Video game review: MAD MAX on PS4

Mad Max screen shotVerdict: An excellent addition to the universe of the MAD MAX films, and a very good sandbox-style adventure game

With the release of 2015’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, the Road Warrior once again became hot property. It’s easy to feel in retrospect that Mel Gibson’s archetypical post-apocalyptic survivor was never very far from our hearts, but that’s probably an exaggeration. In reality, the MAD MAX universe has become something of a trope, and the moody loner fighting against injustice has equally become a very common character in near-future SF.

The game MAD MAX isn’t quite an extension of ROAD WARRIOR, but it’s pretty close. Here’s IGN’s summary of the game:

“Become Mad Max, the lone warrior in a savage post-apocalyptic world where cars are the key to survival. In this action-packed, open world, third-person action game, you must fight to stay alive in The Wasteland, using brutal on-ground and vehicular combat against vicious gangs of bandits. A reluctant hero with an instinct for survival, Max wants nothing more than to leave the madness behind and find solace in the storied “Plains of Silence.” Players are challenged with treacherous missions as they scavenge the dangerous landscape for supplies to build the ultimate combat vehicle.”

I was very pleased with FURY ROAD (check out my review last year), and was eager to play the MAD MAX game. I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty slow on the uptake with most video games (there’s always writing to be done, after all…) and I rarely find I have much time really get into a game. It’s perhaps an indicator of MAD MAX’s success that it really sucked me in, and I’ve been played through virtually every story and wasteland mission available over the past few weeks!

MAD MAX is firstly an excellent adventure game. It has action, both on foot and in a variety of vehicles. It has customisation: not just of your car (and there is plenty of that!), but in the way that “your” Mad Max looks, fights and shoots. It has some basic RPG-style elements (levelling up, for instance). 

This is all against the backdrop of The Wasteland: an environ which takes the “sandbox” idea to literal extremes. The game’s basic storyline involves Max fighting through the wastes of post-apocalyptic Australia to reach Gas Town. The actual story missions are quite limited, but you’re not going to succeed unless you gain experience, upgrades and skills from side quests. These quests unlock new abilities for your vehicle – such as spiked armour plating (preventing boarders), nitro boost capability and a variety of weapons.

The difficulty curve is worth noting. Mad Max isn’t a particularly tough game, but it does start out quite hard. This is coupled with the initially quite daunting “icon” based approach quests and missions (this reminded me a lot of the early Microsoft adventure games, for some reason). However, very quickly the difficulty drops off and at the same time you’ll become accustomed to the various iconography. It’s worth sticking with; a couple of hours in you might be asking whether it’s worth investing in this game, but give it some more time and the game pays off.

The graphics are stunning. I played the game on the Playstation 4, and MAD MAX really demonstrates the console’s graphics capabilities. There are times, driving through the outback with the sun setting in the distance, that you just want to stop and soak in the graphics. The game designers obviously had the same idea: there is a neat “capture” mode, which allows you to manipulate the camera and add filters to create beautiful shots of Max in his natural environment. It’s noteworthy that “capture” mode is the only two-player element in the entire game. In this mode, player two can additionally manipulate the camera, but there is no two-player or multiplayer game. I’ll be honest; I found this refreshing – I’m no fan of the sprawling industry that has become the online multiplayer game (I’m looking at you, CALL OF DUTY…).

In summary, MAD MAX is a pretty great game. It has loads of content, and has lots of customisability, and it fits almost perfectly into the wider MAD MAX universe. (Although, on that last note, it would’ve been cool if you could play as either Tom Hardy or Mel Gibson’s Max, but I guess you can’t have it all…)

Looking for more SF with one man against the machine? Then check out my new book ARTEFACT: out now in paperback, ebook and audiobook!


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