Mad Max Review (PlayStation 4)
The wasteland is a dangerous place, filled to the brim with psychotic warmongers and vehicular violence on every road. Luckily our hero is well-suited for such a world, and Mad Max does a pretty good job of making the player feel as powerful as the titular hero throughout the adventure. There’s one enemy that even Max can’t overcome however, and it defines the entire Mad Max experience: repetition.
Nearly every mission in the game follows the same basic formula: drive from base area to objective, get out of car, fight enemies, collect item or scout other area, get back in car, mission complete. Sometimes I’ll have to ram a few cars while I drive, sometimes I’ll have to compete in a race, but for the most part I’m doing the same things over and over again. Even with dozens of side missions to complete – most of which are fetch quests just as repetitive as the main missions – the feeling of “I’ve done this already” creeps closer and closer as the game plays on.
Despite the lack of variety in mission objectives Mad Man has one crucial thing going for it: it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Driving to each objective is fun because I never know when I’ll be ambushed by some of the pale riders in the wastes. Fighting enemies is fun. Building and customizing the car is fun. Using the many toys that I can latch onto my car is fun. Some may take the repetition to be a slog and give up, but I never got to that point since I was always having a blast.
Analyzing Mad Max properly means I have to cut the game into two halves: the on-foot sections and the driving sections. The two are woven into each other to create the entire Mad Max experience, but each one has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Traveling on foot is where a lot of the fatigue will set in for some players, as it doesn’t really do anything to distance itself from other open-world games. The combat scheme is taken right from the Batman Arkham series, with visual cues for counters and unblockable attacks, but the Fury meter makes things a bit more interesting. Longer combos result in more Fury, and a full meter makes for more powerful attacks and some sweet finishing moves. Taking a few war boys to Suplex City never gets old. When I’m not fighting enemies Max is just running around eating dog food for quick health spurts, filling a canteen for backup health reserves, or collecting scrap metal to enhance his car, so there’s not a lot to talk about there.
The vehicular half of Mad Max is where I think the game really shines. Driving in Mad Max controls the way every open-world game with cars should, with tight controls that never get away from me as I cruise through the desert. When I see enemy cars approaching, I can ram them with a quick button press or shoot them with any number of firearms from a shotgun to a harpoon that will pull the driver out of the opposing car and throw him into the sky, which never gets old. After a car blows up I can collect scrap from its burning wreckage and put it towards customization of my own death machine.
Customization is a key part of the entire game, both for Max and his four-wheeled steed. Max can have his stats boosted by completing challenges and giving coins to a weird man that appears all throughout the map, giving him extra health, more attack power, and better scavenging skills. I can also fashion new attire for Max from my scrap reserves, adding to his power even further and changing his look to make him more badass. As his legend rank grows, so too does his wardrobe.
Car customization can get really crazy, adding things like giant ramming grills, impenetrable armor, spikes jutting from every area to keep jumpers off, and flamethrowers on the side of the car for when a war boy vehicle pulls up next to me. The game does a wonderful job of teasing me with awesome things that I can’t yet put on my car, making me want to continue through the game in order to unlock those amazing improvements for my drive. My personal favorite – in name and use – is the Thunderpoon, an electrified version of the harpoon that adds a little explosiveness to the already awesome harpoon. There’s a lot to tinker and toy with, but creating a four-wheeled death machine goes a long way in making Mad Max enjoyable.
The repetitive nature of Mad Max’s mission structure might make one think that the game is as bland and lifeless as the wasteland setting, but the game does a great job of mixing those weaknesses with a ton of great strengths. Car combat is insanely fun, to the point where I wish there was a way to take it into the multiplayer realm with other players duking it out with custom cars. Harpooning objects to pull them down or enemies to take them out fills me with glee, adding something I legitimately cannot remember ever doing in a video game before. Fighting hand-to-hand is alright, but thanks to Batman it’s nothing I haven’t done before. Mad Max is not without its battle scars, but there’s a hell of a good time to be had in the wasteland.
This review was completed using a retail copy of Mad Max provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.