Game review: Bad controls and one hilarious bug make Mad Max a mediocre game
The Mad Max video game begins much like the films: Max awakens after being beaten to within an inch of his life by a murderous band of angry Australians. He has no tools or car. The savages even stole his sweet jacket.
At this point, the Max we know and love from 35 years of film would begin fighting for his survival alongside and against colourful groups of weirdos. He would get himself into crazy situations, from which he would narrowly escape by using his fists or car.
However, video game Max quickly settles into a quiet life collecting car parts and old pictures for someone who looks like the hunchback from 300. Max isn't really fighting for his own survival; he's preparing for a journey to the "Plains of Silence", a fabled land where he can find peace … or something like that - the plot is a little hazy. It isn't totally clear why Max does anything in the game - available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows - and this lack of direction is the main weakness in an otherwise serviceable title.
The game revolves entirely around Max running errands for Chumbucket, the aforementioned hunchback, and various warlords throughout the large open-world wasteland. He exchanges favours with dozens of forgettable wastelanders in order to improve his car for the journey ahead. This goes on for hours - trust me when I say that nothing of any real excitement happens in Mad Max until about the ninth hour.
I wouldn't mind the scavenging if the bad guys occasionally threw a wrench into my plans. Some sort of unavoidable plot turn - maybe Max gets captured and dragged to an unfamiliar location, where he has to fight his way out and escape on a motorcycle made entirely out of lawnmower parts - would have broken up the monotony. I kept waiting for it, but it never came.
There are hundreds of things for Max to do between scavenging quests; all of them start out cool but grow repetitive. You fight the same groups of bad guys at every turn. As the game progresses, the mindless thugs increase in number and intelligence, but they are still easily dispatched.
On the surface, the game isn't terrible. It focuses on its core strength: vehicle combat and customisation. This is one thing that Mad Max absolutely nailed. The demolition-derby style car action is something you can't really get in other games, and it's one of the main areas in which the game is on par with the film series.
The on-foot combat isn't as good. It's almost identical to the choreographed fisticuffs found in the Batman: Arkham series. This makes sense, as both games were published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, so it was a quick and easy way to shore up that part of the game - Max has to fight people, so let's just make him fight like Batman.
I have no idea what developer Avalanche Studios was thinking when it designed the game's button layout, which breaks from the norm for most other games of this type.
There's nothing unique about Max's on-foot interactions, so why make us spend extra time training our brains for new controls?
To increase Max's skills, players have to find an old, magic Aussie who only stands on virtually inaccessible mountaintops. This is unnecessary and time-consuming.
And then there are the bugs.
Most glitches are minor - frame rate drops and audio syncing issues. But I did find at least one game-breaking bug: I came across a wastelander with information for me. They pop up with purple exclamation points and offer information or scrap metal, which doubles as currency in Mad Max. I pressed the wrong button and killed her. The game then jumped into a conversation between Max and the dead body, who offered to split some scrap metal with me. The camera then froze at my feet, and I had to restart the game in order to get out of the locked screen.
Mad Max does a few things well, but the bloated open world is a chore to explore, and players are forced to push through hours of tedious hunting for car parts in hopes that something interesting will finally happen. After a while, the destination is just not worth the journey.
Mad Max (Avalanche Studios)
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