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This year marked the surprise resurgence of the Mad Max franchise, as not one, but two long-in-development projects finally reached the finish line. One was, of course, Mad Max: Fury Road, which had been in the works since the mid-’90s, and the other is the video game simply titled Mad Max, which has been in-development in some form since 2008.
Mad Max: Fury Road turned out to be a lovely movie indeed, but what about the game? Sometimes a movie taking forever to make can end up being a good thing, but it’s rarely the case for video games, which have to keep up with constantly evolving technology. So, is Mad Max another shot at redemption, or is it, in the words of Immortan Joe, merely mediocre?
Mad Max (PC, Xbox One & PS4)
Despite being developed in tandem and released around the same time, the Mad Max game and Mad Max: Fury Road don’t necessarily tie together, although they do share a number of elements. The War Boys of Fury Road are present here, as is Scabrous Scrotus, son of Immortan Joe. That said, the two plots don’t really combine in any coherent way, and the Max of the game doesn’t particularly look or sound like Tom Hardy. It’s actually a bit frustrating. With a few tweaks, they could have made the movie and game exist in a consistent universe, but I suppose getting both the movie and the game actually released took precedent.
The Mad Max series has never been much for complex motivations, and this game is no different. Much like Fury Road, the game’s plot is set in motion when Max has his prized V8 Interceptor stolen and scrapped by War Boys. So, what do you do when your super awesome car is destroyed? Build a new car that will help you kill the jerks that wrecked the old one! That’s it. That’s your entire motivation. Max hooks up with a deformed mechanic named Chumbucket, and they spend the game hunting down parts to build the ultimate Outback war machine, the Magnum Opus. Of course, acquiring every new part is a needlessly circuitous process – well more than half the game is spent toiling away to get a simple V8 engine for your car. This is somewhat true to the Mad Max movies, as their plots often revolve around characters dealing, trading favors and double-crossing each other over gas, water and other mundane things, but this kind of scrounging gets to be a drag over the course of a 15 to 20-hour video game plot.
As far as partners go, he’s no Charlize Theron.
Despite a long trek through the sun-parched desert of development hell, Mad Max doesn’t feel behind the times technologically. This is an impressive-looking game on both a technical and artistic level. The game’s post-apocalyptic wasteland is appropriately desolate and dusty, but can also be strikingly beautiful, thanks largely to a fantastic lighting engine. Much like Fury Road, this game forsakes desaturated monotony in favor of bold, rich colors and a surprising variety of landscapes. The game’s characters aren’t quite as attractive as the landscape, but hey, ugly people and beautiful vistas are a classic Mad Max combo.
Mad Max does not deliver as solidly in the audio department. Maybe Mad Max just suffers in comparison to the ball-rattlingly awesome Fury Road soundtrack, but the game’s music just feels a few notches too subdued. Speaking of subdued, whoever’s doing Max’s voice isn’t necessarily bad, but he sure isn’t great, either. Max is a man of few words, but, in the movies, those words usually leave an impact. Not so here.