customization
- Only One Main Companion
- Unique Max – not Mel Gibson or Tom Hardy
- Car Battles are a Blast
- Learning Curve, but Satisfying Once You’re Upgraded
- Freakin’ Fire Storms YEAH!
- Max is Pretty Cute for a Raggedy Dude, Not Gonna Lie
- Anabel recommends this game for it’s artistic value, open world, and dark, post-apocalyptic story.
A kinda-sorta continuation of Mad Max: Fury Road (my favorite film of 2015), Mad Max doesn’t feel like a direct sequel. To enjoy the game, you have to accept it as a parallel universe; an experience where enough of the elements are the same to make it a Mad Max game. I felt that the game greatly respected the franchise, and it showed in the world building, art, and character designs.
My husband, a huge fan of the franchise, also gave the story a pass for it’s treatment of Mad Max film lore.
To enjoy the game, you have to accept it as a parallel universe; an experience where enough of the elements are the same to make it a Mad Max game.
The game starts with Max losing his Interceptor (the “black on black” to characters in the game) to one of Scrotus’ war parties. The abominable Scrotus, a surviving son of Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road, is very similar in build to his brother Rictus.
Long story short, you lose the car and get your ass whooped. Luckily, you deal a devastating chainsaw-t0-the-head injury to Scrotus, placing a target on your back for the entire game by several factions.
Defeated, Max wakes up in the wasteland and befriends an injured dog the war party left for dead. Eventually, the dog leads you to a strange, hunchbacked, nonsensical scavenger named Chumbucket, who witnessed what happened to you and believes that the “Angel of Combustion” (a religious figure only he seems to believe in) delivered you to him as a sort of mythological driver/Saint. Chumbucket is a former Blackfinger (mechanic) for Gas Town, and offers to help you build a new car: the legendary Magnum Opus, which Chumbucket swears will be even greater than the “black on black.” Max, living in the moment as he runs away from his past, agrees with the plan so he can eventually depart the current wasteland through the Plains of Silence to do Lord-knows-what.
The Magnum Opus starts out as a rusty frame (to Max’s chagrin), and you spend the game adventuring with Chumbucket to build it to its legendary status. Max needs a car, Chumbucket needs a driver – the best driver. An uneasy partnership begins, with Max and Chumbucket using each other for their strained mutual goal.
Throughout the game, Max has to make alliances with leaders of each wasteland territory, in order to progress and eventually get to the V-8 engine he needs for the Magnum Opus in Gas Town.. where Scrotus is.
Max & Car Customization
The main protagonist isn’t Tom Hardy or Mel Gibson. He’s a new Max, and his character design is kind of a mish-mash of the other Maxes and the “generic dark-haired white guy” game trope. There are just enough character customization options to make him feel like “your” Max – you can play a handsome and shirtless version of Max, or a really scruffy over-grown bearded “Duck Dynasty” version. You can wear face paint, goggles, bandana, combination, etc. The options are limited, but there are just enough in there. I played shirtless Max for a while (because why not?), but I quickly ended up adding on his highest upgrade jacket, because the armor boost was worth it.
The car customization is where the game REALLY shines. It takes a long time to build enough scrap to do it, but there are lots of car customization options for the Magnum Opus. I’m not much of a car person, but the vehicles are absolutely gorgeous. I almost enjoyed having enemy factions attack me on the road, so I could admire their rides! You also get a lot of weapons and armor upgrades, to turn the Magnum Opus into the ultimate wasteland survival vehicle.
The Landscape is a Character
The wasteland tells many stories as you wander around. You’ll find survivors building a culture out of collapses ships, towers, planes, and other structures form the “old world.” It’s hard to describe how incredibly beautiful many of the areas are, especially when a tempest rolls into the area.
Additionally, not to be overly morbid, but the use of gore is very artistic. This is definitely an M-rated game for a reason. You know how Hannibal build that stack of bodies into a totem pole on the Hannibal TV show? In the game, similar totem poles are literally everywhere, and you have to tear them down. Camps are also strewn with butchered people, and you often find cannibal dens.
Playing the Game the Right Way
You can’t rush the game, you need to take your time to really enjoy it. While 50% of the game’s content has some really gorgeous (in the context of the world) locations, enough of the side-missions can feel burdensome with recycled objectives. Honestly, I played the game when I felt like aimless and just chose random objectives to accomplish.
You also can’t gauge how a mission, scavenge hunt, or camp will be by it’s star difficulty rating or description. One 5-star camp was a breeze to pass through, while a 3-star camp took me a few times to conquer.
