Mad Max PS4 Review
I’ve never been hugely excited about having to go shopping, but the few times any joy came from that task was finding something I never knew I wanted, picking it up, and later enjoying it. Working through the supposed fun Mad Max expects me to have, is akin to taking to town with a regimented underlined list with no option to deviate from it. If you stray off the set path you’ll be shouted at later for spending too much money – even if that other loo roll feels much nicer. I guess what I am trying to say is I’d rather wipe my arse with something other than Mad Max.
The worst feeling to get from any game is realizing you have no urge to continue playing. That’s exactly what happened to me with Mad Max, and the moment came far too soon. In reality, all games are just us sitting in front of our monitors to pass the time, but good ones make it feel like the time invested was meaningful. If a game asks me to invest 35+ hours to see its end, I want solid reason to stay with it. The sad fact is I found Mad Max a struggle to see through. It’s an open world game that takes direct inspiration from Ubisoft’s recent genre efforts – giving the player an endless amount of tasks to accomplish in an overpopulated world. Crucially, it lacks any elements of awe and surprise as you trudge through the adventure to offer inspiration to keep going. It constantly shows you the many tasks it wants done, but offers zero compelling reason to get invested in completing them. Ultimately they all turn into chores.
The game puts a huge spotlight on what should be its underlying mechanics, with no bright wrapper surrounding it to distract from the fact you must work through samey tasks over and over again. Choosing to play Mad Max means you are constantly looking for parts, pieces and/or bits, to fill up meters to unlock more features – many of which should have been part of the game to start with. Every interaction feels like a minigame or task to accomplish. There is no sense of presence that you are impacting the world around you in any way. You exist in the wasteland solely to make onscreen numbers tick higher. As I was working through the tasks before me, I was reminded of the hours I lost to “clicker” games. Many people express disdain that such titles even exist, but at least they have the decency to start to play themselves at some point. I wished someone would come along and play Mad Max for me too.
I have mentioned it countless times, but I will call on it again. I was a huge fan of X-Men Origins Wolverine. It was a fantastic, unexpected action romp by Raven Software, which was loosely based on the film of the same name. It was however a game much better than its big screen influence, as it went places the film could not. Whilst this effort may not be directly connected to any of the four preceding Mad Max films, the bigger issue is that it often gives the impression none of its source material matters. All four films all go to places the game never does – meaning the game constantly comes dangerously close to freeloader status, hinting that it may just be along for the ride.
Digging deeper, even though the Mad Max name is emblazoned on the box, I’d argue that this game lacks important touchstones to that universe. Even though all post apocalyptic wastelands are desolate places, Mad Max‘s always had a unique flavour to it. Instead of having to drive incalculable distances to find pockets of civilization, everyone now seems to have gathered close together. There is no great expanse between locations like the movies have shown. The world feels almost too much alive, with no downtime. Nothing is given time to breathe. There is no sense of solace or isolation as you move between communities. If your car were to run out of fuel, you could walk the rest of the way without even starting to sweat. As I played, I constantly got the notion the game was panicked I might have a few seconds with nothing to do, and it was determined to always show me something new in case I’d leave. This needy attitude was another facet of the game that turned out to be detrimental to my overall enjoyment.
As a wrestling fan, a fan of NXT (plus Lucha Underground, Shimmer, Evolve, and ROH should I stumble into watching them), the fact Mad Max‘s hand to hand combat consists of a varied selection of suplexes, dropkicks, and various other catch-as-catch-can-like attacks is great to see. However, even though combat looks flashy in motion, there is no real substance to it – which I feel is an ongoing issue across all areas of this game. You can simply button mash your way to victory in most encounters with little to no thought. This leads to combat becoming repetitive and boring very quickly. Even when the enemy numbers are increased, encounters play out in much the way. Alternating button presses to run the 100 Meter Dash in Track and Field was a more engaging experience.
The game most certainly has standout moments though – but most of them are due to the on screen graphical niceties. Simply blowing up a car looks like you’ve detonated a nuke, and it is a sight to behold. The flame and smoke on show as mechanical beasts burst into flames are wonderful too. All the explosions, beautiful fires, wonderfully rendered storms, and cars with engines that constantly sound like they are angrily growling show solid work went into many areas of Mad Max. But far too often my thoughts drifted to how I felt playing The Crew. That was a game that somehow made driving across the entirety of the United States of America feel uninteresting.
Mad Max falls into this same trap, inviting players into a world that looks both inviting and exciting, but fails to live up to that initial promise. Even though the destruction tech in the game is top-notch, the end result shows that a game with that as a main draw is not enough any more. The Just Cause series is famous because of that, but it also lets players partake in enough extra insanity to be entertained. Blowing stuff up in Just Cause was a delightful cherry atop a professionally made cake. Continuing down this horrible metaphor cake-hole, someone got the ingredients horribly mixed up when creating Mad Max.
I don’t think I have become jaded by the open world genre, I am more than happy to invest a multitude of hours when I think a game gets it right. I just don’t think Mad Max succeeds at that most vital of tasks. It is a well made but wholly unexciting game from a studio famed for the OTT trills of Just Cause. It is in no way horrible, but it quickly becomes tedious and that is unforgivable.
There is an Assassin’s Creed Unity screenshot doing the rounds for the past while, showing a huge open world map and an almost endless selection of icons. How you feel when you see this screenshot is a great indication of how much you may enjoy Mad Max. It truly is a game for a certain kind of player, but I am certainly not one of them. If you are happy to be given a laundry list of tasks with little pay off at the end, then it may be right up your street.
Whilst it may not initially be obvious, open world games have dramatically evolved in the last 5 years. I was once happy with mindless collectatons, but I’ve grown to want more. The best open world games nowadays are an expansion of the form, but Mad Max is highly regressive in far too many areas to be meaningful. Everything I experienced during my time with the game felt like it came five years too late to the open world party. Those with any interest in the genre will have already trod similar ground long before. We’ve seen all these tricks done dozens of times – so much so that all the props that were once cleverly hidden away are now clear to see.