Monday, January 2, 2017

Mad Max

Rating: 8.2
Happy Price: 29.99


Mad Max is a tale of two games, driving combat mechanics and foot combat mechanics. Both are refined and feel great which was quite the surprise. However being published by WB games, it was obvious the foot combat mechanics were taken directly from the Batman series, and driving was likely developed on its own.

Combat Mechanics

Despite being a driving game, you'll spend most of your time on foot trying to take down bases using hand to hand combat, or your shotgun in emergency cases. The environment is filled with places your car will not have access to, forcing you out of your car and to take on enemies that range from 3-15 at one time. The combat system is exactly the same as Batman, with the addition of being able to pick up weapons, and also allowing for the killing of enemies which is nice. The simple system consists of mashing the strike button (square on Ps4) and then when timed, pressing the counter button. It's filled with different camera angles and cool animations that reward the player for timing hits and counters correctly. Because there are death animations, Avalanche Studios built on what already existed and created more scenarios like throat slitting, neck breaking, and shotgun blasts to the gut which induce fear in nearby enemies.

There were some issues I found during combat however. One thing that bothered me early game was the difficulty of picking up weapons. Since you can't store weapons, they can only be picked up from downed enemies. This means if you try to take out the guy with the weapons first, it doesn't really matter, because picking up the weapon takes too long in the chaos of battle. You will more than likely get hit while attempting to do this. Late game, you can develop parries that can steal the weapon from an enemy, but this doesn't occur until 15+ hours into the game. Another thing that bothered me was some of the kill animations would not allow you to counter. So in the case of slamming someone, another enemy will strike you, and you can't counter it. This will end your hit streak, and each time you get a 25 hit streak, you gain an ability point. See the video below:

Driving Mechanics

In the world of the wasteland, you car is an extension of yourself. The motor of the vehicle is one with your heart. Man and machine are synced up, and your machine is your pride. That being said, I felt somewhat limited as to how I could take down other vehicles. For the most part, I had to ram them from behind or on the side, so there was no benefit of creating a fast car. It takes forever to get any projectiles on your vehicle other than your shotgun. Much later in the game do you get thunderpoons which really opens the game up. Ideally, I would like to create an evasive and fast vehicle that could attack while they are chasing me. For the most part however, I was limited to staying on the sides of my enemies, or circling them so I can ram them from the side to inflict as much damage as possible. This forced me to create a moderately fast vehicle with tons of armor, ramming ability, and grinding damage. Each battle with enemy vehicles is different, but at the same time, feels repetitive. There are cool moments that occur, as demonstrated by the video below:


The motivation behind getting to Gastown, where your car is held, is somewhat weak and uninspiring. War Boys steal your car and take it back there. To get back on your feet, you meet an ally, and together you build a better vehicle called the Magnum Opus. The reason for building this new amazing car, is to get your old car back which doesn't seem like it's worth the trouble of doing endless errands and taking down countless foes. There is the element of taking down the tyranny of Immortal Joe, but that doesn't seem to be on Max's agenda, he just wants his car back. As you're wondering around the barren wasteland, with no radio stations heading from one War boy camp to another, you begin to ask yourself, why the hell am I doing this? I'm kind of bored right now, and what am I really working towards? I'm going through all this trouble, to upgrade my current car, so I can my old car back? There was a lot more potential to begin the story as one where you want you're car back, but have that lead to a more complex and appealing plot. As coveted as the soundtrack was in the movies, the video game does not capture the same feel. Late game, the cinematics are superbly polished and had great animations.

Level Design

One thing that surprised me was the variety of layouts inside different bases. Bases are locations where War boys are stationed and they operate some sort of oil transporting operation that leads back into Gastown. Most of these locations had adventure and puzzle elements to them, requiring you to search every corner of these bases to complete the objective. The environments of these are so well integrated with the overall environments, at times it was difficult to figure out where to go. I was very happy that anything that was intractable would be painted in a rusted yellow. These locations where guiding lights in some complex labyrinths. These bases would first start off with defenses that would need to be taken down, if they were not taken down in a given amount of time, they would get buffed and it would be twice as hard. This pushed you to plan your attack, and move in swiftly with precision to avoid potential disaster. Planning and executing made you feel one with the wasteland, and Mad Max as a badass individual who was one with his car in the barren world.

One of the areas in the wasteland is an abandoned airport. This airport is absolutely massive and dense with objects. It is one of the most complex areas I've seen in a game, filled to the brim with art. It was a huge contrast to the vast nothingness that exists in the world. When the main storyline brought me here, I was amazed at how much there was going on here, and also at how little I was directed there. It seemed to me, you could have cut off 75% of the airport, and diverted those efforts into other locations in the game. At times there are huge gaps in main story missions, and to have more scripted events would have tied the game together better.


In respect to staying true to the game, there is nothing to listen to while driving. At times you're driving long distances with nothing to listen to but the roar of your engine. Even though I'm in a post apocalyptic wasteland, having some sort of radio station would have made the experience much better. I don't think it would have hurt the aesthetic of the game, as shown by the Fallout series. Electricity does exist in this world via gas powered generators, so creating your own world in the game is not a taboo. The game tries to stick to the soundtrack of the movie, but you barely notice it. The movie had much better audio design that went with each scene, while the video game did not have the luxury of switching from scene to scene to allow for that. The game is broken up into story missions, then long treks of open world, which don't carry any soundtrack tuning.


Combat mechanics are great, and they should be as you'll be utilizing these for most of the time spent in the game. The cinematics are as well, but I just wished there was more of them to keep me going. At times, the long hauls of open world gameplay without any story progression was unmotivating and repetitive. At times I'd spend 3-4 hours playing, and it would feel like I got nothing done. This is a decent game and one of the best licensed games to date. If you're in the mood for long drives and tons of combat, this game is for you.  

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