Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: April 15, 2018
Mad Max is an open-world third-person action adventure available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The legacy of Mad Max began in 1979 upon the release of the first Mad Max film followed by Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior in 1981 and Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985 forming a trilogy created by George Miller and Byron Kennedy, launching Mel Gibson’s career as he had previously only had 3 acting credits to his name and directed by George Miller, while a further sequel titled Mad Max: Fury Road was released in 2015 with Tom Hardy taking over the lead role and George Miller reprising his directing duties.
Prior to the 2015 release of Mad Max; there has surprisingly only ever been a single game which was released for the NES in July 1990 and is based upon the events of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, therefore Mad Max is pretty much fresh material for a videogame adaptation, therefore should gamers be anticipating something special or perhaps even ground breaking? Many gamers will already be familiar with Mad Max’s developer as Avalanche Studios have developed the Just Cause franchise which is a series of exceptional open-world third-person action adventure games and having that amount of experience within the genre certainly bodes well for Mad Max as it allows for further refinement on Avalanche Studios’ tried and tested formula. Can Avalanche Studios apply their Just Cause formula to the subject matter of Mad Max to create the ultimate Mad Max videogame?
The story begins with Max Rockatansky being ambushed when attempting to scavenge fuel for his vehicle; therefore going from having the resources he needed in order to survive to suddenly not having anything and having to regain precious resources he had lost including a replacement for his stripped V8 Interceptor on his journey to find the Plains of Silence in a bid to leave the madness which has surrounded and consumed him for so long.
There are a variety of missions throughout the wastelands with story missions advancing the story, while wasteland missions are optional side missions which provide rewards, interesting information on certain characters and even ally stronghold and Magnum Opus upgrades. There are many further elements to the wastelands such as encounters including meeting characters in the wastelands who offer some information on how to infiltrate enemy camps via secret passages or their weak spots which is intel of high importance as destroying enemy camps and the convoys which deliver crude oil and gasoline between Scrotus’ numerous camps are two major methods of reducing the threat level that represents Scrotus’ presence in each of the territories, while pulling down scarecrows and taking out snipers will have less of an impact but will still reduce the threat level.
Tutorials are provided to show players each new element of the game as they occur for the first time during gameplay which is an excellent design choice as players learn while playing the game with text tutorials added to Max’s log extensively covering each facet of gameplay including Max, resources, tools, ground combat, the wasteland, vehicles, missions and strongholds which is collectively an excellent design choice as it provides everything with a greater level of accessibility.
The surrounding environments of the wastelands provide an urgency of survival by way of having the appropriate resources such as eating canned food and finding water sources to fill your canteen for energy and hydration which keeps your energy high and is essential during or after a battle has occurred, while materials including wire and scrap are important to scavenge for your vehicle in order to allow your mechanic to perform repairs and upgrades to your vehicle, alongside the necessity of looting tanks of fuel in order for the car to be driven.
Character design is exceptional as Max Rockatansky makes for a perfect gritty lead character as he is attempting to take back possessions he had stolen from him to secure his continued survival, while Chumbucket is an expert mechanic who preaches in biblical language such as calling Max by the name “Saint”, claims Max was sent to him by a deity who Chumbucket worships called Angel Combustion and talks about baptizing the car; Griffa is strange and mysterious as he provides wisdom to Max despite not much being known about Griffa himself; Crow Dazzle runs all of the racing events such as death runs outside of Gastown, alongside a variety of characters who Max will encounter as part of strongholds and scattered throughout the wastelands. Every character has to be wary of the ruthless warlord Scabrous Scrotus and his army of War Boys including Scrotus’ favourite warrior Stank Gum who brutally protect Gastown as well as Buzzard enemies who live underground by day and haunt the roads in fast vehicles by night and further aggressors such as Roadkill enemies.
Environment design is accurate to the subject matter as the wastelands are a vast open-world of barren deserts with varying strengths of sandstorms occurring periodically, while the majority of the surrounding structures are made from the local currency of scrap with hot air balloons acting as vantage points and fast travel areas in amongst various territories.
