Mad Max Review – A Wasteland Of Wasted Opportunity
Hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road comes yet another attempt to cash in on big screen hype and once again paying customers are left $60 out of pocket and 30 hours of wasted life they’ll never get back. Mad Max promised an open world of exploration, combat and vehicular manslaughter and although it can claim to deliver on some elements of those promises the overall experience falls short.
Now that I’ve drilled your expectations of this review to about as low as they can go, I’m prepping a curve ball. The game is actually fun. Well, it’s fun for the first 4-5 hours and then it feels like waking up Monday morning after a crazy Sunday party and realizing you were due at work 10 minutes ago. When the game first introduced me to the myriad of different mechanics and elements, I was excited. There’s clear inspiration taken from the likes of Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed and the Batman games but the execution is lacking and the innovation stale.
As with the Radio Towers in Far Cry and the Towers from Assassin’s Creed, Mad Max offers the opportunity to expose the nearby locations of interest through Vantage Outposts, and as any avid explorer in the Wasteland of opportunity, this is one of the first meaningful tasks I sought out. Instead of the innovative parkour of Assassin’s Creed and the challenging climb of Far Cry, I was instead met with some of the dullest moments I can recall in recent gaming history. Initially the Vantage Outposts are as simple as finding a hot air balloon, jumping in the basket and holding a shoulder button for 10 seconds until the game considers you high enough to scout the nearby terrain. Another 10 seconds follow as you hastily scan the nearby area with your binoculars before another 10 seconds of holding the opposing shoulder button to return to the surface. Alone this mechanic is frustrating, unrewarding and practically pointless as it’s almost impossible to hide anything of note in a giant desert wasteland anyway, so forcing me to spend what feels like an age looking for said locations is baffling. This frustration is heightened further as you progress and the Vantage Outposts offer more “challenging” mechanics. Hot air balloons become tied down with wires that you need to break, surrounded by enemies or they lack the fuel to travel to the maximum height. So instead of the aforementioned waste of 30 seconds for an overall unrewarding experience, minutes are added as you take out enemies or search blindly for fuel that may or may not be nearby.
This trend of needless time drains and lack of imagination infect many of the games elements – most of which are vital to your progression. Scrap is the currency of note in these Wastelands and you’ll need to collect it to upgrade Max, the Magnum Opus (your main car) and involve yourself in other social happenings within the Mad Max universe. Sadly however the gathering of Scrap is yet another task that is hindered by repetition, lack of thought and meaningless mechanics. Destroying vehicles often leaves behind bits of Scrap, using the Vantage Outpost reveals dozens of areas home to valuable resources and even minor enemies can drop some, however once again I found myself frustrated at spending 30 seconds destroying a car before having to stop my vehicle, get out, collect the Scrap and move on. The same goes for the Scrap locations scattered throughout. Turn up, kill a few enemies, loot some Scrap. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was actually worthwhile but generally you get a menial amount when needing tons for your next upgrade. These activities are replaced by other mechanics later in the game, making them pointless and a total waste of time, begging the question surrounding their implementation in the first place. Even then the replacement comes in large deposits of Scrap from taking control of various camps, very similar to Outposts in Far Cry but without the variety or imagination involved in taking them down.
The repetition just seemed to get worse as I progressed through the game. Water is used as the healing mechanic in Mad Max, searching camps and outposts for a water source to fill my canteen so I could heal between fights or in sticky situations. But again, I’d sit at a water source with little health and instead of just being able to drink directly from the source I’d have to fill my canteen, drink from my canteen to heal and then refill with the rest of the water from the source. A very similar time sinking mechanic to the Vantage Outposts I explained previously.
Despite the flurry of negativity here, you may be surprised to hear that the game isn’t all bad. The initial introduction of the mechanics was overall a positive experience but there’s such thing as too much of a good thing and the repetition quickly led to these initially exciting mechanics feeling lackluster. Certain other elements of the game however do stand the test of time and repetition. The melee combat is easy to learn and very recognizable to fans of the 360 degree combat in games like Batman. Building up Fury during combat and unleashing a huge German Suplex or Dropkick on an enemy was satisfying every step of the way, one of the games few saving graces.
The Magnum Opus (I have to look up that name every time I write it down, doesn’t sound right) is another of the games strong points. Gathering Scrap and completing missions unlock upgrade options that can drastically change the performance of the car. Whether you choose to go all out on defenses and sacrifice handling or make a speed demon with little armor, there’s plenty of choice that helps to create more options and diversity – it’s just a shame the mission objectives lack variety.
One standout and entirely fantastic element of Mad Max is the technical performance of the game. It looks great, never once did I encounter any serious frame rate issues or bugs, not a single crash. In regards to the technical sides of the game it was a flawless masterpiece from start to finish. Now if they just spent more time on the rest of it…