Mad Max, video game, title, box art, wasteland, bridge, guns

Flying under the Soliton Radar

Forget Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – it’s all about Mad Max for Ben. Here he gives his first impressions of the game and how it lets you write your own story.

Title overview
Name: Mad Max
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release date: September 2015
PEGI rating: 18
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
More information: Official website

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Ben says…

You’d be forgiven if you thought Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was the only game released on 01 September 2015. It was on the side of every bus, enjoyed mass social media coverage and even the occasional teelvision spot. Throw in a waterfall of glowing reviews and player chatter, and it’s quite some noise – certainly loud enough to drown out any other title released on the same day.

And yet flying underneath the Soliton Radar with virtually zero-marketing or presence is Mad Max. It’s a game that lets you write your own story in a way that I’ve found quite different to others in the genre.

Many commentators have criticised the game for the emptiness of the wasteland and the repetitive nature of Max’s missions, but part of me wonders if this was a deliberate design ploy. It seeks to give the player an experience of being a man hell-bent on surviving in a destroyed land; the only way he can do so (and then escape) is by building a car out of what scrap he can gather and fuel he can siphon. Vast open spaces, running errands as favours for those who have what you need and securing valuable resources are repetitive but necessary and, most likely, an accurate reflection of what it would be like.

Vehicles – and access to the petrol that fuels them – are status symbols. Ownership means power. It makes sense then that you would be willing to fight tooth and nail, do anything asked of you even if it was the same thing again and again to have a vehicle and fuel. Especially if you are going to use it to drive your way out.

Perhaps the greatest strength of having minimal plot and guidance in Mad Max is that it gives the player the opportunity to write their own story. There is real variety on how you can construct your Magnum Opus (Max’s car), Max himself and the tale you decide to tell. Do you take down the oil pumps and fields to weaken the local warlords or do you just hunt for scrap in small outposts and hideouts? Maybe both? There are so many opportunities for random enemy encounters and with such fantastic car combat that every adventure is unique.

The size and scale of the map truly makes the player feel small, like it really is just you against the world and it’s that driving (pun intended!) the story you want to tell. How you reach your overarching goal of ‘build epic car’ is entirely up to you and the adventures you write in your head and through play are incredibly rewarding as a result – mainly because they’re spontaneous.

I get the sense that Max’s journey through the wasteland will never be the same for any two players. While the story is topped and tailed nicely, it’s the player-controlled meat-filling the middle that will remain the most memorable.

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