How A Forgotten ‘Mad Max’ Video Game Ties Into ‘Furiosa’

Let me transport you back to the year of 2015. Mad Max: Fury Road just revved the engines of action fans everywhere, revitalizing the once long-dormant franchise. There’s excitement about the world and characters from mastermind director George Miller and fans can’t wait for more. Fast forward a bit to September 1st, 2015 and fans are eagerly lining up to buy their blu-ray copies of Fury Road (trust me, I was one of them) and a hot new open-world video game that released on the same day:Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The rest was history.

There was another video game that released that day though. One that flew under many people’s radar, including my own. That video game was Mad Max from Avalanche Studios, makers of the Just Cause franchise.

The game set out to immerse players into the revitalized world of Fury Road and presented a story that acted as a prequel of sorts to the film. Players would take control of Max Rockatansky, the last of the V8 interceptors, as he comes face to face with Scrotus, the son of warlord Immortan Joe from Fury Road. Left out in the wasteland for dead and without his trusty vehicle, players would guide Max and his companion Chumbucket through the open-world and build the “Magnum Opus”, a new deathbringer vehicle. Players would get to visit iconic locations from the series such as Gastown and The Bullet Farm, and even come into contact with characters that would appear in both Fury Road and Furiosa.

Mad Max stood out from other open world games at the time and allowed players to fully customize their car with various upgrades and defenses. Sure there was hand to hand combat evocative of the Batman: Arkham games, but Mad Max shined the brightest when it focused on vehicle combat. (The player vehicle “Deathbringer” allowed users to take out some of the game’s toughest enemies without ever leaving the driver’s seat.) But, even when you had to leave the Magnum Opus, the game was an absolute blast to play, scouring a barren wasteland for water and gasoline while laying waste to any unfortunate raider that got in your way.

Not only did the game give players the chance to live out all their wasteland fantasies but the game’s story also tied into Fury Road and Furiosa in meaningful ways. Avalanche Studios worked with series creator George Miller, using his input to make the game as authentic to the series as possible. As revealed in Blood, Sweat, and Chrome, a book about the making of Fury Road, Miller has a series bible of sorts about locations and characters and even had the story for Furiosa planned out from an early stage. Taking place before the events of Fury Road, the game explains Scrotus’ absence in that film as a result of his run-in with Max. The game also makes mention of the 40-day wasteland war that resulted in the death of Dementus, the tyrant that ran Gastown and attempted to conquer the entire wasteland. (This event would go on to be depicted in a pivotal segment of Furiosa, though it would play out a tad differently.) In fact, Furiosa even contains depictions of the characters Scrotus and Chumbucket (who gives Furiosa a shell of a vehicle that could have possibly been a proto-Magnum Opus).

So if the game sought to provide an authentic Mad Max experience with involvement from its creator, why has it been mostly forgotten, made effectively non-canon by the release of Furiosa? Why has George Miller gone on to say “It wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be?”

Many factors are at play here. For starters: the release date. Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive made the baffling decision to release it the same date as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the latest outing from video game auteur Hideo Kojima and the beloved Metal Gear series. This effectively buried Mad Max from many potential buyers. Avalanche Studios co-founder Christofer Sundberg said last week of the situation that “it was a hell of a great game, but released in a terrible release window, which we could not convince the publisher to do otherwise.”

Sundberg went on to elaborate that Mad Max featured a somewhat tumultuous development also saying “After the first year of development they realized that they had forced us to make a linear experience rather than the open world game we pitched. We threw away a year of work.” According to Sundberg then, there was an entirely different version of the game that fans never saw and that the publisher was unhappy with.

But the real irony of the whole situation is reflected in George Miller’s recent comments. In a recent interview he said that he would want to revisit a Mad Max video game if a creator such as Hideo Kojima would take on the project (though he goes on to admit he would never ask). Miller also expressed his disappointment in the 2015 game despite his team’s involvement. This interview feels like the punctuation point in the long saga of why Mad Max didn’t hit the mark.

Mad Max was a video game pulled in many different directions. A product from a studio that cut their teeth on open world experiences, a game that the publisher never seemed to want in the first place, and an external addition to a series by one of filmmaking’s greatest creators. Between conflicting visions and a release date going up against one of the most anticipated games of all time, it’s no surprise that Mad Max has been mostly forgotten by the gaming public. It’s a real shame though, because it adds depth to one of the greatest film franchises of all time, has some of the most exciting vehicular combat of any video game in recent memory, and features a unique barren wasteland not seen in many other post-apocalyptic games from a developer that knew what they were doing. Mad Max is everything great about Fury Road and Furiosa in video game form.