Aggravated Maxwell

After months (and months) playing the Witcher 3, it was finally time to move on to my next game. I’d rather planned to head off for a nice refreshing FPS or more Stellaris[1], but sitting there in my Steam wishlist was Mad Max (2015). Having only this year finally watched Fury Road[2] when it popped up on Prime, I rather fancied playing this dystopian-chrometastic-drivathon, despite the middling reviews I’d seen of the game. For once, desire and Steam sales coincided and I was able to pick the game up for only a few quid. Was it worth it?

Ooooh, that’s gotta hurt

Yes, surprisingly it was. Okay, there are a few flaws. Firstly, things get a bit Assassin’s Creedy with the repeated ad-nauseam collection raids on numerous low level camps for scrap (the in-game currency). While it’s essential early in the game, towards the midpoint, once you’ve built up one or so of the strongholds to churn out scrap automatically, there’s diminishing returns in raiding them. Certainly by game over in the plotline I felt little desire to go back and clear the board with the remaining locations. The lack of effective jumping is also certainly a bizarre and infuriating design choice (maybe it’s hampered by Max’s leg brace). Finally, as is usual in these kind of ‘upgrade your gear’ games, you do eventually reach a point where you’re making pointless shedloads of money with nothing left to spend it on. Might have been nice to have some uber insanely powerful items priced accordingly stratospherically, to keep me playing or at least somewhere to dump that accumulating scrap

Oh and the two missions which require it to be night, with no mechanism to advance the time of day. Wow, words fail me at how annoying they are – an hour of game play just to tick over the time so I can do a 3 minute side mission? GAH!

That aside, the game was, on the whole, pretty damned satisfying. The graphical tone, gameplay and plot line are suitably Mad Maxian, in that they’re as crackers as a parrot on Tuesdays. The characters you meet are a blend of the grotesque (Chumbucket), horrific (Scabrous Scrotus) and yet resiliently noble (Hope and Max himself). Even the Magnum Opus, the car you take from wreck to warmachine, has bags of character. Given the amount of work and missions it takes to improve it, you really get a feeling of ownership and even pride in your creation. Okay, by the time everything’s Maxed out[3], you pretty much whack everything up to 11 and go for it, but earlier there’s some real decisions to be made balancing power, speed, maneuverability and defence.

Cheer up mate, it might never happen!

I was also delighted, after the Witcher 3’s 15 minute plus (!) cut scenes, that Mad Max’s cut scenes at best run 2-3 minutes and many much, much shorter. Gives you as a player a greater feeling of control and agency, rather than sitting back to watch an occasionally interactive film[4]. The story beats are almost perfect as rendition of the noble loner who’s trying to be the good guy, but mostly is almost as damaged a personality as the War Boys and the like he’s fighting. He’s just about on the side of the angels, but not by much. The closing act in particular is rather moving, with the ending leaving me with a big smug satisfied grin on my face – it was the ONLY way all this could end, and it felt right.

In between all this plot there’s lots of madcap driving and vehicle combat. I even prepared myself for a 5 hour drive last week by playing the game beforehand. Not sure Mrs Llama was too impressed by that, but if you’re going to have to cope with the M6, well, you need to be in the right headspace! Interpersonal combat’s pretty good too, as you develop skills and learn the right timing (ala Batman: Arkham City) Max starts to really kick ass in a naturalistic and well controlled way. Not to say some of the fights weren’t a challenge, cos they are, but generally, if you pay attention and keep your cool, you can sail through most of them. Nothing more frustrating though, when someone chins you from just off camera! As the Magnum Opus gets more powerful though, driving around goes from being a tricky prospect with raiders everywhere, through to more of a power trip as you boomzooka away other cars!

mad max trailer
Look! Down there! I think I spotted an ant.

So, as Mad Mad drives off into the Plains of Silence, and I move on to my next game[5] I feel my experience and time spend with the game were well spent. If anything (don’t tell the Wife or George Miller) I enjoyed the game more than Fury Road! That said, watching Fury Road just before playing it, helped ease me into the spirit of Max’s wasteland life.

Sadly though, no option to stick a garden fork across his mouth.

[1] At which I still suck
[2] My review “CHROMEY!”, Mrs Llama’s “That was awful”
[3] Sorry. Not sorry.
[4] Sorry Witcher 3, I love you dearly, but by the end of Blood and Wine I was fast-forwarding so many cut scenes…GET ON WITH IT!
[5] Black Mesa…man, this reminds me of something I’ve played before…

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