Weaponry is limited to short supply for fair amount of the game in which ammunition for the shotgun and sniper rounds will remain scarce, therefore hand-to-hand combat or melee combat using a shiv or a knife is the usual form of self defence in the wastelands as Max can more than handle himself in close quarters combat until Jeet’s multi-layered mission to assemble what Jeet requires to build an armoury to protect from the threat of Scrotus which will re-supply Max with a full quota of shotgun rounds, sniper rounds and shivs upon returning to Jeet’s territory.
The garage is the location in which the Magnum Opus becomes a reality by scavenging a body for the basic frame of the car followed by having collected enough scrap metal to build upon the basic specification of the car with a harpoon to attach and pull down scarecrows, a ramming grill to inflict greater damage on enemy vehicles and a nitrous boost for a temporary speed boost being the first natural upgrades. The total amount of upgrades is incredibly exhaustive but produces quite a rewarding experience as the player starts to see their car gradually improving in quality throughout each core component. The car upgrades are almost entirely locked at the start of the game, although they are progressively unlocked as story missions are completed with the range of upgrades including 6 ramming grills, 6 armour types, 12 variations with 6 each for V6 and V8 engines, 6 exhausts, 7 tire types, 6 suspension configurations, 3 boost systems, 4 rim attachments, 4 boarder spikes, 5 sniper rifles, 6 harpoons, 6 thunderpoons, 3 side burners, 3 repair speeds, 5 car bodies, 7 body colours, 9 decals and 14 hood ornaments.
Griffa is a character which Max meets relatively early on who fulfils the purpose of being an abilities merchant in which Max will be able to utilise Griffa Tokens to strengthen his abilities much in the say way that he is able to collect scrap in order to improve the Magnum Opus; Max can complete challenges to earn a Griffa Token. There are a total of 10 abilities each containing 10 upgrades to strengthen each of the individual abilities making for a total of 100 upgrades via Griffa Tokens with the abilities centring on longevity by increasing Max’s maximum health; metabolism increases the gain in health from eating food; judgement increases Max’s legend level by one; essence provides more water from water sources; volition increases the amount of scrap to be found when looting; adaptation reduces the amount of fuel used when driving a vehicle; attunement delivers more damage when using a melee weapon; channeling increases the duration of fury mode; munition increases the amount of ammo to be found when looting; and intuition increases Max’s ability to use a melee weapon for a longer duration without it braking.
Griffa is not the only method of improving Max’s capabilities as there is also a variety of upgrades and skills which are unlocked by increasing Max’s legend rank and can be purchased with scrap. Max’s upgrades are almost entirely locked at the start of the game, although they are gradually unlocked as the player obtains the appropriate legend ranking by completing story missions and challenges with the range of upgrades including 6 knuckledusters to increase the amount of damage inflicted upon enemies when punching; 5 jackets which gradually reduces the amount of damage Max receives during fights; 6 wrist armour variations increases damage inflicted upon enemies when countering attacks and disarming enemies as well as damage received when failing to parry an enemy attack; 5 ammo belt upgrades which increases the capacity of ammo for all of Max’s weapons; 15 different looks for Max’s head; and 4 shotgun upgrades consisting of adding further barrels to the shotgun to increase the amount of available shots before reloading. Max’s skills and tools are entirely locked at the start of the game as the skills require a combination of acquiring a specific legend ranking and purchasing using scrap, while the tools are progressively found or purchased using scrap with Max’s skills including a set of 15 skills to improve Max’s efficiency and effectiveness during ground combat such as a powerful finishing move to follow up a series of chain strikes and the ability to parry melee weapon attacks even when Max is unarmed as well as a set of 6 tools which helps to improve Max’s chances of survival such as a pair of binoculars to scout out enemy camps and a flare gun to call upon the delivery of your vehicle from Chumbucket if you wonder off too far on foot.
