It is exactly 210 days since I last finished a game so you can say that this was not my year as far as new game releases go. But at least I have Fallout 4 to look forward to.
So, Mad Max. Everyone knows the story, I don't need to introduce the world. But I want to mention the recently released movie, that in my opinion was very good. The only negative thing in it was Tom Hardy, who was terrible as Mad Max, trying to imitate Christian Bale, or something. Thankfully the movie wasn't only about him, not at all. But I don't want to delve into the intricacies of the movie that much, since I want to discuss the game here. So as a foreword I believe that the game is just as good as the movie was, if not better.
Of course the story is not an epic masterpiece, with twists, but it gives a solid background for the gameplay. It starts out with Max getting into an unprovoked fight with the leader of Gas Town, Scrotus. And as a direct consequence he looses his ride, and his possessions, and barely escapes with his life. The Interceptor gets scrapped, so he needs to get a new wasteland roamer. This is where another key character of the game comes into play: Chumbucket. The hunchback master mechanic, who does his job with a religious devotion. And he had an idea in his head about the ultimate car, the Magnum Opus, for years, just didn't have anyone to help him build it. So together you start scavenging the wasteland and slowly building up the Opus, taking on any mission from any Warlord who can help you improve your car in turn. That sums up the basic story without any spoilers. I just want to add one more thought as I've read a ton of criticism about the ending, which I have to kindly disagree with. The ending perfectly fits in with Mad Max's world, and style, I couldn't think of a more fitting end for this gritty wasteland anti-hero.
The game lets you roam free within the area of Gas Town's proximity, which is divided into four regions, each region is overseen by a local warlord. At the start of the game Scrotus' influence is very significant in the whole territory. So the main goal of the game, to lower this influence to allow the locals more freedom free from the grip of Scrotus. It's possible to completely eradicate the Scrotus presence in each area by dismantling all of his bases, sniper towers, scarecrows, convoys, and minefields. So you can say there is plenty to do. And don't for a moment think that this turns the game into a grindfest, because it doesn't. (except for minefields but I come back to that later) All of the enemy bases are completely different, there is not one bit of map reused in this game anywhere. And they were really creative with the design too. Every base is a new challenge, and a new adventure. And destroying scarecrows (which are huge metal structures erected to represent Scrotus' authority), and sniper towers are really fun and satisfying, either by driving/flying into them, or with the harpoon upgrade, or simply blowing them up with a can of fuel.
The areas in the game can be revealed by using strategically placed balloons to fly up and scout out the area with binoculars. You can say they stole the idea from Far Cry 3, but who cares. Copying good ideas and making them even better is not a problem, originality is overrated.
The strongholds of the warlords you work for can be improved in the game with various upgrades, that all give you bonuses. Like filling your health, water, fuel, or automatically collecting scrap from destroyed enemy vehicles, or revealing scavenging locations in the area. So it's advisable to build them as soon as possible to benefit, especially the scrap crew.
The gameplay has two key aspects, on foot combat and driving. The on foot combat uses a combo system, where you just have to pound the enemies until they die, and evade or block when necessary. But it's really satisfying, the only problem is that you can max out all your abilities by halfway into the game, making hand to hand combat child's play. It becomes so easy that you can waltz into a room with 30 enemies and still walk out victorious without breaking a sweat. But that doesn't take anything away from the fun.
The car combat however is more interesting, you can simply ram enemies, or use the harpoon, shotgun, or thunderpoon launcher to take down enemy vehicles. And there are additional upgrades like flamethrowers or grinders. But even with the biggest, baddest armour your car takes damage fairly quickly so you always have to be on your toes to avoid taking ramming damage from enemy vehicles. But if all goes to shit, you still have the option to stop and make Chumbucket repair the vehicle on the spot, since he's always riding with you handling the harpoon, and thunderphoon. The problem is that you have to get out of the car to distract the enemies to allow him to make repairs. And they will try to run you down mercilessly. So it's advisable to stop where you can run into some ruins forcing them to follow on foot. You also have a sniper rifle in the car that you can use to snipe enemies from a distance, you can even have Chumbucket drive while you're taking down enemies from the back. And you can also call him with a flare gun if you manage to get too far away from your ride. For example coming out on the other side of the mountain after using a zip-line, or simply falling off a cliff in the heat of the battle.
