Mad Max Review

Richard Walker

Once the apocalypse has had its way with this world, all that'll be left is a vast stretch of desert, with reminders of what once was, like huge ships and aeroplanes, sticking out of the sand. We'll all have to eat dog food or maggots, hoarding what few drops of water remain, while existing inside makeshift camps and strongholds, sheltering us from violent storms that ravage the land.

That's the bleak vision of the future in Mad Max, but you can make the world a slightly better place by uprooting the psychos running rampant across the Wasteland. Max has additional impetus in having everything he held dear taken away from him by the evil Scrotus, which also includes the theft of our hero's iconic Interceptor. Scrotus must die!

“Hungry? Eat fist!”

Mad Max is a game of two halves. There's the face punchy bits and the driving bits out in the desert, where you ram roving bandits and their vehicles until they erupt into balls of fiery twisted metal. One of these bits is great. The other, not quite so much. Mad Max has other issues too, not least its rather repetitive open-world gameplay loops, in which you raid camps, collect all the stuff contained therein and move on to the next one.

Like Mad Max: Fury Road, Mad Max the game really shines when you're racing hell for leather through the Wasteland, grinding alongside the cars of other maniacs, ripping their bumpers, doors and wheels off with your harpoon, or pulling the driver out through the windscreen, catapulting him across the sand. Mad Max's vehicular combat is a genuine thrill, and makes traversing what would otherwise be a somewhat bland expanse into an often nerve wracking experience.

Mad Max's hand-to-hand combat doesn't fare quite so well, taking Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham system as a rudimentary template, slowing it right down in a bid to communicate the heft behind Max's brutal and uncompromising fighting style. While Mad Max's fisticuffs is very much its own thing, finding the sweet spot with the rhythm can be incredibly difficult, especially when your attempts to counter incoming attacks more often than not fail, even when you feel like you hit the cue at precisely the right moment. It just feels slightly 'off'.

You'll upgrade Max's fighting skills (among other things), but still be subjected to some fairly shoddy enemy targeting, as we found Max frequently swinging at thin air, despite being surrounded by enemies. And even with Max's parry skill maxed out, you'll still occasionally find that counters can be hit and miss. It's frustrating to say the least. But then, there's a point at which it all just clicks and things kind of fall into place.

There's a slow, measured pace to combat that takes a while to figure out, hampered by a sometimes errant camera, but once you master it, you'll find that Max is capable of some wince-inducing bone-cracking moves. Yet, the real secret sauce in Mad Max is making use of your faithful mechanic Chumbucket and building an all-conquering car to rule the Wasteland in the Magnum Opus. Everything from the engine to the wheels and colour can be customised, or you can build one of the preset Archangels to match your own play style.

Upgrading Max's apparel is just as vital, with knuckle dusters and wrist guards boosting the amount of damage he can dole out, as well as his ability to parry, while donning a better leather jacket (massively important, of course), means Max can absorb more damage. Unlocking additional apparel and garage attachments for Max's replacement for his stolen Interceptor, the Magnum Opus, also involves completing Wasteland Missions and building Max's Legend to the status of Road Warrior. You'll also earn Griffa Tokens as your Legend grows, enabling you to purchase upgrades to health and buffs to scrap, water collection, and so on.

Mad Max is a completist's dream, offering a succession of 100 percent collections to gain from scavenge sites and camps for scrap, history relics and Scrotus insignias. And there's loads to do too, ascending in balloons to scope out the massive map, improving each of the Wasteland's four strongholds, digging out bandits from camps, participating in Death Run races and taking down every one of the Top Dogs to gain new paint jobs for the Magnum Opus. There are scarecrow totems to destroy, minefields to diffuse, convoys to stop and sniper nests to pull down too. There's no shortage of stuff.

Never underestimate the power of a well-aimed Thunderpoon.

Unfortunately, it can all get a little tiresome at times, as it feels like you're essentially doing the same thing over and over constantly. The story-driven portion of the game mixes things up a bit, although it's fairly short-lived; the lion's share of gameplay being out in the Wasteland waiting for you to clear it all up and ultimately acquire that all-important 100% statistic. Mad Max's core systems aren't bad by any means, and indeed most open-world games rely on similar mechanics, but Avalanche Studios doesn't seem to have made much of an effort to disguise this in any way. You're constantly aware that you're going from pillar to post, carrying out similar activities in a bid to 100% everything.

The achievements tie into all of this, drip-feeding you with a few early on to ease you into things, saving all of the big rewards for the end game, and inevitable post-game clean up. There are some decent achievements earned for eating a meal of maggots, donating water to thirsty wanderers, and driving off a jump, but then the rest of the list is almost entirely devoted to completing every single little thing peppered throughout the Wasteland. As achievement lists go, it's fairly bland. And don't even get us started on the random 3, 2 and 8 Gamerscore values!

Mad Max is a flawed, but nonetheless enjoyable open-world romp that perfectly complements the movies in terms of tone and visual style. While the vehicular combat and building the Magnum Opus is a joy, the hand-to-hand combat can be prove frustrating early on, whereas side objectives become repetitive and somewhat dull. Avalanche has done a great job in making the Wasteland look suitable desolate, yet eerily beautiful, but ultimately, in a golden era of exemplary open-world games like The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V and Arkham Knight, Mad Max is lacking.

Mad Max

Mad Max is a solid, if slightly unremarkable open-world game that does a good job in replicating the atmosphere and tone of the movies, and the character's essence, but fails to provide any real excitement beyond its vehicle-based combat. Exploring the Wasteland can be a boring affair at times, but if exploring Max's relentlessly bleak world sounds like your cup of tea, you'll probably love Mad Max. Still, it's hard to shake the sense that this could have been better.

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Solid voice acting and an atmospheric score fits Mad Max like a chunky metal knuckle duster.


Some truly gorgeous vistas make the Wasteland a savage but beautiful place, though character models could be better. It's a tad uneven.


The core mechanics only really fall into place once you've upgraded Max and his car to the Nth degree. Vehicle combat is superb, but the fisticuffs are messy.


A surfeit of activities strewn across an enormous open Wasteland, Mad Max can become dull after the umpteenth camp, scarecrow sniper and scavenge site. It's all a bit samey.


Standard stuff. Collect all of the things, do all of the stuff, rinse and repeat. Eating maggots is about as good as it gets.

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