Car combat against enemies found in the wastelands and Opus Wars is rather challenging yet incredibly varied as enemies will attempt to destroy the Magnum Opus by smashing into your vehicle, although the player can return the favour by ramming, side-ramming, grinding and side burners to eject flames at a car to the immediate left or right of your vehicle as well as weaponry including a harpoon with the ability to tear down enemy structures such as scarecrows and sniper towers or tear wheels off vehicles and enemy drivers out of them which has quite helpfully unlimited ammo, while the thunderpoon is a more explosive version although it does have limited ammo, alongside Max’s shotgun which can be aimed at fuel tanks and enemies who dive onto the hood of the vehicle and a sniper rifle to aim from the back of the car at snipers in the far distance.
The camera angles are cinematic in their presentation as there is a third-person perspective for on foot exploration, while there is a third-person perspective positioned an appropriate distance behind the vehicle and a first-person camera angle providing a narrower yet focused view of the terrain ahead as Max manoeuvres the steering wheel with heat haze rising from the engine. There is also the ability to pan the camera in any direction at any given time which provides a real sense of freedom to how the player views the action resulting in the player being able to see what is around Max when on foot, which directions enemy vehicles are approaching from when driving in third-person and being able to look around the car when driving in first-person and look backwards at Max’s face, although there is no first-person perspective during on foot exploration which would have certainly taken the game to another level of freedom for the player.
Legend ranks is an excellent gameplay design choice as they signify how far the player has progressed through the ranks of those who remain in the wastelands by accumulating XP from completing missions with a total of 11 ranks starting out at the very bottom of the crop as Road Kill and ascending to the top as a fearless Road Warrior.
There are 6 types of bios including a total of 26 characters, 36 Scrotus enemies, 18 Roadkill enemies, 14 Buzzard enemies, 64 locations and 14 tools and weapons with each of the characters and enemy bios containing a character model, their name, their most appropriate quote to sum up their character and a full description, while locations have a picture of the environment accompanied by its name and a full description covering the surface of the land and historical elements of what has happened within each of the environments, alongside tools and weapons which has a model of the tool or weapon accompanied by its name and a full description indicating the importance of the tool or weapon.
There are 5 forms of collectibles including a total of 16 archangels, 32 vehicles, 103 historic relics, 37 camps and 13 hood ornaments with the archangels being a collection of vehicles won in death run events, while the vehicle collection is expanded upon by finding the vehicle and returning it to a stronghold or by winning the relevant death run event. Historic relics are interesting in building a back story as they are pictures from what civilisation used to be prior to the surroundings becoming wastelands such as a picture of Max’s family captioned “Max, we miss you…Come back soon” or a picture of a woman on a snowmobile with snow for miles around showing that the wastelands was not always a barren desert. Camps are fortified locations containing many enemies who are likely to attack Max if they find him before he finds them and are added to the collectibles to signify which camps have been defeated, while hood ornaments are earned by destroying enemy convoys with up to two hood ornaments simultaneously equipped providing the Magnum Opus with a new ability for each of the chosen hood ornaments.
There are 5 sets of statistics covering percent complete, story missions and wasteland missions completed, scavenging locations completed, death runs completed and much more within game completion statistics; Griffa tokens earned, total kills, total deaths, damage taken, water and food consumed, scrap found and more besides within player statistics; longest hit streak, critical hits, perfect parries, damage dealt, fury kills and more within ground combat statistics; vehicles destroyed, ramming kills, number of boosts used, jump ramps used, maximum air time and more besides within car combat statistics; and number of times looting, number of fast travels used, distance travelled on foot measured by the amount of steps taken, distance travelled in vehicle measured by car lengths and more within wasteland statistics. The in-depth coverage of statistics is an excellent design choice as players can statically analyse their own performance and improve upon areas in which they are not as strong as they perhaps could be.
