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Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Avalanche Studios, Mad Max, PC games, PS4 games, Xbox One Games

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

Mad Max is a treasured movie series, and it was a great surprise to see the recent Mad Max: Fury Road reboot turn out to be pretty damn good. The pressure is certainly on for Avalanche Studios to deliver with their Mad Max game, which has been in the works since around 2008. So, it's perhaps not unfair to have high expectations, especially when you consider the same studio is responsible for the ludicrously fun Just Cause series, with a third entry set to tear through stores later this year.

Just think about the comparison though. Just Cause games are set in a tropical paradise and give you tonnes of guns, skydiving, mid-air car surfing, anything-goes grappling hooks and the fun cranked up to 11 for the duration. Mad Max is set in a desert wasteland, car fuel must be scavenged and fought for, ammo for your rusty sawn-off is in dire supply and just staying alive is a constant challenge. Can you guess which game is more fun to play?

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

Mad Max's biggest challenge isn't that it's bloody hard (and it is), it's just so crushingly dull and long-winded. Missions see you constantly driving around the wasteland with ever shifting shades of brown or grey, doing the same sort of fetch quests that you've been commuting between for the last decade. The map is cluttered with collectibles, hot air balloons (Assassin's Creed-style sync points), races, bases to raid, scrap salvage areas, convoy routes to ambush, towers to destroy and so on. Most icons don't even have the decency to bugger off from the map once you're done either. The whole design seems content to make do with the dusty remains of gaming worlds that have moved on long ago, much like Max's life.

There's simply too much of everything and to make things worse, the rewards for stopping to explore are usually poor, with scrap pickups (the game's currency) usually not being worth the effort of getting out of the car.

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

So much of the game drags things out unnecessarily too. Filling up your water canteen (which can be used to refill your health) is awkwardly slow, as is refuelling your car after dragging a fuel can over from some nearby ruins, having to bash X to open crates is needless and having to hold X to pick up scrap all the time is just pointless padding. Whatever happened to just running over something and picking it up? Screw realism, Sonic had the right idea.

Levelling up points are awarded for completing milestone challenges rather than a standard XP system, which is fine as it hands out points generously enough. Having to drive to find a wandering mystic in the desert to spend them is annoying though. At least you can buy car and outfit upgrades from the pause menu.

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

Max can use several strongholds as bases and upgrade them to provide extra ammo, scrap bonuses, health refills and more by finding specific salvage parts in the wasteland. You have to go to the base and run to a certain area to activate that specific build as a waypoint on the map, rather than just have them all on there to hunt down at your leisure. Again, something simple, painfully dragged out. There's just so much needless back and forth action that playing the game feels like a chore. Just use some goddamn menus and have done with it. There's no need to waste our time like this, especially given the exceptionally strong competition in the genre this year.

Fighting Talk

There are plenty of enemies in the game and taking them on on-foot is a large part of the action. The combat system is best described as an Arkham clone with a series of strikes, counter-prompts and evades. Unlike Batman though, Max has a severe glass jaw and won't interrupt his own animations to counter incoming strikes. So it's basically like playing a Batman game with a tranq dart in your neck - but without the pretty colours.

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

Enemies take ages to go down and shielded ones are a huge pain in the ass as you'll have to roll away from their charges and the camera is most definitely not on Max's side. Bosses are much worse as their health bars are stubborn bastards and the respawning shield goons make some encounters as appealing as being spoon-fed sand.

You better get used to the look of sand because that's pretty much all you'll see in Mad Max. Sand and rocks that is, with a few ruined buildings or rusted shipwrecks from the dry ocean floor. There's the occasional respite with large oil refineries or sulphur pits, but when compared to recent open world masterclasses like The Witcher 3, Assassin's Creed IV or GTAV, it could not be any duller to explore. It's shocking how poor the framerate can get too, considering there's really not much going on. I'll be the first to admit, that one of the best open world games out there -Fallout 3- is hardly a looker, but there's just enough recognisable remnants of the old world to keep you interested and keen to explore, not to mention the dozens of little stories you'll happen across as you trudge across the wasteland.

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

Road Warrior

There is some brief redemption for Max and that takes the form of his customisable car. I'm sure you've seen enough of the trailers and maybe the films to know that the car is arguably the most important part of the game. And by the time you've put about 15 hours into the game, the car might actually be capable of half the things seen in the trailers.

Car combat involves smashing into rival vehicles and using a grappling hook to gain the advantage. The hook is fantastic for yanking drivers and passengers straight through the window, or -when you've put some serious hours into the game- you can start to pull wheels and armour off too.

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

The vehicular combat is actually really fun, even if the physical driving itself is nothing special. But you're never truly free to go out and explore and get into scraps yourself. Without the vehicle upgrades unlocked by playing story or Stronghold missions, Max's ride is woefully underpowered to take on enemy vehicles beyond the first large area. They simply have too much armour, meaning you're constantly having to fall back and wait for ages while your mechanic repairs the car at the side of the road - at least he can be upgraded later on too.

