The way the games industry has been going of late, it is becoming more and more difficult to review games fully in time for their public release. Often the developers are working right up to the wire and day one patches are becoming the norm.
That’s actually good news for the consumer as they’ll get a game that has had more work done on it to ensure it is as good an experience as can be. It’s less so for a games reviewer who would actually like to play the game before release in order to give a valued opinion about it.
Mad Max is one of those games, with such a vast open-world landscape crammed with missions that it would take a month of Sundays to finish enough of the title to give it justice critically. However, we have played considerably more of it prior to release than most so feel that we are in a position to form a first look opinion to help you with a decision on whether to give it a go or not.
When we’ve played the game much more over the coming days we’ll update this piece with a full, scored review. In the meantime, here’s our initial impressions.
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Those initial impressions are good. We’ve played different sections of Mad Max at different times, with the last session lasting around three hours, and that was plenty of time to get a flavour of how both story and side-missions work. Plus, we performed many of the extra tasks in the barren wastelands to see how they fit into the game.
One thing we can see from the off is that there is plenty to do. The landscape isn’t the most varied – this is a land ravaged by nuclear war after all – but the characters that inhabit it are.
While Mad Max is not directly inspired by the latest movie – Fury Road – it is inspired by George Miller’s vision and character-creation. And it fits that mythos well, with crazy folk scattered throughout. The Australian accents can be suspect at times, but their eccentricities suit the Mad Max quadrilogy down to the ground.
Your hunch-backed assistant Chumbucket is perhaps one of the more colourful, providing an interesting and, at times, adult narration throughout the driving missions and exploits. He will also help in combat by firing weapons, thundersticks and a harpoon. And should your car be half-destroyed, you only need to exit it for him to get to work at fixing it.
The car is the centrepiece of the game, much like in the movies, and that’s where the plot lies. Max being Max wants to build his Magnum Opus into the most fearsome vehicle in the land, but the only way to do that is to find exceptional parts here, there and everywhere. Generally earning them by completing large, complex missions or winning them in races.
But although vehicular combat and racing is a mainstay of the game, and provides many of the most fun moments, there are still plenty of occasions when Max needs to take to foot and explore fortresses and hide-outs both over and underground.
It is these that we actually enjoyed most during our play time. That’s partly because on the interesting denizens, amusing use of explosive weaponry, and a combat system that is incredibly similar to the one used for the Batman: Arkham series but with a few, lethal alterations to help finish foes off with aplomb.
As you progress through the enormous game – which, apparently, even lets you drive off outside the mapped area and continue facing down enemies – not only do you get to improve your car, but also Max’s skill set and appearance. Numerous tools are at your disposal that must be earned throughout, and once acquired will enable you to get into areas otherwise locked off.
This expands the game as you move through it, introducing harder and more varied action along the way. That’s a necessity really as the wasteland isn’t quite as rich a playground as, say, San Andreas In GTA V. In fact, if there’s any criticism at this stage is that while the car driving bits are fun the scenery can get samey. We’ll reserve full judgement on that though until we’ve experience more of it.
That’s not to say that the sandy environments aren’t at times beautifully rendered. The game runs at 1080p on the PS4 (the version we played extensively) and the Xbox One. And the colour swatches seem to have been inspired by George Miller and comic book artist Brendan McCarthy’s art style in Fury Road. Indeed, they are positively vibrant at times, specifically during explosions and when the sun sets.
The rest of the graphical presentation actually reminds us of the Just Cause series – not surprising really, considering it has been developed by Avalanche Studios, which is also behind the adventures of Rico Rodriguez. And much of the chaotic action from that series is stamped on Mad Max too.
What needs more investigation when we have more time with the game is whether it will suffer some of the same issues as the Just Cause series – and many other open-world adventures too – in that the more mundane tasks that need to be performed, such as tearing down scarecrows or taking out convoys in order to appease local area bosses, will get tedious over time, but we need just that to find out: time.
Until then, we can safely say that Mad Max is a game we want to delve headfirst into and savour as we revisit areas we’ve already travelled through, albeit briefly. If it lives up to its promise so far, Warner could have a dark horse hit on its hands.