Capture mode allows players to take some amazing pictures and videos of the unfolding action whether it is on foot or while driving which always looks incredible that works in perfect harmony with the PS4’s share feature. However, in a positive twist that is not seen in photo modes in other games is the ability for a second controller to be connected to allow a second player to participate by effectively directing the camera positioning in video mode. There are many settings available to provide opportunities to make pictures and videos more dramatic such as the free camera which allows zooming in or out, tilting the camera left or right, full camera panning in any direction and moving the camera in any direction as well as a set of image processing options to provide a further dynamic to the pictures and videos such as a variety of colour filters including 70’s road trip, noir, pastel graphic, polarizor, postarize, purple haze, red homage, winter blues and much more besides as well as filter intensity, exposure, field of view, blur intensity, depth of field focus distance, depth of field, autofocus, an optional vignette with size and intensity. There are also changes which can be made to the frame such as a variety of borders or shapes for the image to be displayed within such as a blood smear, red metal cog cutout, white and red metal, black and red metal teeth, black letterbox amongst others but most certainly impressive of all being a Mad Max logo which displays the image within the letters with an intensity filter which reduces the boldness of the colours, while there are numerous overlays to add an entirely different texture to the picture such as liquid, dirt, spray, concrete, metal, scratches, brush and more besides with an intensity filter, alongside a logo which can be added on top of the picture rather than around the frame of the picture including 7 varieties of Mad Max logos with size and intensity options.
There is free downloadable content available for Mad Max including the ThirstCutter vehicle which is a unique vehicle inspired by Rockstar Energy as cans and metal star relics found in the Dead Barrens environment preserves the vehicle which besides having its own unique look also has a light construction, speed boost, upgraded suspension, active side burners and power clutch, while the PentaCal GulpCut hood ornament to your vehicle for increased engine speed, alongside the RockMaw Brawla hood ornament to provide extra ramming damage from your vehicle.
Mad Max’s remote play performance is on par with the stunning graphics, audio and general performance of the PS4 version, while the map has moved from the touch pad to the touch screen, although it largely relies on the rear touch pad as it covers the actions of L2, L3, R2 and R3 which results in accelerating and braking when driving having to be performed using the top right and left of the rear touch pad respectively which would have certainly felt more natural if they moved to R for acceleration and L for braking; however if you can become accustomed to the rear touch pad, then the remote play performance is as full of quality as the game is on the PS4.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with on foot and vehicles sharing similar control schemes such as holding L1 to aim; pressing R1 to evade; pressing L2 to jump or brake and reverse; pressing R2 to sprint or accelerate and fire sniper rifle; pressing O to fire shotgun; pressing square to attack and holding to perform a heavy strike or pressing square to perform a side-ram attack and holding to perform a grind attack; pressing triangle to parry an attack and enter or exit a vehicle; pressing X to perform a special move and holding to interact with or drop an object or pressing X to engage nitrous boost; pressing d-pad buttons to select important utilities or weapons; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to swing the camera; holding L3 to display location information; quickly tapping down on the d-pad twice to enter first-person when driving; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays a full map of the wastelands which can also be navigated via swiping across the touch pad in the appropriate direction to continually explore the expansive map for available missions in different areas, while the DualShock 4 controller vibrates when Max revs the engine after entering his car, engaging nitrous boost and during explosions, although there is no light bar implementation which could have produced colours relating to Max’s health and the condition of his car.
Graphically, Mad Max is pretty flawless with amazing character and facial animations brought to life on another level of detail through motion capture, while car animations are excellent with dirt spraying on the camera, alongside the environments that are as equally stunning with exceptional lighting, shadows and dust particles which is highlighted even more so when sandstorms occur as they produce the effects of heavy winds, lightning strikes and clashing debris which is all accompanied by an incredible transition of day into night.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of the title screen has a panning camera which provides an inkling of the chaos to be anticipated in the game, while the main menu consists of dust blowing along a desert wasteland as plumes of smoke billow from structures in the far distance.
