For me Mad Max came out of nowhere, and my initial assumption was “here we go, another mediocre movie tie-in”. However, as I enjoyed the film, I decided to popped in on the rental list anyway, and so glad I did.
The game itself felt like the lovechild of Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted and Shadow of Mordor. Red Dead for the big open free roam world replacing your horse with a car, Uncharted for the man with flashlight, exploring caves, hunting for loot and solving puzzles, and Shadow of Mordor for the combat system, and the camp take overs.
The story starts similar to the film, for ‘reasons’ you are beaten up and your car is taken from you, and the rest of the game is your building up your rep with other war lords to get yourself back on your feet to finally go and get your car back…unfortunately that’s as deep as the story goes.
While you’re without your car, you get a loaner from a helpful blackhand (mechanic in the Mad Max universe) who is happy to come with you on your journey, assisting alone the way. The Magnum Opus starts off quite basic, poor speed, poor handling, poor defences, however as you progress through the story, Chumbucket is more than happy to put his black hands to work and install upgrades to his beloved Magnum Opus.
Although you could have spent the entire game on foot, with the size of the world, it would have taken forever, so this is why the Magnum Opus played such a huge part in the game. As mentioned above, it starts out pretty low spec, however after doing missions, side missions and general exploring you can create the car of your wasteland dreams. Although there are a number of pre build car specs (Archangels) you can spec the car how you like. I personally created a tank. Loads of armour, lots of spikes, huge engine and basically rammed my way through the entire game. This plus the weapons upgrades made it a forced to be reckoned with, and made the car combat a breeze. The only downside was, due to the car being heavy, having negative effects on speed and acceleration.
The game is heavily vehicle focused, you only really leave it to pick up loot or infiltrate a camp. A slight downside of this is the majority of the main story missions tend to want to keep you in the car also, as they’ll have you driving through narrow corridors to go and do ‘things’, then normally leave the place as quick as possible with car combat thrown into the mix. This wasn’t really a bad thing, just felt a little forced at times.
While out and about there were loads to explore and it was very easy to get distracted. There were a number of towers to take out to decrease threat levels, balloons to ride to get a better view of the area, loot areas to explore and various other distractions. On occasions while out exploring you’d get the odd twister that would hit you and just generally mess stuff up for you for a brief time, and on even less occasions, you’d get a storm, which were epic!. You’d be there, casually driving around, picking up scrap, then my subs would kick in, Chumbucket would exclaim there was a storm coming and you’d better get to cover. From this point you had about 20 seconds to find somewhere safe until it blew over. If you didn’t manage to get safe, your visibility was reduced to almost nothing, debris would suddenly become lethal weapons, and if they didn’t finish you off, the constant fierce lightning storms would no doubt take you out. On a number of occasions I’d make a mad dash to the nearest Allys camp, firing off all my NOS and going hell for leather, only to be taken out by a lightning bolt at the last minute.
The ‘on foot’ side of the game was good (once you’d got used to the control scheme) and felt pretty solid. With the Uncharted style exploration, and Shadow of Mordor/Batman style combat, taking out camps was possibly my favourite part of the game. You normally had a number of options, go in all guns blazing, or if you looked around the map close to the camp, there’d be a helpful wanderer who’d spent the time to scope out the base and give you some helpful intel. This would normally be, if you go to point x, you’ll see a secret entrance, and if you go to point y in the base, you’ll find z. For my play style, although the intel was good, I never really used it, and went in all guns blazing. Each camp would be surrounded by a number of perimeter defences which could be taken out with your car, or a sniper shot, and once all they were eliminated, you could move on inside and do the area by area search for scrap, historic memorabilia, food, water, fuel, ammo and occasionally a car shell. Most of the open areas in the camps would be teaming with enemies wanting to attach you, and at this point the Mordor/Batman combat would come into play. Getting a decent hit streak would engage the rage mode meaning your hits where a lot more powerful. Although these combat encounters were initially quite difficult, after levelling up Max’s skill tree, the combat became a breeze. As you progressed through the game, enemies that required certain different takedown tactics were introduced, however none were really that challenging. Each camp would normally have at least one War Crier, a guy suspended from a crane rallying the troops, if you didn’t take him out before he activated, it buffed the camp dwellers making combat a little more challenging. What I did find quite amusing was the comical dialogue the War Crier would come out with if you killed all the enemies without killing him. Although the game used similar mechanics to Mordor I would have loved to seen the nemesis system included. I dies a few times, and it would have been interesting to see these guys rise in the ranks, and to face off later in the game. I guess a downside about the combat was, there was little variety in the attacks, and all the top dog bosses had exactly the same pattern. Once you’d taken out one, the rest didn’t really feel challenging.
If you wanted a break from the wasteland, there were a number of Ally camps you could visit. Although they don’t initially offer anything more than a temporary safe haven or a place to pick up side missions, they slowly become a place where you can automatically replenish your health, ammo, petrol and water by picking up project parts while out and about. Additionally there are projects like Scrap and Cleanup Crews which will highlight where all the scrap is in that region, or have a crew automatically pick up the scrap from destroyed vehicles. These projects made my OCD kick in, and after doing only two story missions, I’d completed all projects in all of the Allys bases, maxed out Maxs skill tree, had collected all parts for the Magnum Opus and reduced the threat level to zero on all camps. With doing all this before the majority of the story missions, the game became a breeze. Doing races, I would simply NOS past the lead car, and then blow them up, the hand to hand combat; I’d hit the fury rage in the first couple of punches and quickly take out all the enemies. To be fair, it did take around forty hours to get to this stage, but really felt the benefit once I’d finally got back to the main story.
I guess if there was anything that I found a little boring; it would be clearing out the minefields. Around the maps, there would be a number of areas that contained three mines, the only way you could disarm these was to either run over them (which was a bad idea), or take out Chumbucket’s buggy with his mine sniffing dog in the back. He would bark in the general direction of the mine until it was revealed, and then you could get out and disarm it. The annoying thing was, the buggy had no weapons, no armour, no NOS, meaning if a random war party was driving on the same roads as yourself, it was pretty much a one sided fight.
All in all, this was a game that came out of nowhere, and I never expected to enjoy it as much as I did. Although it does have its flaws, it’s a solid game with loads to do and great value for money.
Tags: Batman, Mad Max, Magnum Opus, Mordor, NOS, OCD, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted, War Crier