Violent storms hit without warning, which are near impossible to ride out or find shelter from. You'll drive around in poor visibility, crashing into rocks you can't see and eventually die. To be honest, it's easier/quicker to just let that happen and wait for the lengthy reload screen.

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

As you've probably gathered, Mad Max is a serious grind to play with little payoff. By the time you're strong enough to feel confident in the world, most of the game is over and you're left with the remaining bases to take over and their samey boss fights or an unfulfilling journey scavenging the wastelands for bit of scrap or collectible postcards. Surely there's more to gaming than this?

Pros

  • Car combat can be a lot of fun (eventually)
  • On-foot fights against smaller groups work well
  • Gotta love that grappling hook

Cons

  • Everything in the game takes too long
  • Early exploration punished
  • Map and bases are uninspired

The Short Version: Surviving in a real post-apocalyptic wasteland would be a miserable existence. Mad Max nails that feeling of just wanting to crawl under a rock wait for the end. It's a miserably dull grind, occasionally made bearable by the vehicular carnage once you've suffered through the first half.

Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the blacktop

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Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One | PC

Developers: Avalanche Studios

Publishers: Warner Bros Interactive

Add a comment10 comments
Late  Sep. 7, 2015 at 22:21

Harsh, in my opinion.
Sure the scenery is drab with lots of barren wasteland, but it's Mad Max. I wasn't expecting a lively thriving atmosphere.

You start out with a very weak car, and upgrading it to a beast takes a while. Again, that's a positive for me. I personally prefer that to the likes of Far Cry, where you're given all of your tools right at the start.

Even the wait while stuff happens - opening creates, drinking water, filling the petrol tank - serves a purpose. Keep your eyes open and pray you can do the task you want before a roving patrol mows you down.

That's not to say the game's perfect. The non-vehicular combat is bloody annoying on occasion - especially (as you said in the article) the way you can't switch your attack to a counter when you need to. And that camera seems to deliberately shift itself into the most awkward position as often as possible.

All in all, though, I'm enjoying Mad Max. I'm less than half way through it so can't give it a score yet but it's looking like a seven to me so far.

Last edited by Late, Sep. 7, 2015 at 22:22
NostromoXP  Sep. 7, 2015 at 22:49

Would have to agree with Late, not perfect but still enjoyable. Having fun with this and at only £12.99 on PC it is a total bargain.

Runs great on PC as well, unlike some recent AAA games.

roberttaylor8273  Sep. 8, 2015 at 15:09

have to agree with everyone else. harse review, its a hell of a lot of fun. enjoying it more than MGS V, not saying this is a better game its not, but its just a lot more fun and for me a 7.5/10

really dont why people comaplin about the scenery etc ITS MAD MAX, we arent going to see a varaity. also a lot of people comapre it to the new movie it really has mor ein common with mad max 2

Last edited by roberttaylor8273, Sep. 8, 2015 at 15:10
ODB_69  Sep. 8, 2015 at 20:16

Very harsh

Late  Sep. 14, 2015 at 18:36

Pro-tip:
When you go into the underdunes (probably sent there on a mission from gastown but it's possible you could stumble in there whilst exploring) when you see an enemy npc do NOT fire a thunderpoon.

Game-breaking bug. I instinctively fired when I saw him, as many others have done, and the resultant explosion destroyed something vital to progress. Can't continue the mission, can't leave the mission, can't do anything at all
Stupid bloody autosave system means I can't even go back an hour or two.
74 hours wasted :(
(Bug report submitted, but I won't hold my breath. Tbh if it's not patched in the next day or two I'll have moved on and lost interest in going back to the game.)

Last edited by Late, Sep. 14, 2015 at 18:38
bggriffiths  Sep. 14, 2015 at 23:40

Pro-tip:
When you go into the underdunes (probably sent there on a mission from gastown but it's possible you could stumble in there whilst exploring) when you see an enemy npc do NOT fire a thunderpoon.

Game-breaking bug. I instinctively fired when I saw him, as many others have done, and the resultant explosion destroyed something vital to progress. Can't continue the mission, can't leave the mission, can't do anything at all
Stupid bloody autosave system means I can't even go back an hour or two.
74 hours wasted :(
(Bug report submitted, but I won't hold my breath. Tbh if it's not patched in the next day or two I'll have moved on and lost interest in going back to the game.)

That sucks dude. Are you playing on PS4? If so, you might have a cloud save on PS+, don't let your messed up save file write over it if possible?! Ditto, on XO?

Late  Sep. 15, 2015 at 18:32

PC (steam).
Auto-syncs after every game session.

Flash312  Sep. 24, 2015 at 15:37

This review nailed it. The game is a dull grind. 5/10 is about right.

Late  Oct. 1, 2015 at 13:21

The above bug has now been patched.
Have just had a quick go, but I've already forgotten the controls, and what I'm doing. And for some reason the map button is no longer working, so I've no idea where I'm going. (Fairly common bug apparently.)
Meh. I'm 50:50 on whether to finish off the game, now.

CarlPhillips  Oct. 1, 2015 at 15:29

@Late: That a kicker, man. I've had happen a few times over the years and ended up giving up on the games in question. Maybe it will be something to revisit later down the line.

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