When I went to Microsoft’s X15 event in Toronto yesterday, I expected to see a lot of highly-anticipated games. I wasn’t disappointed, especially enjoying presentations of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided . What I didn’t expect. though, was that my personal Game of the Show was one that was barely a blip on my radar beforehand: Mad Max .
Although I’d heard positive buzz about Mad Max before I had the chance to play it at the show, I hadn’t realized that not only is it not a crappy movie tie-in game, it’s not a licensed Fury Road title at all. It’s been in development for years independently of the movie, though it does share some locations and lore. Think of it like the relationship between the Batman Arkham games and the Batman movies. Though I’m a bit disappointed that this means I probably won’t be running into Imperator Furiosa (long may she reign) on my adventures, it just underscores the fact that if you’ve been assuming this was just another licenced movie game, you’ve got to take some time to check it out.
Mad Max , in which you play as the Road Warrior himself, is set in a huge open wasteland. Max and his mechanic companion Chumbucket are on a quest to build the ultimate vehicle and exact revenge on the bloodthirsty warlord Scrotus, who had previously robbed Max of his beloved car and left him for dead in the wasteland. You’re free to follow the game’s main missions or go exploring, but keep an eye on your resources. You’ll need to explore or defeat your enemies to get access to the fuel, food, and water you need to survive, as well as the scrap required to pimp your ride.
As an open-world game, you can approach your objectives in multiple ways, and strategic planning is an important part of taking out the huge convoys that Scrotus and other wasteland enemies send your way. Knowing who to target and when is an important skill to have, as I learned while chasing down a convoy that held a juicy engine part that I wanted to loot. War machine leaders aren’t stupid – if you take out too many of their buddies, they’ll flee so they can live to fight another day. Picking apart a convoy, then, is a dance between taking out guard cars and disabling the lead machine so it can’t get away. A dance with lots of explosions.
I spent most of my time in the Mad Max demo engaging in vehicular combat, which makes up the bulk of gameplay, and it’s just plain fun. Max and Chumbucket have access to great weapons like a flamethrower and an electrified harpoon. Driving is easy to pick up without being too unrealistic (you will spin out if you go too fast around a tight corner), and you have access to an in-depth customization system to aid you in the creation of your ultimate war machine. I recommend traction… lots of traction. In combat, it feels super-satisfying to turn attacking cars into flaming wrecks, and Chumbucket’s accompanying banter adds just the right level of twisted humor to the proceedings.
I’m not normally a big fan of post-apocalyptic games, as I tend to get bored of wasteland settings quickly, but I’m going to make an exception for Mad Max. We don’t get enough vehicular combat games, and Mad Max’s combination of adrenaline-fueled combat and survival in a world of scarce resources is perfect for the setting. Mad Max is totally not a crappy movie tie-in game, and you should check it out. Be on the lookout for our full review of the game, which is coming soon!