Mad Max Review

Written by Rick Lane

September 7, 2015 | 13:47

Tags: #batman #just-cause-2 #mad-max #shadow-of-mordor

Companies: #warner-bros

Eerily beautiful as the Wasteland may be, it is also harsh and dangerous. Intense storms can kick up at a moment's notice, clogging the air with deadly debris or stabbing the ground with forks of lightning. Meanwhile, vital resources like ammo and water (used for replenishing health) are extremely rare. This makes it all the more enjoyable when you do stumble upon resources, but I think Mad Max goes a little too far in its scarcity. Upgrading your car requires scrap, and unless you stumble across random events like "Scrapulances", which can be stolen for big bonuses, acquiring the necessary amount of scrap feels less like survival gaming and more like grind.

Mad Max Review [MONDAY] Mad Max Review

Of course, the environment isn't the only thing out to get you. War parties prowl everywhere, bodies and vehicles painted like tribal warriors. Car combat is a crunching combination of ramming your opponents and using unique weapons like the harpoon gun to tear parts off enemy vehicles. When cars smash together, they spit shrapnel like broken teeth, and if you score a direct hit on a fuel tank with Max's shotgun, the whole vehicle erupts in a ball of viscous orange fire. Mad Max isn't short on problems, but I'm comfortable saying that it has the best explosions in gaming right now.

Sadly, while the car combat is enjoyable, the game fails to make the most of it. Despite its aural grunt, the Magnum Opus is quite a fragile thing. If it runs out of health, which happens a lot, you need to get out so Chumbucket can perform repairs, leaving you extremely vulnerable and limited in your options. Meanwhile, the majority of story and side-missions focus on the less impressive melee combat. It's basically the same system seen in the Arkham games and Shadow of Mordor, but much simpler and considerably less slick. Admittedly, the scrappy fisticuffs fit the tone of the game well enough, and there are some neat touches like Max's ability to shove enemies against walls and objects as he delivers his blows. Often though, the clumsiness is simply down to poor implementation; counters that don't trigger or strike animations that you're locked into.

Mad Max Review [MONDAY] Mad Max Review

Strangely, Mad Max relies on melee combat a lot, far more than the better car combat. This also hints at Mad Max's biggest problem - repetition. Although the world is enormous, with dozens of hours' worth of activities to explore, you'll have seen almost everything the game has to offer within the first five. There's an abundance of cookie-cutter content, and a lot of it is more didactic than it initially seems. The strongholds you can liberate (which seem to have become an open-world staple) must be approached in a very specific order. You scout the stronghold, clear the perimeter defences, go inside and win several fistfights, and then finally complete the objective. Rinse and repeat.

Many of these activities drag on for longer than they should, and at times Mad Max feels outright obstructive toward progress. For example, to compete in a "Death Run" race as part of the main story, I had to upgrade the Magnum Opus to make it faster. But many upgrades can only be obtained by meeting certain requirements, one of which is lowering the "threat" level posed by Scrotus toward the other warlords you encounter during the story.

Mad Max Review [MONDAY] Mad Max Review

This in turn meant completing a bunch of side-quests, liberating the aforementioned strongholds, tearing down "Scarecrows", metal totem poles used by Scrotus to mark his territory, clearing out sniper nests, and so forth. In fact, the list of prerequisites was so long that I had to write them down, and the race itself was just a small part of a larger quest. It's such frustrating mission-design, being forced to detour from an objective, then take another detour in order to progress past the first detour.

When Mad Max leans toward the more thematic elements of the film series; the driving, the car combat, survival in a brutal, unforgiving environment, it shines like an oil-slick in the midday sun. Unfortunately, more often than not the theme is lazily draped over a hackneyed open world structure choking to death on repetitive activities. It's said that madness is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, and while there are moment's of clarity in Avalanche's vision, a lot of the time Mad Max simply drove me crazy.

Mad Max Review [MONDAY] Mad Max Review

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