“Mad Max” review

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Desolation. Desperation. Fear. Adrenaline.

Thundering through the dust in the Magnum Opus feels a little surreal after seeing “Mad Max: Fury Road” in theaters. The game, not a tie-in title but more of an expansionary one, seems to really convey the feel of this world.

“Mad Max” doesn’t do anything particularly well, but it doesn’t fail at doing anything either. It’s a good game, and a well put-together one at times, but it shows rust here and there and the obvious grabs from other successful video-game franchises don’t hide very well.

Max’s trademark Interceptor is (surprise, surprise) taken from him, and he must wander the wastes in his new Frankenstein’s monster of a car, the Magnum Opus, provided to him by the Blackfinger, Chum Bucket. The Magnum Opus is upgradeable and customizable, just like Max himself.

Scrap, collected from dead bodies and the twisted hunks of metal that were once Warboy vehicles, is the currency you use to level up. Don’t worry, you’ll never be short of it. I’ll get into that in a minute, but for now just know that Max’s skills and the Magnum Opus’s armaments and defenses are unlocked using this easy-to-find currency.

Griffa, a wandering desert sage, will level Max’s attributes if he completes missions or certain tasks such as defeating a certain amount of enemies and yadda yadda they’re busywork trials. Honestly, it’s impossible not to get Griffa points to unlock Max’s attributes, and with those unlocks comes more survivability for Max. These attributes will increase the water he collects from various sources (vital for replenishing his health), upping the amount of ammo and scrap found throughout the game world, and making him more powerful and durable in combat. The list goes on, but frankly there’s nothing else of note aside from reduced gas usage while driving vehicles.

Oh yeah, gas is a thing, but not really. At first, the game makes you think that you’ll be filling the Magnum Opus up every thirty minutes. In reality, if you just nab the first tank you see lying around and keep it on the car, you’re likely to never run out because you’ll just move from location to location and gas should be found at each base.

Chum Bucket is Max's personal travelling mechanic.

Chum Bucket is Max’s personal travelling mechanic.

The story is fairly nonexistant. I’ve put a good amount of time into this game and for the life of me the only thing I know for certain is that Max is trying to get a V8 engine for the Magnum Opus to cross the wasteland, and that’s about it. Frankly, Max is so Lawful Neutral that I don’t understand why he doesn’t just take the Opus and drive off into the sunset in search of an easier V8. But, alas, plot must occur.

Chum is an interesting character/gameplay mechanic. Hardly a character and practically crucial for survival, he repairs the Magnum Opus to pristine condition after it’s knocked off cliffs, lit on fire, or shot dozens of times. In short, the car is invicible, especially if you roll out at the last minute when the 5 second timer appears on your screen telling you to do just that. Survive on the dirt while cars try to ram you, and you’ve got a fully fixed car in about 30 seconds. Hop back in, and you’re good to go at it again with Warboys who unfortunately don’t shout “WITNESS ME!!” which is a huge letdown.

When not repairing the car, Chum also mans the weapon mounted on the Magnum Opus, Thunderpoon (yes that’s the name of the rocket launcher, and yes it is hilarious), and sets up the sniper rifle for Max. Personally, I really like the idea that Max has an arsenal with which to fight, rather than just his trusty sawed-off shotgun. The rifle provides Max with the ability to take out defenses from afar when assaulting bases, while the Thunderpoon (still funny) is used to just wreck weak vehicles so that you can save your ammo for the big guys wrecking your ride.

Vehicular combat. It’s a thing. It isn’t going away, so get used to it. Ever play Mario Kart versus mode with the balloons behind people and whatever? It’s that. With guns and Warboys and explosions. I’m not even messing with you. It’s a lot of circling each other or grinding against the other car and ramming fenders. It’s just…it’s car combat. Like, I’m not sure how else to describe it.

On foot, Max fights like a man in the worst bar fight ever, where everyone is armed and he’s just punching. Eventually you’ll get fist armor and forearm gear, some shivs and the ability to grab weapons from other guys’ hands, but other than that you’re legit just breaking dudes up with your fists. It’s a little sluggish when compared to “Batman” or “Assassin’s Creed,” but the easiest way to describe it is less-fluid  “Uncharted” melee combat.

Max fights off the worst of the worst with only his fists.

Max fights off the worst of the worst with only his fists.

This is what I’m talking about with this game. There’s really nothing special about it, but what it does, it does well.

Remember how I said you’d never run out of scrap? Here’s what you have to do. Find the first base of operations, and just upgrade it completely. This will prevent you from ever having to fill up on water, gas, food or ammo. You’ll get them for free if you do this first and fast travel back to this location regularly. Not only will you have these bonuses, but if you also just take out enemy bases, you’ll get scrap every 20 minutes (just like “Assassin’s Creed”). In short, upgrade one base, and you can make Max so overpowered that you can literally waltz into story missions and not be concerned.

Is there anything bad about “Mad Max?” Not off the top of my head. Am I upset about blatantly ripped off mechanics? No, but it makes me wish there was more worry or desperation felt in a game set in a wasteland. There is no sense of a frantic need for survival. Also, there’s no radio in the car so you’re just listening to an engine as you rocket across the sand and dirt. While that may be cool for some people, I hear music when fighting and I want more because I’m sick of engine noises.

“Mad Max” feels like a game that was made with the worry that the movie wouldn’t take off as well as it did. You can tell they were a little skeptical and maybe holding back on this game, just so it wouldn’t be a loss if the reception wasn’t great. In fact, it was looked at quite expectantly and when we got it, we liked what we had, but expected more.

Should you get this? Sure. There were a few hiccup bugs in the beginning that I’ve yet to run into again, but occasionally I hear Chum Bucket’s audio lines overlap like a remix album, and the Magnum Opus will lose audio if I go into a menu at the wrong time. But these things don’t prevent this game from being fun.

Do yourself a favor, wait a bit until it’s cheaper. Or, if you like supporting companies and want more of this type of game, buy it now and enjoy. Don’t expect a game of the year, but you’ll like what you see and it’ll be a good time.

“Mad Max” is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.