Game Review: Mad Max (Xbox One)

Mad Max is enjoying a bit of a revival at the moment…

The original film was released in 1979 & was hugely successful & popular, it was then followed by 2 sequels that bore similar success. 20 years after the release of the third movie, a fourth; Mad Max: Fury Road brought the anti-hero back.

Fury Road shared the same success as the earlier films so it came as no surprise to see a video game based on the post-apocalyptic world arrive in 2015. Mad Max the video game isn’t based on any of the films but rather tells its own story set within the Mad Max universe.

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An action adventure open-world game, Max Rockatansky is attacked while driving through the Wasteland (a desert-like area with jagged mountains & canyons to explore). Max’s attackers are led by the warlord Scabrous Scrotus, son of Immortan Joe. Max fights Scrotus on his war-rig managing to impale him in his head with his own chainsaw. It’s not enough though & he is left for dead on the side of the road with his car, the black on black stolen. With only Scrotus’s dog for company Max manages to find some supplies from a dead Waste-lander & soon come across the hunchback, Chumbucket.

Mad Max; Chumbucket; Griffa
Max & Chumbucket

Chumbucket is a mechanic & has been watching Max. He believes Max to be a Saint & that it is his duty to help him build the ultimate car…the Magnum Opus. Chumbucket is a bit over-zealous seeing Max & the Magnum Opus in a religious light.

Chumbucket wants to help Max gain his revenge on Scrotus but the car is incomplete. If Max is to go up against Scrotus again he will need the ultimate car with the ultimate engine.

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The Wasteland is spilt into territories controlled by different Wasteland leaders who are under constant attack by the war boys of Scrotus. Jeet, Gutgash & Pinkeye can all help Max in his building of the Magnum Opus but their assistance won’t come for free. Max will have to complete missions for them as well as dealing with the Scrotus war boy threats in the surrounding area.

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Mad Max’s story isn’t the most interesting of stories at first & it doesn’t really get going until you’re over halfway through. When it does pick up though, it picks up well. The Magnum Opus takes a backseat & characters step into the fore-front, it makes for a much deeper & meaningful tale…one where you want to see the end of Scrotus’s rule. Most characters are interesting & relevant to the decayed world you’re exploring, Max is exactly as you’d expect him to be…moody, unfriendly & single-minded.

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This is his character so later in the game when he goes through some difficulties it actually matters & I felt incredible sympathy for him. Scabrous Scrotus is a great bad guy as well, not just looking imposing but backing it up as well with some severely evil deeds. The voice acting is excellent & I can’t pick a single fault with any one character’s voice.

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Unfortunately, a lot of the side characters are forgettable & un-interesting only there to dish out quests. I would have liked to see more involvement from the leaders of the Wastelands but they mostly just sit in their bases doing very little.

Gameplay leans heavily towards vehicle combat as you’ll be spending a lot of your time in cars traversing the Wasteland. The Magnum Opus can be upgraded by using scrap that is found throughout the world & new weapons added as the game goes on. Weapons such as a harpoon, side flamethrowers & a cannon called the Thunderpoon (an invaluable weapon when you get it).

Upgrades can include spikes over the car to stop enemies jumping onto it, a large grill at the front for ramming & sharpened rims around the wheels. There are lots of upgrades & you’ll have to spend some serious time hunting down scrap for these.

Each territory has a Scrotus’s threat level that you have to lower to zero. This is done in numerous ways such as pulling down scarecrows (large towers that serve as warnings), taking out convoys of fuel trucks, dealing with sniper towers & clearing out small strongholds. There are a lot of these in each territory & it can become something of a grind to get the threat level to zero. It is worth it though as the more strongholds you have under the local leaders control, the more scrap that is automatically added to your total at intervals.

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Each leaders base can also be upgraded by finding items hidden throughout the Wasteland, these upgrades when completed do a range of things such as refilling Max’s ammo (for his shotgun), his health & water canteen as well as refuelling the Magnum Opus plus many more.

When Max has to move on foot (often when taking down a war boy stronghold) his best defence is offence. Max can fight in combat that is instantly recognisable to anyone that has played one of the Batman: Arkham games although it is not as free-flowing here as Max isn’t as versatile as Batman!

Attack with X, hold it down for a heavy attack that will stagger most enemies. Watch for reversal opportunities & rack up combos. Max can enter a rage state which slows combat down & gives him increased damage & finishing maneuverers. Combat is simple to understand & easy to get to grips with. Fights are rarely difficult although they do get a little tougher later in the game with more enemies at once.

Max can be upgraded too, improving defence & attacks making combat even easier.

Boss battles are rarely exciting & are often far too easy once you’ve worked out their weakness & pattern (let them run at you, roll out of the way & land a few punches until your fury meter is full then go to town on his ass).

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The controls for Max & the cars are good…although Max does jump as if he never has before in his life. Driving is a lot of fun & you can really pick up speed when keeping to what is left of the roads. Each upgrade adds weight & you need to compensate as you add more. You can really feel the difference between many of the cars with buggy’s being really versatile compared to large trucks which make up for their lack of manoeuvrability with excellent ram damage.

As I’ve said there are lots of vehicles to unlock, by defeating an enemy driving one & taking it back to a territory base, finding them hidden or winning them in races that are spread out throughout the Wasteland. The races add a little more to the overall package & most are fun if not a bit challenging.

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There a huge amount of collectables hidden throughout the Wasteland & completionists will have plenty to do here. Throw in the challenges as well & you can see why I put in over 80 hours in total here. I do have some advice though…try & complete many of the challenges before the end as many become near-impossible if not hugely difficult post-game.

This is also one of the major flaws in the game…it is very repetitive with you doing the same things over & over again. Camps explored, scrap grabbed & enemies defeated until you’ve got 100% in that area. You’ll be doing this most of the time & part of the reason the first half of the games story is almost non-existent.

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Emphasis is put on the need for gas…it’s a commodity in Mad Max yet I never ran out of gas for my cars until later in the game when I added side-burners (they eat up fuel!). This feels like a missed opportunity to really add a survival element to the game.

Finally, I need to take about just how beautiful the game looks, the world is so impressive & the day/night cycle really adds even more to the imagery. Explosions & fire look fantastic & it never gets old blowing something up!

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Nothing will have prepared you for the storms though…at random times huge storms will descend on the Wasteland (you can try & outrun them) & surviving in one is an incredibly fun challenge. They are worth trying as a lot of scrap can be gained from the powerful winds blowing things about.

The lightning strikes, wind howling & crashing of metal & rocks makes for an intense drive through a storm & I urge you to experience at least one.

Mad Max is a glorious looking game with plenty of gameplay to enjoy even if it is very repetitive. The games story really picks up in the second half & I’d love to see what they could do with a potential sequel.

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  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!

Mad Max
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