Mad Max, the computer game

Originally posted by Chris Groff on Google Plus.

I’m about 10 hrs into Mad Max now, so while I’m not even close to completion I’ve seen and done enough to have a pretty good take on it.

You play the titular character of Mad Max. He is the haunted wasteland survivor that we saw a bit of in Road Warrior but they really tried to emphasize it in Fury Road. This game, like the movies, doesn’t really fit into a specific time line, it’s really another story in the Mad Max verse.

We are introduced to Mad Max after his run in with Scrotus. Stripped of his car and his clothes he is once again thrust into this world tasked with surviving and regaining his place in the wasteland. Along the way you’ll meet a variety of characters, key is your side kick Chumbucket who is a blackfinger. He’ll be your companion for the journey, a mechanical zealot who’ll keep your car running and offer helpful advice along the way.

Your goal is to survive and in order to do that you’ll end up helping other survivors against Scrotus and his legions. This is where the core game play and story comes in. The game is broken into story missions and free roaming action. The map is scattered with bases and encampments for the various warlords and you’ll be taking them out to weaken Scrotus’s grip on this area of the Wasteland. This is done with a combination of specific story goals as well as just free roaming action.

In addition to working towards Scrotus there are random things to do like exploring the vast area for precious scrap (currency), collectibles and components to upgrade your character, vehicles and strongholds you are working out of. There are also races to enter and general havoc you can cause by taking out convoys and other forms of destruction. Max is definitely on a mission in this game.

The action is broken up into car racing/combat and melee combat. The controls for driving took me a little bit to get used to but once I did driving hasn’t been a problem and is really fun. The cars feel distinctive and upgrades to your Magnum Opus are noticeable in how the car handles. So it’s not a case of just throw the best stuff on. Because as you add components there are trade offs between acceleration, handling, weight and damage. You can really tailor the car to your style.

Crashing into cars is met with a satisfying impact as chunks fly off metal crunches, bodies go flying and vehicles explode. This is accomplished by ramming vehicles, side swiping them, ripping chunks off with your harpoon or simply shooting at them. Destroying a car will reward you with a bit of salvage, but if you can take a car out and leave it drive-able returning it to your Stronghold (once you get that far) will give you access to use that vehicle as well as a much larger salvage value.

Melee combat I’m finding equally satisfying. It uses the same kind of combo mechanic that WB started in Batman and continued in Shadow of Mordor. Impacts feel solid and meaty. You break bones, slam people into walls, curb stomp them, shiv them and bash them with clubs. Max is pretty bad ass and in 10 hrs beating the piss out of the various warboys and other factions is only getting more fun as I unlock new skills in the game.

There is a bit of formula to the whole play, not dissimilar to Shadow of Mordor. The area is broken up into territories and they are under the control of various bosses and factions with bases. You need to break down those bases and weaken their control. This is done by taking out watch towers and taking over pumping stations. The stations are all unique, but like the fortresses in Mordor there are some similarities to the approach and the action in. You fight your way in and blow it up. There are optional goals inside, which you’ll certainly want to do and are generally easy to accomplish on the way.

I personally like that these optional goals are fairly easy to do because it lets you keep the action flowing, other people may find it too easy. But my idea of fun is not search a field of haystacks for the right haystack and the needle in it YMMV. Because this is the formula of the game your long term enjoyment will be determined on how much you get into the general action elements. If you want a ton of variety of things to do, this may grow a little thin during the games typical 40-50 hour run time. This is the common approach that most open world games have. It’s a large world populated with similar actions and goals. Fortunately this formula is broken up with story moments and cut scenes that really help bring this world to life.

I’ve always enjoyed playing a specific character in open world games much more then random guy. I feel much more connected to the world because I know I’m supposed to be Mad Max and the story plays out like I’m Mad Max. Counter this to a game like Skyrim where you can play whatever you want, but regardless if you want to be Conan, the Grey Mouser, Robin Hood or Merlin the narrative really doesn’t change – this though is one of those YMMV things too.

Graphically the game is impressive there is a very consistent look to the setting, people and places. This game truly captures the look of the Mad Max franchise and there have been many times I’ve just stopped to appreciate the view. The frame rate has been pretty constant and I haven’t noticed any glitches along the way. However I’m also having fun playing the game and not stopping constantly to check for them.

There are a couple outlying issues. First is the fact that jumping/climbing is a little stunted. I wasn’t expecting to move around like in Batman or Shadow of Mordor. But the game has some semi-artificial fences that if you could only climb that ledge…. It’s not crippling and doesn’t really ruin the game but it’s just one of those niggling issues that always bugs me.

The next is one I actually applaud but thought I should mention. This is a game that runs on auto saves which means you can’t do the save/re-load thing. You can save at anytime but that will only update your accomplishments. When you die any thing you’ve collected will be retained but you don’t pop up right at the place you last saved. Instead you re-start at the last check point location. Basically the same as Batman, Shadow of Mordor and Borderlands. I personally like this method as you can’t try and rinse/replay your way through but other people hate that.

There are online play elements coming but they currently aren’t available so I can’t comment on them. But I suspect they’ll be similar to the random challenges that are in Shadow of Mordor and Batman given that it’s by the WB.

The screen shots below are taken from my TV. Very much if you can see it in the game you can get to it. Outside of the core ‘known’ area is the unforgiving wastes which you can explore at your peril. You may get lucky and find some paradise or swept away in a sand storm.

Overall I’d give this game 8.5 out of 10. I generally like all aspects of the game I’ve encountered but think it could benefit from a little more variety and a bit more polish in the little details along the way.

Because it’s been asked between this and Shadow of Mordor I’d pick Mad Max hands down. Not because the game play is so much better but because I’m enjoying the story more and I prefer the setting.

You can find out more about the computer game Mad Max here.

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