The standard money in the game is scrap, that you use to buy any upgrade, even skills. So you unlock new skills/upgrades by lowering the threat, and finishing missions, and you buy them with scrap. So you need all the scrap you can find, there is never enough. For example the best engine upgrade costs 4300 scrap. And picking up one piece of scrap usually brings 5-10, occasionally 20 units. So picking up every piece is very important, and taking over bases is too, because friendly bases give a steady flow of scrap income, the more bases you have the more you get. Another aspect of upgrades are griffa points, which can be used to upgrade your character so you consume less fuel, extract more water from water sources, etc. I don't want to list every possible upgrade.
In a car game it's always very important for the car physics to be good, and here they are pretty good. Of course it's no simulation, but the car mostly behaves as a car should (expect when airborne, but that's not too much of a problem).
I also have to mention side missions (or wasteland missions as they call it here) that are often more interesting the the main story missions. They're fun distractions, like having to find a subway train and run it out of the tunnel. They're mostly fetch missions, but they're still fun, unlike DA:I.
The graphics is a bit above average, but the design and environmental effects makes up for it greatly. The level designers did a great job on the entire map not just on the bases themselves. Especially the storms, that come with tornado like winds, with all kind of debris flying around, hurting you if you get hit. So the game advises you to seek shelter when a storm comes. But there is a but. It's not just random debris that flies around in storms, but muthaloot boxes, that each contain 300 scrap. So it's rewarding if you can snatch them out of the wind.
There were some minor bugs in the game, but nothing game breaking, that is up until they released patch 3, witch they managed to do so with such a huge bug included, that brakes the game by disabling access to the map. And without the map it's impossible to do anything but main story missions, and you can't even fast travel. Basically braking the game, and there is no fix as of yet. So as much as I want to recommend the game, hold off until this issue is fixed.
Let's mention the negatives of the game.
First it's the aforementioned minefields, which you have to clear a lot of to get access to some upgrades, or if you're a maximalist. This is the only part of the game that is a grind, and an annoying one at that. You have to leave behind your car and drive around with a weaponless dog shed, I mean buggy with a dog cage in the back. Because you need the dog to sniff out mines. If you were not lucky enough to find all minefields while driving around with the Opus, then you have to drive around aimlessly with the dog until he starts to bark, indicating that there is a minefield nearby. Thankfully he can detect them from a fairly great distance, but I still had to drive around for 10-15 minutes sometimes until I was able to find some hidden minefields. And finding them is not enough, you have to use the dog to get near each mine, and when you get close enough the dog will start yelling, and the mine gets revealed, at which point you have to get out of the buggy, walk to the mine and defuse it by hand. And this repeats 3 times at each minefield. And the game has about 30 minefields in it (I didn't count it exactly).
The boss enemies of the game, aka top dogs. The developers paid so much attention to make every base and hell hole in the game unique, and then they make every boss in the game use the exact same fighting style. Which is a shame. This makes fighting them after the second encounter a predictable, easy routine. The only exception from this rule is one of the bosses at the end of the game, who fights with a different style. I imagine how much better it could've been if all top dogs were to fight differently and you needed to find the right strategy against them.
The main story is pretty short, but since this game is about having fun, this is not as big a negative.
extremely well designed gameplay
game mechanics work perfectly
huge area to explore
good driving physics
level design / no copy&paste
lots of things to do, that doesn't get tedious
repeating top dogs
you max out your skills too quickly making the game too easy
few main story missions
there are no hidden gems or surprises in the wasteland all you can hope to find is more scrap
the choice of car chassis has absolutely no impact apart from visuals, the big box will perform exactly the same way as the sports car body if you apply the same upgrades to it
graphics : 8
story : 5
atmosphere : 8
gameplay : 10
controls : 9
final score : 8/10
I highly recommend this game, just hold off until they fix the map bug.