Mad Max

This one has been on my wishlist for a while now.  I heard some great things about it but I’d had enough open world games to play at the time.  I’m getting emails every day now about some game on sale, so I figured I’d get a deal and give it a go.

I am a fan of the film series.  That helps tremendously here, because the game makes next to no effort to explain the setting.  Not that we generally play these games for their story settings.  I’m not quite far in, but the bits and pieces that have been presented so far fit in really well with the world-as-seen-on-film.  Considering it came out around the time of the 4th film (which is frikkin’ amazing), the tie-in is obvious and probably in the top-3 I’ve ever played.

Open-world games walk a very tight line.  You want tons of things to do, but you want them to be meaningful.  Ubisoft put in character levels to help justify the crazy padding in the Assassin’s Creed series.  Mad Max has a lot of events, but it does a decent job in making them both varied and useful.  The base camps you’re clearing are all unique, peppered with some bosses.  There are secrets to find in each as well.  There are sniper nests / totems to take down, but they are mostly drive-bys and easy enough to manage.  The “discovery the world” points are hot air ballons, and rather than just push a button, you need to go through some minor (different) steps to get the balloon in the air.

The rough spots deal with scrap collection, which may or may not contain a piece of a useful recipe.  Means you only need to do a handful per mini-zone.  The absolute worst part is the minesweeping portion, which requires you to use a specific car and travel to the world without getting into any combat.

Given the setting, there’s a LOT of driving.  Thankfully it plays wonderfully.  Each vehicle plays differently, and your main ride has enough gizmos to make combat entertaining. There are some Death Races as well, which unlock different vehicles.  It’s ok to start, but really shines when you upgrade the ammo for your Shotgun and can take out enemies with ease.  The hunting of convoys is especially fun, as you need to take down 4-8 vehicles to get a hood ornament from the leader.  You end up doing a ton of laps around an area, using every advantage you can to survive.  Tons of fun.  It’s a really good travel system, making the world feel big without it feeling like it’s just big to impress.

Hand to hand combat is pretty much the Batman games, minus the crazy acrobatics.  So yeah, gold standard there.

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All the various activities help restore a local stronghold which provides boosts to your gameplay.  Either free healing, ammo, scrap (money) collection, or similar.  They also reduce the area’s threat, which unlocks upgrades for your car.  And raising your Legend status (character level) unless character upgrades.  So there’s some value in completing them, as much there is in doing the actual activity.

The downsides here are all nitpicky.  The minesweeping portion is horrible as you can only use 1 car, which has no upgrades, and you need to manually find the minefields.  Dodge and jump are realistic, meaning they don’t really move you that much.  It’s jarring and takes a fair amount of adjustment.  Collecting scrap I tedious (hold A to collect) and takes a stronghold upgrade to collect from destroyed vehicles.  But I am nitpicking here (except minesweeping, ugh).

I’ve unlocked the 2nd area (I think there are 4), I guess that makes it about 20% or so saying “complete”.  So more thoughts as I dig deeper.  What I’ve seen so far, yeah, I can see why this game was on many top 10 lists in 2015.  Probably would be in top 10 lists in 2020 too.

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