Random encounters are awesome, though! For example, I found a fascinating shrine with a very lovely spread of dead corpses both piled in a pit and dangling above me in a cult-like manner. Unlike other locations, there were no enemies around to fight, so I wondered: who left these bodies here? Were they coming back? There were lit braziers, so the location had to have an occupant. Upon departing that location, there was a glint of light in the horizon, and I realized the shrine’s occupant was a sniper who would kill travelers who were also drawn to the landmark and add them to his collection.
Little surprises like that keep the game fresh when the stronghold fetch missions grew redundant.
Take Your Time To Upgrade
Don’t balk on taking the time to upgrade strongholds, despite my warnings that the act can be repetitive. It’s worth it. Some locations and missions spike in difficultly, and you’ll be grateful for the upgrades.
Female Character Representation
Since this is a fangirl site, I feel like I should touch on it. Female representation is a bit underwhelming. Like Mad Max: Fury Road, there is the implication of a character being a sex slave like Immortan Joe’s “wives,” but thankfully nothing is shown of it (as far as I’m aware). It’s not exploitative, like how other forms of media address the topic.
Sadly, there is not an awesome female character like Furiosa, or a diverse group of female characters like the “wives” in Fury Road. Roughly 85% of main speaking characters are men. You meet Hope (a concubine who believes you can save her and her daughter, Glory) who is is very plot-heavy and Pink Eye (who is a stronghold leader). And maybe some random NPCs.
Likes / What Engaged Me:
- Chumbucket. Initially, Chumbucket is kind of freaky and I didn’t think I would like being saddled with him for the entire game. He grew on me, and I was happy to have him as a companion in my adventure. (You have him as a companion the entire game, your own personal mutant mechanic and sidekick.) He also speaks in a delightful juxtaposition of religious ideology and car culture.
- Relics. Relics are little historical artifacts you collect in the world, that tell the story of what the world was like as it was collapsing. Relics are deliciously morbid.
- Surprisingly Diverse Wasteland Locations. The game takes place in 5 main locations in the apocalyptic wasteland. You’d think having 4 desert wasteland zones would be boring.. but surprisingly, it’s not. Jeet’s territory feels like New Mexico, Pink Eye’s territory feels like Sedona, Gutgash’s territory feels almost like an alien landscape at points, the Dunes are.. well. giant dunes, and Deep Friah’s land is a disgusting garbage dump outside of Gas Town. (I guess Gas Town counts as the last location, but I consider it part of the Deep Friah area map-wise).
- Main Character Designs. The stronghold leaders, main characters, and some bosses have absolutely inspired designs. And their outfits are functional, to an extent, in this version of the apocalypse. When outfits are a bit outrageous, little story notes try to explain them. (The infamous S&M outfits some bosses wear work with their messed up lifestyles described in the game. Torture. Lots of torture.)
- Car battles are addictive. I love love love taking down convoys, and coming up with strategies to break them down car by car to get the prize on the lead vehicle.
- Once Max is built up, combat is a LOT of fun. It’s so, so satisfying to beat the crap out of a group of dudes in the game when you unlock all of Max’s special melee attacks!
- Brutal kill animations and exploding things are very addictive. Max is ruthless when it comes to accomplishing his goal. It’s very satisfying to take down 20 enemies in waves with a multitude of finishing moves, shiv kills, shotgun kills, explosions, and more.
- Fun Customization! My husband and I had two different play styles with our respective cars and upgrades. Lots of fun!
- Strategy of trying to take down camps. You have to plan how to take out certain enemy camps from outside and within. Thankfully, many wasteland citizens are happy to suggest tips and hidden entrances!
Dislikes / My Nitpicks:
- Not enough “Dog”! I wish you could do more with the dog, and I wish the dog’s land mine missions weren’t reliant on driving in the defenseless, stupid buggy.
- Some NPC/boss designs feel dialed-in. Every “Top Dog” mini boss just has a different skin, and they all fight the same. Wastelanders who are not main-mission based all look and sound the same. Skyrim syndrome.
- Lack of extended RPG/Customization Trees / Limited Max designing. I wish we had more options to change his outfit/colors, but most of the customization is focused on the car. Also, the upgrades to Max are fairly linear. In the game’s defense, it suits the character.
- Salvaging gets repetitive. Everything has to be salvaged. Everything needs salvage. Salvage can be a pain in the butt to find in the beginning. It takes a long time to build up the strongholds to get the perks that have salvage automatically collected.
- Choppy cutscenes/frame rate. Sometimes the game just can’t handle what’s going on, and the frame rate plummets significantly. It happens often enough to be noticeable.
- Pathfinding and finding target objectives can be confusing.
Overall, the game is a fantastic experience and I’m very happy with my purchase!
All images for this article were provided by the Mad Max Tumblr page. May the Angel of Combustion bless the marketing team for making this resource available. 🙂