Friday, 11 September 2015 14:58

Game Review: Mad Max

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Our Wasteland friend Max Rockatansky is still pretty peeved; somewhat angry in fact, one could call him perturbed. After all, within the first few moments of this Warner Bros Entertainment video game, gone is his beloved XB Interceptor, captured and crushed by crazed War Boys of the Warlord, wait for it, Scabrous Scrotus.

A completely separate story-line from the latest Max movie; Fury Road, Mad Max the video game takes players for a dusty brown violent romp through the Wasteland with the twin goals of finding a beastly V8 and to cross the Plains of Silence.

It is a harsh landscape, with the Scrotus war-bands roaming the land constantly, despite his loner tendencies, Max needs allies, and quickly comes across the interesting character in the hunchback Chumbucket.

Chum is a black-finger, a master of mechanical engineering, in this world is more of a religion than a trade. He has a sanctuary, deep in the bowels of a long desert-locked cargo ship where he plies his trade.

Max and his loyal dog (named Dinky Di, but inexplicably pronounced Dinky Dee in the game) team up with Chum, and Chum offers to build Max his Magnum Opus, his greatest work of engineering art, to replace the black-on-black (the XB, now scrap).

Avalanche Studios, the game’s developer are based in Sweden, but they have managed to pay homage to the quintessential Aussie roots of the Mad Max franchise. Max’s voice actor is jarringly ocker in his delivery and in a more subtle way, the sunlight entering Chum’s abode forms the shape of the Australian mainland upon the wall of his workshop.

Mad Max is equal parts played on foot and in vehicle. It is the cars that are central to the game play however, with the vast majority of progression rewards based around car modifications.

Whether it is the cosmetics of finding an aesthetically pleasing post-apocalyptic junker that is powerful, strong, fast and dangerous.

Boost the V6, add anti-boarder spikes, extra armour, nasty sharp rimmed tires, flame throwers and grappling-hooks. There are plenty of vehicle modifications that Chum can apply to the Magnum Opus as the game progresses. All of these are paid by finding scrap in the Wasteland.

This forces Max out to scrounge through the desert, driving the storyline as he discovers strongholds, hidden vaults, observation balloon outposts and more. Despite it being a desolate Wasteland, it is not too empty of interesting places to explore.

And each place, whether it is a simple observation balloon, or a well-fortified war-band stronghold each location is a physical puzzle to be unlocked. Some generators might need fuel or a ramp might need to be lowered to gain access to inaccessible parts of structures. Each structure will have its secrets that may require some brain power, whilst utilising brawn to defeat the defenders along the way.

 

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Liberating a stronghold will have benefits. More scrap is earned and, dare I say it, Lord Scrotus’ grip on the land, his influence will be lowered.

Collecting scrap and ammo is one thing, Max will also need to manage the other systems in the game, collecting water, and eating pet-food and, yeeeech! Maggots are also essential to survival. Thankfully, Max’s iconic shotgun is far more reliable in this game than in the movies.

Max on foot can be a real pain to control, whilst the battles flow well enough with a simple, but reasonably deep combat system, just manoeuvring around can be a bit trial and error, frustrating at times, driving Max back to his car as soon as possible.

Car combat is also a big part of this game, whist players can get drop into a cockpit view in both his Magnum Opus or any car Max manages to hijack, it won’t help much during open-road battles.

Driving the Magnum Opus aggressively means lining up head on rams, timing weapon shots such as the explosive Thunderpoon, or grinding (side-ramming) until the crazed war-boy vehicles are either destroyed, or unmanned.

The all-important grappling hook is very important to the offensive capabilities of a post-apocalyptic battleground. It can be used to rip off wheels, or doors to expose the driver if targeted correctly. This is very fun.

As the story progresses, there is plenty of Mad Max franchised characteristics that violently bubble into the mix, there are also stronghold development projects, Wasteland organised races to win new vehicles and a modicum of collectible relics to locate as you play through the game.

As an open world game the Mad Max setting is certainly not the most lush we have come across compared to other modern-day similar titles. However, you could hardly set a Mad Max game on a tropical island.

Despite the dusty ash-strewn landscape, Mad Max is coloured by its over-the-top characterisations and array of crazy vehicles. Perhaps the developers could have taken a leaf from George Miller’s production crew, taking the vehicles to a more extreme design edge, but there are limitations on game-development that force some constraint.

It’s violent, it’s harsh, and it is a high-octane romp through the Wasteland that can be repetitive at times, surprisingly restrictive at others, but is compelling all the same.

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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