Despite being a couple of years old now and despite some physics abnormalities Mad Max has been one of the best video games I’ve played through in a long while.
Set in the post apocalyptic Australian outback that we’ve all come to love from the film franchise, the game Mad Max is set in a section of desert under the shadow of a huge oil refinery turned city called Gas Town. The map is huge ranges from a dried up sea bed with rotting carcasses of old oil tankers and fishing vessels to an old airport buried beneath sand dunes to the remains of towns and villages surrounding the mighty gas town; a grand city driven by the gluttony of expendable resource, be that the oil that is produced there or the city’s inhabitants.
Although the map is largely controlled by the army of Gas Town at the start of the game, each region is home to a tribe of misfits that become allies or enemies of Max. My personal favourites are the Buzzards; gas mask donning abhumans who hide in the desert waiting for their pray to pass their traps.
As with the film the vehicles are the stars of the show. Max’s famed Interceptor is stolen at the start of the game and you and a deformed, eccentric mechanic called Chumbucket go about building a new car, the best car to ever ride the wastes, the Magnum Opus. The Magnum Opus is hugely customisable. There is a number of bodies the vehicle can be based on and from there, there are a number of engine options, suspension and tyre upgrades, paint jobs and of course weapons and armour upgrades. There are a huge range of vehicles that the other factions use to wage war on each other and you. These can all be stolen and collected and range from twin engined hot rods to pick up trucks that drop mines, cars with flame throwers and bombs with wheels and an engine strapped to them.
Despite the size and sparsity of the map most of the combat is very up close and personal, in both the cars and on foot combat. The only weapon with substantial range is the sniper rifle, which is mostly used in long range duels between yourself and Scrotus’s “lead slingers” who snipe from towers dotted around the map or surrounding the various factions camps. It’s a bit of a disappointing weapon though. Wind can often be seen kicking up dust or moving flags and banners yet does not seem to have an effect on the trajectory of your bullets. From any range in any condition you just line the rifle up and pull the trigger. Whatever is exactly in your cross hairs will go down. Ammo is scarce for any of the guns though so maybe it would get annoying wasting shots due to the wind. It’s a small grievance either way.
The rest of the combat is very up close and personal. Armoured vehicle slams into armoured vehicle, spikes crudely welded onto the sides of the car’s bodies and wheels slicing through steel and kicking up a fantastic display of sparks. A war boy leans from the passenger seat of his buggy ready to jump onto the Magnum Opus but Chumbucket fires a harpoon through the war boy’s chest and the Magnum Opus drags his corpse over the course sand. Explosive spears, or “thunder sticks” will be thrown from vehicle to vehicle sending a war machine cartwheeling, ablaze and shedding the metal of it’s body, into the dust at the side of the road. Behind a nitrous fuelled pick up truck with a cattle ram welded onto the front of it charges forward, pushing and spinning whatever stands before it into the rocks.
Once nothing is left of the vehicles but twisted, burning husks the combat really comes into its own. Person to person combat plays a lot like Assassins Creed Max will strike with the tap of square (if a PlayStation player) and if one holds that button down he will perform a heavy attack. Parrying the enemies attacks also plays a big part. Some enemies will often dodge Max’s attacks and the only way to break their guard is to counter their attack. This can be upgraded so Max can break his opponent’s bones with a satisfying crack. Once enough damage has been done Max will go into “Fury Mode”. In Fury Mode Max becomes extra strong and his attacks become heavier. Any enemies defeated will result in him getting a bit of a health boost too. One upgrade I highly recommend is the Fury Execution. In Fury Mode if Max knocks an opponent down he can break the assailant’s neck for a big health boost.
Health is a topic unto itself and has been done really well in the game. Max regenerates health by drinking from a water bottle. Water is quite scarce on the map though and health does not regenerate at all so you have to keep a very close eye on both Max’s health and how much water he is carrying.
If Max’s health does drop to low mid combat you can blast opponents from close range with his sawn-off shotgun. This is pretty much a one hit kill weapon especially in close quarters, but only use it when absolutely necessary because, as I mentioned above, ammo is few and far between.
I also mentioned Assassins Creed earlier. In that game sections of the map are revealed by climbing a tall structure and observing what is going on around you. In this game Max can go up in a hot air balloon and observe his surroundings with his binoculars revealing locations. As a WW1 geek this pleases me as the Germans would often use balloons as observation platforms. I did find it surprising that both games used such a similar mechanic despite coming from totally different studios.
All in all, I have to highly recommend it. I found myself lost in this world of sand, grime and violence. A lot of good fun with a story that suprises in places!
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