Mad Max Video Game — a review


I just completed the main campaign in this video game, and just in time, too.

You see, as I’m typing this my birthday is tomorrow. I’ve just about convinced myself that I need my wife to give me the new Spider-Man video game as a gift, but I didn’t have enough storage space on my PS4 to accommodate it. Now, with Mad Max’s story concluded, for the moment, I do. Happy accident.

Of course, you’ll probably have to wait six months or a year to read my Spider-Man review because, if it’s a good game, I’ll be playing it that long to fully explore its world and complete its side missions. I’ve been playing Mad Max since November 2017, if that tells you anything.

No, I’m not extraordinarily slow or dim-witted (well, maybe a little). I always keep more than one game going. I told you I was out of storage space on my console. Also, I don’t play every day, or usually for longer than an hour when I do.

I’m still playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins (and jonesing to play Odyssey, but I’ll wait), and the same basketball and football games (which I don’t feel the need to update every year, even if I’d rather have Antonio Brown on the cover instead of Tom Brady), plus that game with Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe (Beyond: Two Souls. I just had to look it up.), and Rayman Legends. There must be others, but I can’t name them at the moment. Oh, and I still like to build things on Minecraft. Just build: I don’t get much enjoyment in the gameplay any longer, but building giant structures while that music is playing over the headphones is very much like meditation to me.

Mad Max, released in 2015, is only the second Avalanche Studios game I’ve played, I think. The other being Just Cause 3. The Swedish developer has become known for its dedication to creating huge open worlds (the word “sandbox” takes on additional meaning in Max), full of explosive gameplay. If the two games I’ve played are prime examples of their work, I can attest to that. Just Cause 4 is scheduled to be released in December, and I know I will be joining Rico Rodriguez for another adventure eventually.

The open worlds in the two Avalanche games I’ve played are radically different from each other. JC3 is all about its lush, tropical island settings. Max, however, is—

Well, it’s Mad Max. It’s a post-apocalyptic Australian setting that you’re familiar with if you’ve watched any of the movies, from Mad Max to Mad Max: Fury Road. This game was made with the blessings and input of Max’s creator-director, George Miller, and the story told in the game dovetails nicely with what’s already been done. Which means that, while there are genuine moments of joy to be found here, the tone is primarily bleak and despairing. Max is not a happy guy.

Here’s the crux of the story. Scabrous Scrotus (you gotta love Mad Max names), the Warlord of Gas Town, nearly kills Max and, most importantly, steals his car. Max recovers from his near-death and works hard to get his car back and get his revenge.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Everything else that happens in the game is to either support this goal or provide interesting (mostly) side missions to build your personal stats and gain loot in the form of scrap and memories of better days. With the assistance of the humpbacked Chumbucket, one of the many loonies we will meet, Max begins to build a new car (cars, to be more precise). Chum is a master mechanic—known as a “blackfinger”—who practices his own religion based around the automobile. He believes that Max, who he calls Saint, was sent by the Angel of Combustion to help build and drive the Magnum Opus, the greatest vehicle the world will ever see.

And this is what happens. Sure, this means Max’s goal becomes less about getting his old car back, but, by that point, it’s the principle of the thing, right? As you complete missions, you not only get to improve Max’s stats (his Legend) through semi-mystical vignettes with Griffa, a sort of wasteland shaman, you also get to improve your ride with better tires, suspension and engines, including nitrous, and an assortment of weapons that includes harpoons and explosive projectiles. The vehicular mayhem is as good as you would wish for in a game set in this milieu. The personal hand-to-hand and melee combat is equally satisfying, though not for the faint-of-heart.

On that topic, I should add that this is a mature game with excessive violence and disturbing images. Your child has seen worse, I’ll bet, but I still wouldn’t recommend it for the kiddies. Or for overly sensitive adults. There’s blood and explosions and maggot-eating involved, dismembered corpses and the like. There’s sadistic cruelty and savage brutality around every corner. And flies. If you could smell this game, it would smell of death.

If none of that turns you off from playing this game, then you might just find this to be a rollicking good time. I enjoyed it immensely and hope they make a sequel.

I didn’t feel better about the world when it was all over, though. You have been warned.

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