Mad Max Review for Xbox One
Words: Stephen Ashby
Your V8 engine roars as you approach the top of the dune. You’ve got half a tank of gas, spikes all over your roof and a bumper that could clear the M25 at rush hour – you’re feeling pretty powerful. As you crest the hill, you hear more engines in the distance, and spot a convoy. You kick on your nitrous, and slam into the side of the first car, exploding it into pieces. The second tries to take you out, but you fire a grappling hook at the driver and pull him from his seat, then detonate the fuel tank on its rear with a well-placed shotgun shell. Precious scrap flies everywhere, and as your adrenaline pumps… you realise you’ve got to get out of your car and run about like a lemon picking it all up. Oh, great…
This pretty much sums up the Mad Max experience. Most of the game will be spent in the Magnus Opus, your new murderous motor that can be upgraded with terrifying weapons and brutal defences. These are without a doubt the highlight, and thanks to the variety of car combat techniques, it constantly feels fresh and exciting. Whether you’re pulling wheels from enemy vehicles, ripping down sniper towers, or boosting headlong into an oncoming convoy, these moments capture the vehicular magic of the Mad Max movies.
Unfortunately, though, your feet aren’t only used for pushing pedals, and when you leave the Magnus Opus, things start going downhill. The camera causes problems, hampering your movement by showing lovely close-ups of walls that Max is running into, or failing to show an incoming punch. Okay, Avalanche, we get that your textures look lovely, but we didn’t want to admire them this closely…
This is most obvious when running through the tight corridors that make up a fair bit of the game’s on-foot sections. As the area narrows, the camera pulls in close to Max, making it hard to navigate through the tight spaces. Combined with the fact that you have to hold the A button – not just press it – to do anything, grabbing scrap, picking up fuel cans, and climbing ladders can be infuriating.
Thankfully, combat does a little to soothe this anguish, although it isn’t faultless either. Mad Max borrows the tried-and-tested ‘X to punch, Y to block’ system used so brilliantly in the Batman: Arkham series, but without all of the Dark Knight’s gadgets, it falls a little flatter. Max’s punches are satisfying brutal, and when he enters Fury mode things only get more intense, but it’s just slightly less smooth than in Arkham Knight.
Still, Mad Max is still fairly compelling. You may not get the same feeling of insanity from the characters as you did in the movies, but the design team has done a brilliant job of making them fit into the wider Mad Max universe. In fact, the whole game feels extremely faithful to the franchise; the wasteland is packed with things to do, and is absolutely beautiful. We lost count of the times we stopped while driving to admire the sunset or look out over the plains. It’s tough to make a desert interesting, but Avalanche has pulled it off.
That’s not to say every mission will interest you, though. The story will probably draw you in, but Mad Max suffers from what we’ve come to refer to as ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity-ism’. The map quickly becomes completely packed with objective markers; yes, there’s a lot to do, but it feels more like a checklist. When you reach a base, exploration is fun, and the fights can be challenging, but if you want to 100% the base you’ll have to find every piece of scrap, every destructible insignia, every relic… the map doesn’t show these in detail, meaning you’ll end up running around for five minutes like someone who desperately needs to drop a deuce but can’t find a toilet. Eventually you’ll just give up, Google it, and jump back into your awesome car, rather than running around like a lost idiot.
It’s not all bad, though – the game does do some other things as well as its car combat. Small details are key to the immersion, and they are everywhere. Jump from a high place and Max may not lose health, but he will limp for a bit as his ankles recover. And the dog food that Max finds around the wasteland is the same brand that Mel Gibson snacked on in the movies. It’s little touches like this that could’ve made it a classic, but unfortunately the repetitive missions and frustrating on-foot sections constantly stall the fun you’re having bombing around in your souped-up Magnum Opus, tearing doors from enemy vehicles as they engage you in a frantic chase.