Max. My Name is Max. And What A Lovely Game it is.
My game of the year for ‘15 wasn’t The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Batman: Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Fallout 4, etc. Heck, to give even more perspective, my runner-up was Tales from the Borderlands. I predicted at the beginning of the year that I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the above listed major titles ended up being my “of the year” pick, but no. The choice I made came as…
“The biggest and most pleasantly satisfying surprises for me this year is Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max. It’s a shame ‘15 will pass with it being criminally overlooked, thus under-appreciated. (Thanks, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – both games released on the same exact day (Sept. 1.)” (via my Best [insert] of ‘15 list for The GWW (dot com)
Yep, Mad Max is my ‘15 game of the year. And I agree with what I wrote because, well, I wrote it. Also, however, Avalanche’s really, really, really great game has gone on to be, simply, not played by as many people as it deserves. A big reason is the one I wrote: release window. Another is I wouldn’t be at all shocked if you’d conduct a poll to see if any given uninformed person of the games industry saw Mad Max as a film companion tie-in to Mad Max: Fury Road, therefore they became turned off by it.
Mad Max and Fury Road are as separate as the word is defined. The closest they’re to each other is they, obviously, share the same famed silent protagonist in Max and overall world building is similar yet still different enough. Both are awesome for the mediums they represent. With that statement alone, it should impress because George Miller is the mastermind behind the character and environment of the films. Avalanche does a fantastic job of creating their own take on the wasteland while keeping from being boring to play in the literal sandbox and look at.
And a “sandbox” it sure is. When it comes to progression, Mad Max has one of the best in a game I’ve ever come across. The way its laid out could be a bit better but in terms of the instant gratification after upgrading say Max’s skills in hand-to-hand combat or as detailed as the type of exhaust pipes the Magnum Opus flaunts. Customization is so deep. If you’re a car junkie, name it and you can probably upgrade it. Max and the Opus uniquely become yours by the end of your playthrough.
“How cool is it that your car is basically your companion?,” Andrew Reiner, executive editor at Game Informer wrote in the feature Is Mad Max One of the Top 50 Games of 2015? “You care about that thing almost as much as you do Max.”
Mad Max is much like the more recent open-world game experiences over the last few years. It imitates the Arkham series’ combat system, albeit with a some neat additions to make it feel more brutal than the dance Batman comes off as. The side-quests and map checklist of places to scavenge and strongholds to take over are countless and extremely similar to the way Far Cry 3 and 4 did it. These game mechanics all loop into a story that would probably bore a non-fan of the Mad Max film franchise. For a fan such as myself, this is Mad Max. That’s all I could ever have asked for from a game iteration on this world.
I loved exploring it too, even 30+ hours later. I became obsessed with the tools Avalanche gave me, something the films can’t because of the medium it has been in for 31 years. I was able to drive a car as Max in the wasteland and be involved in some awesomely explosive car chases, usually caused by me…thankfully.