The voice-over artists bring real personality to each of their characters with WTF Taekwondo world champion and experienced actor Bren Foster voicing the lead character Max Rockatansky with a superbly gritty performance having already starred opposite Steven Seagal and Steve Austin in Maximum Conviction and opposite Steven Seagal, Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo in Force of Execution as well as such TV series as The Last Ship, Days of Our Lives and National Geographic’s Fight Science, while all of the voice-over artists such as Jonathan Oldham as Griffa are exceptional and thrive in their diverse roles including a standout performance of not just the game but the entire year in gaming by Jason Spisak as Chumbucket amongst the entire talented cast. The standout area of the sound effects has to be when a storm hits your location with the noise of a heavy wind accompanied by lightning strikes and debris clattering into other objects, while the rest of the sound effects include punches, kicks and throws during hand-to-hand combat, shooting a shotgun at enemies, walking, running, jumping, Chumbucket repairing the car, roaring of car engines, engaging the nitrous boost, unleashing the harpoon, ramming cars, crashing into scenery and explosions, alongside atmospheric and climactic music. The DualShock 4 speaker produces sound effects for collecting scrap, representing when chain strikes have activated fury mode, using the zip-line and reloading the shotgun, sniper rifle or harpoon.
The trophy list includes 50 trophies with 41 bronze trophies, 5 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. The trophy list largely comprises of mission related trophies such as the 5 secret trophies including 4 bronze trophies and 1 gold trophy for completing each of the 5 acts in the story related missions, although it does span a wide range of the game as there are also trophies for completing wasteland missions, completing death runs, reducing the threat within major territories of the wastelands, destroying scarecrows, killing aggressive enemies, reaching specific legend ranks, collecting scrap, fully upgrading Max and much more besides, therefore completing everything in the game is pretty much guaranteed to there or thereabouts earn the elusive platinum trophy. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 25 to 50 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels throughout the entirety of the open-world, although missions contain a difficulty rating of 1 through 5 with 1 being the easiest and 5 being the hardest as viewable from the map which is an excellent design choice as it allows players to make sure they are appropriately equipped before attempting certain harder missions. Enemies can gang up on Max, although they can still be picked off if the player is efficient in evading enemy attacks and is patient in choosing the appropriate time to perform an attacking manoeuvre on one of potentially many nearby enemies.
Online leaderboards focus on the best times for each of the Opus Wars death runs with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and fastest time, while you can compare your positioning on the leaderboards with players that occupy the top ten positions as well as players from your friends list and globally from around the world with the positioning of each player based upon how quick they have completed that particular Opus Wars death run, although it would have been great to see the inclusion of online leaderboards for other death run events such as Barrel Bash.
There is surprisingly no local or online multiplayer outside of the second player participating locally in directorial duties in video mode, although co-operative local and online multiplayer could have consisted of a second player controlling Chumbucket as a mechanic repairing the vehicle and firing the harpoon at enemies, while competitive local and online multiplayer could have included death run events in vehicular racing and car combat, alongside the larger scale potential of Max having a bounty on him in which opposing players take the form of War Boys, Buzzards or Roadkill enemies who are tasked with bringing Max to Scrotus with a higher reward for bringing Max in alive or a reduced reward for bringing Max in dead, while the player who is playing as Max has to survive the onslaught for a timed period in order to win the game.
Mad Max’s replayability stems from a vast amount of areas such as a wide variety of story missions, wasteland missions and encounters, gradually lowering the threat level in every territory, car combat throughout the wastelands and death run events with accompanying online leaderboards for Opus Wars death run events, accumulating XP to level up legend ranking, scavenging scrap, gaining character upgrades and skills, acquiring vehicle upgrades, taking pictures and directing videos in capture mode, gradually unlocking bios and collectibles and more besides which collectively provides many hours of replay value beyond the completion of story missions.
- Title: Mad Max
- Developer: Avalanche Studios
- Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
- System: PS4
- Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1/Second player can participate in video mode (Online Leaderboards)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 33.59GB (Version 1.02)