Before this point, sprawling, diverse post-apocalyptic worlds have permeated games like Fallout, to great effect; all car crashes and destroyed buildings. The concept of this, perhaps the ultimate (in-game and on-film) wasteland comes from the mighty George Miller’s Mad Max, and it’s translated very well into the context of this title.
As a story, this setting doesn’t really have a connection to any of the films in the cult Max series, though a lot of the characters and inspirations come from the Fury Road blockbuster. Similarly to the film, you take centre stage as the mighty Max (Rockatansky), a survivor in this desolate wasteland, who is attacked by Scabarous Scrotus who just happens to be the son of Fury Road’s weirdo villain Immortan Joe; cool…nice bit of story/continuity there for you.
So in short, the deal is you’re left without the famed interceptor car. And so through the game’s early stages, it’s down to you and your unlikely mate, Chumbucket (a maniacal mechanic, who we’re pretty sure tries to eat a dog [it’s all in the game], to reclaim your revved up prize, and in the meantime get a new set of boss wheels to ride about in; it’s a little Assassin’s Creed meets GTA via Batman: Arkham. Sounds good, yeah?
Indeed, as with Batman: Arkham games, Mad Max sees Warner Bros get all cinematic and vibrant here: this is a big map that you get through by beating up camps of baddies and destroying their all-important watchtowers and strongholds where you can pick up bullets, water and food to keep you going; there’s loads to do throughout the game though, even after you finish it.
Max is a great character to fit into the open-world setting; he’s obviously angry about the loss of his wife and child (referenced at the beginning of the game), but now he’s also pissed at the fact that some mental dudes have his car! Ahhh!
Overall, avalanche Studios (the game’s developer) has created a game with a really strong sense of purpose and vision; the wasteland is so detailed, intricate and interesting, and that’s a constant source of inspiration as you play through. You can feel the barbaric nature of the game as it progresses, and Max’s aggression and stress level growing when things get harder – as a player you become just as desperate to build new things and destroy the people standing in your way with said things. The stuff you need to survive isn’t exactly easy to find (and that’s a challenge for anyone thinking this might be a simple quick finisher), and key resources are few and far between; ammo (for your sole shotgun), dog food (for your canine companion), and water are key examples; don’t forget you’ll also need scrap so that you can upgrade your super-motor. From a combat standpoint, it’s pretty much identical to Batman: Arkham (we love that game!), and further sweetening the deal are upgrades and tasty unlockable skills add to the tasty combat (if you like that sort of style) and the overall fulfilment that comes from just kicking major ass all over a picturesque-ish wasteland.
One of the most interesting elements at play here on an aesthetic level, are the storms that strike the player hard and fast – they bring about a world of chaos and flying metal that is definitively Mad Max; at these stormy points it’s mainly about survival rather than just simply beating a level, and therein lies another level of excitement.
Really, this game is a…err, something of a scrapheap challenge – it’s raw, and has a cult-ish feel about it – not everyone’s going to like it, and in terms of combat and storyline the aforementioned Batman or Fallout take things to a deeper and (arguably) more engaging level – though there is a real charm to this game, and its great ode to fast and furious, primitive-style driving. The story, and a lot of the game’s overall appeal centres around the Magnum Opus, which (as stated) is the car you construct and upgrade throughout the development of the game, and the car is where a tonne of the developer’s time is concentrated in terms of modification and grand customisation, as it mutates and becomes an ultimate on/off-road fighting road warrior that flat out trumps all other vehicles in this game; you can add cool spikes, and flaming side panels/burners to destroy enemies, and incite mega explosions! Big badda boom!
While it’s impossible for this game to totally echo the grandiose spectacle of the recent Fury Road film, there’s plenty of energy about it, and it genuinely does feel like a challenge when you’re trying to stay alive verses all manor of motors and villains gunning to chew (and grind) you up. Without wanting to reference the more recent Fury Road film too much, the harsh, bleak-yet-beautiful, post-apocalyptic-industrialised world that defined all of the Max films is here, and fans (like us) will see it as a must-buy. Meanwhile, for gamers new to the name, and the series – this will be an awakening to a good ol’ fashioned “barn-burner” of a title that is both addictive and intriguing from the first moments to the last. It’s certainly one of the more exciting games that this writer has played all year, and we’d recommend it to fans of the aforementioned titles (Arkham and GTA), as well as the likes of Metal Gear; it’s got tonnes to do, and the landscape, and its sheer vastness will keep you going back for more parts and ass-whoopings long after you finish it the first time round.