Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mad Max - First Impressions


   If you need more Mad Max after Fury Road, and lets face it... who doesn't? This game is where it's at. Especially after you've already gone back and watched the other three movies. The game understands not only the concept at the core of a good Mad Max tale, but what makes post apocalyptic action movies so much fun. The game opens with Max killing a ruthless wasteland overlord named Scabrous Scrotus, but also getting your iconic "black on black" Interceptor stolen and hacked up. So, the plot of the game is essentially about you beefing up your new ride, bit by bit. Which is fun. Overall, the game isn't without it's fair share of flaws, but it can also be a hell of a good time.

   I haven't finished the game yet, and I don't know if I will for a while, but I've sunk about thirteen hours into it according to Steam. Which I'd say is more than enough gameplay for a first impression at least. Right? What I found most fun about Mad Max is the unscripted nonsense you can find yourself getting tangled up in. At one point, I found myself in my first sandstorm. It was big, brutal, and came out of nowhere pretty much. The game prompts you to take cover at a stronghold or something, but I wasn't having none of that pansy reasoning! And... I proceeded to get pummeled by flying debris. Nevertheless, I persevered across an open stretch of land and collected a box of scrap I found getting knocked around.

   However, as I made it back to my car- safely nestled between two big rock formations, a couple bad guys showed up to make some trouble. I ended up in a fist fight between the two guys, while flying debris whizzed past our heads, lightning was striking, and one of their cars had just exploded... and none of this was anything more than the result of my decision to rough the storm and be macho about it. This wasn't during a story mission, and it wasn't a side mission. It was entirely unscripted, and so far has been my favorite moment from the game. Not that there isn't plenty of other cool moments, but the sheer craziness of a fist fight in a sandstorm is awesome and absurd at the same time. Just like the movies in their best moments.

   The story missions usually involve killing a bad guy or fetching an item- simply so you can unlock or receive a new upgrade for the new car- the Magnum Opus. I would've preferred a more emotionally charged story, involving some other well-written main characters- but picking this up after blazing through The Last of Us would make anyone hungry for more story. As a character Max is... well, Max. But, this isn't Max on his best day. See, the movies usually focus on him being a hero, albeit often reluctantly- but he's still on a quest for redemption. As plainly seen in Fury Road. Max in the game however, is a hero... but only inconsequentially. He's not even trying to do the right thing, he's just trying to build up his car. That's it.

   He cares about nothing and nobody else, with the minor exception of a dog- who he treats better than any of his human allies. Max is kind of a dick here. There's no hidden soft spot. There's just layer after layer of dirt. Not to mention the game itself is sorely lacking a sense of humor. Even Fury Road had a sense of humor.  Anyways, the game allows the player to feel like a good guy by doing good deeds off the beaten path of the story. Finding people dying of thirst in the wasteland, and you can give them some water from your canteen. You can also help other people get to some loot, or do a small side-task for them. And, ultimately, by progressing through the game, you are taking down bad guys which is still a 'good guy' thing.

   Yet, you're still reminded that Max just doesn't seem to care- even as people begin to see him as a prophesied savior and a living legend. You get a mechanic sidekick in the game who reminds me a lot of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Yet this 'blackfinger' doesn't seem to have any hidden agenda. He idolizes Max. Not that it ever does him any good. He's treated with less respect than the dog I mentioned. Max barks orders at him, "fix the car", "Aren't you done yet?", "Stay here." I kept waiting for a "Shut up." but so far, no such luck. Anyways, this sidekick is the technical backbone of the plot as he upgrades your car with armor, parts, gadgets and weapons whenever available. From bladed hubcaps to grind into other cars, to an incredibly useful harpoon gun.

   It's stuff like that which makes the gameplay a lot of fun and easy to handle as well. Upgrades aren't doled out as frequently as I'd like, which is really the only push to keep playing the story, which in turn gets irritating. But, once you're on the blacktop, busting heads and ramming other cars, the game is undeniably a blast. It's big, loud, fast and gloriously violent. It's only missing the tribal drums and metal riffs from Fury Road to complete the package. If you don't mind a rather inert story, Mad Max is a great looking game that's full of over-the-top, intense, and furious combat- whether you're on foot, doling out bone-breaking punches, or in a car, grinding metal on metal.

   It's hard to not have a lot of fun with the game, and so far I'm very pleased with it. My one caveat about a few hours in was that it was visually drab compared to Fury Road, while still seeming so much like it otherwise. The internet was quick to help me fix this little issue with a rather fantastic mod that I found here, which tweaks the color palate of the game to match the visuals from Fury Road. It's spot on and made the game much more vibrant looking. Sure, the game can get tedious and even a bit repetitive, but hey, man... a fist fight... in a sandstorm. Witness me!

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