Beautiful but empty world of Mad Max

The game allows players the chance to handle different cars which do not just look different, but have their own unique characteristics, like the sound of the engine revving and the timing of the gear changes.
The game allows players the chance to handle different cars which do not just look different, but have their own unique characteristics, like the sound of the engine revving and the timing of the gear changes.PHOTO: AVALANCHE STUDIOS
The game allows players the chance to handle different cars which do not just look different, but have their own unique characteristics, like the sound of the engine revving and the timing of the gear changes.
The game allows players the chance to handle different cars which do not just look different, but have their own unique characteristics, like the sound of the engine revving and the timing of the gear changes.PHOTO: AVALANCHE STUDIOS

The world in Avalanche Studios' Mad Max is a beautiful one, but the game is let down by oversimplified mechanics and a surprisingly linear feel for an open-world game. In this game, players assume control of anti-hero Max Rockatansky, who is beaten and robbed by a group of raiders who steal everything, including the shirt off his back.

Accompanied by raving mechanic Chumbucket, Max has to brawl his way through a barren, post- apocalyptic wasteland to reclaim his vehicle. Along the way, he will build the ultimate driving machine: the Magnum Opus.

My favourite part of the game, hands down, is handling the different cars, from my own customisable Magnum Opus to other rigs that can be stolen or collected along the way.

Each car does not just look different; it has a different personality, too. From the sound of the engine revving, the timing of the gear changes to the way that it scales sand dunes and turns corners, each car has a unique profile.

After getting to know my cars, from the jittery to the sluggish to the stable, I learnt what kind of touch is needed to coax the best performance out of each of them, and the Magnum Opus became my best friend when facing the wilderness.

  • 6/10

  • RATING


    PRICE: $70.90 (PC version) and $81.90 (Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions)


    GENRE: Action-adventure

Cinematically, Mad Max is set in a hauntingly arid universe, devoid of everything except rust, dust and junk. The barbarous and deranged world is brought to life by the game's dialogue, which is reminiscent of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, as well as the Cockney dialect in the way it creates a cadence and context of its own.

For example, Chumbucket babbles: "Oh, I can make you become steel-real, my Angel... I can build your corpus and ignite your sacred fuel, true, but only the Warrior Saint can drive you."

However, despite my desperately wanting to like the game, the truth is that the gameplay falls flat.

When taking down enemy camps, there are different objectives to complete, like destroying tanks, or blowing up pumps. But after a while, it all becomes repetitive.

If the head-on approach to doing something does not work, just look for the yellow paint, which is used to highlight items of interest like ladders, switches and hidden entrances.

The game does not have the freedom of a title like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (see review above) that rewards creativity and different strategic approaches. With Mad Max, it feels that, often, there is only one way to get from Point A to B.

It is inevitable to draw comparisons between this and the Borderlands series, which unabashedly draws inspiration from the Mad Max universe, and is steeped in the same violent, crude sensibility, though with fewer cars and more bawdy humour.

But while Borderlands has a variety of classes, reasonably diverse skill trees and the most random assortment of zany weapons, Mad Max lacks that variety completely. And that is a huge pity, because it means that the exquisite-looking game is as empty as the world it creates.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2015, with the headline 'Beautiful but empty world of Mad Max'. Print Edition | Subscribe