madmaxvidoegamecover__largeI was working on a fun little post about my favorite fictitious bands from pop-culture, but we’re here on Tuesday afternoon and I really feel like that one needs a little more tender loving care before I release it to you all for your enjoyment.

Instead, I will return to the well that runneth over with blog inspiration: Mad Max. But this time, instead of talking about any of the cinematic installments, I will talk about the video game which I’m presently probably like 30 hours into.

The whole inception of this game seemed a little half-cocked. Originally titled Mad Max: Magnum Opus, the game was supposed to come out like a year before Fury Road and not be really that related to the story of the film. Which I dug. I really like the individual nature of the Mad Max stories and how they are all just little glimpses into the world on the whole, with Max as the lense for the viewers. After some delays, they dropped “Magnum Opus” from the title (but not from the game, more on this later) and did a bit of an attempt to tie it in with Fury Road.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not very tied in. But there’s a few references to Immortan Joe and the Citadel, and the main crux of the story is basically breaking into Gastown to get yourself a sweet V8 for your new car.

So, what’s the story?

Our opening sequence has Max seemingly killing Scabrous Scrotus (which sounds like a terrible venereal disease) who is Immortan Joe’s middle son. The resulting fight also leads to Max losing whatever version of the V8 Interceptor he was driving. So yeah, he killed a big bad, but also now has no wheels. Which is a bummer not just because he’s Mad Max, but also because he had resolved to drive to the Plains of Silence for some refuge from the general shittiness of the Wasteland.

Enter a weird hunchback Black Finger (Mechanic) named Chumbucket, who has plenty of knowledge about this region of the Wasteland and sees Max’s talent as a driver to be some kind of a divine gift (echoing the Cult of the V8 stuff that was going on in Fury Road). He promises to help Max build the greatest car the Wasteland has ever seen, the Magnum Opus (there it is). Max has the specific requirement, obviously, of needing to have a V8.

The game then progresses into an open world sandbox style game that has you helping out various “good” (or maybe just “not evil”) factions in their struggles against the various “bad” factions in exchange for upgrades and supplies for your gear and your car.

Pretty straight forward really. Almost TOO straight forward.

At the stage I’m at in the game I’ve met 3 of the 4 main good guy factions, and none of them have really pulled me in as needing saving. I mean, the whole lure of Mad Max is basically that he does what it takes to survive and doesn’t want to help anyone, but then something good inside him makes him help everyone who needs it.

The game kind of fails of getting that sense of urgency across. I think it’s kind of a failing of storytelling honestly. Like, sure these people need my help, but there’s nothing really engaging about it. Like, I moved from the 2nd to the 3rd faction pretty quickly and for hours on end just forgot about the plight of the 2nd camp. I was like “oh yeah, I bet there’s something to do down in that side of the map.” The game didn’t do anything to make me care about the 2nd camp in any way, so I accidentally forgot about it.

I think there are two main factors that contribute here.

The first is that the main way to upgrade camps is to collect scrap pieces for specific bits of machinery that upgrade the overall living quality of the camp. Like, an oil reservoir or a water collector. The problem here is that nobody expressly asks you to do this, they’re not really missions but more side quests. If a supporting character was like “we’re seriously dehydrating to death, please help us now” I’d be more inclined to build your water thing. As opposed to the present situation is that it’s just off to the side waiting to be built.

The second factor is the leaders of the factions themselves. I get that this is the harsh world of the Wasteland, but none of them come off as very likable. They all kind of treat you like shit and are just like “do this and we’ll trade” and the relationship kind of stays that way. I get that is probably how the relationship would start, but, some progression in the relationship would be nice to see as the characters
grow closer and more trusting of Max.

2015-08-11-154653-greenshotjpg-67c288_765wBut hey, I’m still playing it and I plan to finish it. So it’s got to be doing something right, right?

Well yes, it is.

First of all from a gameplay perspective it has probably some of the best driving mechanics integrated into a third person game that I’ve seen. The weaponry that you can stack onto your car also do a great job of capturing the car combat from the films. When in close vehicular combat you can just tap the fire button of the weapon for a quick auto-target of a nearby villain, or hold the “aim” button for a moment to slow down time and more carefully pick you target. This means that you can take a moment to carefully target a driver’s head or exposed gas tank in the midst of car combat insanity without always losing control of your car.

Once you get the hang of it you can switch quickly through shooting people with your shotgun, firing off your harpoon to rip off armor or tires, shooting flames from your wheels, grinding rim spikes against the sides of your enemies and shooting explosive rounds. All the while you’re being attacked and sometimes boarded by crazed War Boys jumping from their car to yours to try to take you out.

The car combat is definitely the biggest lure of this game guys, is what I’m saying.

The hand to hand mechanic is pretty good, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s basically the same kind of thing we’ve seen in the Arkham games, where a good rhythm of hitting the same one or two buttons will string together good looking combats but the actual fine tuning of how and when you hit is handled by the computer, and not your actual controller inputs.

Sadly, the gameplay can get repetitive, and I honestly find that the game relies too strongly on its weaker mechanic (hand to hand combat) for most of the action. Basically, the entire game breaks down into a handful of encounter types repeated throughout:

  • Infiltrate and destroy camps
    • This involves driving around a little bit and picking off some of the camp’s defenses with your sniper rifle, then heading inside for hand to hand combat. I would say easily 80/20 favoring hand to hand. Sometimes bigger camps have a boss fight at the end.
  • Take over smaller camps to unlock hot air balloons to reveal parts of a region.
    • No car portions, just get in, beat up a few dudes and get in a balloon.
  • Random scavenge sites
    • Pretty much the same as balloon sites, but with material rewards.
  • Take out an armored convoy.
    • All car combat, you need to take down an armored truck that is being defended by a bunch of cars.
  • Repeat

Obviously, there’s a bunch of driving and some random little encounters with roaming war-parties as you travel around the world map, but those aren’t really any kind of driving force in the game.

Another cool feature of the Wasteland is that every now and then you run into small “Duster” storms which are these little tornadoes that kind of piss you off, they’re just the little baby versions of a full blown mega-storms though. Giant billowing black clouds of smoke roll over the entire landscape, winds knock your car around, random flashes of lightning and debris fly around all over the place. Much like the storm Max drives into during the film. The mega-storm’s kick up randomly and you need to immediately navigate your way through the storm to a friendly camp. These storms seem to be randomly generated so can suddenly be a massive wrench in whatever plans you’ve got going on at the time.

So, it it worth it?

As a big fan of Mad Max I would say yes. As a gamer, I would say there are probably better open world options for you to explore. Nothing in Mad Max is bad, but aside from the car combat, nothing is expressly great. More car based combat missions, and a tighter, more engaging story would have done wonders to kick up the enjoyment level of the game.

That being said, if you’re a Mad Max fan and want to see and read more about the world leading up to Fury Road, the game does a great job of fleshing out how other people live in the Wasteland. There’s a lot of text and bios that unlock throughout the game, and it’s cool to see how this world tries to operate.

Keith does all sorts of things here on, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek.