Mad Max ReviewGuest_Jim_* -
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Even though driving is such an integral part of the game, I am going to start with some on-foot stuff. Basically being on-foot means you are doing one of three things. You are fighting enemies, clearing an area, or running to a car. The combat system is very similar if not identical to the fluid combat system we now find in several third-person games. It is not as extreme as some of those systems, as you will not find yourself crossing the room to hit an enemy on the other side. You may still end up targeting a player on the other side of the room, but you do not necessarily leap toward them.
At first I found the combat to be somewhat easy, but for some reason, as I progressed it got harder. Really it felt like I lost the timing of when to parry, and that could just be something with me. When you get surrounded by a large number of enemies, parrying can be very important, when possible. Some attacks cannot be parried and some off-camera enemies will attack you, but because they were off-camera, you obviously cannot respond to them. Still, the combat was never hard, per se. It could get a bit overwhelming, but then with the various upgrades you are able to acquire, nothing was that particularly difficult. Well, there was one exception, but that was a special case of one bug and a gameplay issue.
Like many other open-world games, there are camps for you to attack and liberate. When you approach a camp, it will become alerted and start attacking you. If you do not destroy the perimeter defenses in time, or run away, the defenses will be buffed. One of these defenses is a tower that will throw fire bombs at you, and can actually be useful. In some camps I took advantage of one of these towers to attack and destroy enemies and objects. The problem is that these towers will throw so many so fast when buffed that they can stun-lock you by repeatedly knocking you down, and can even hit you through walls. This particular camp apparently had a mechanic in place that only after defeating enough enemies would a door open. The problem was that the enemies the towers killed were not counted, so the door would not open for me. Fortunately I was able to reset the camp, more or less, by reloading the save. This allowed more enemies to spawn, so I killed them and the doors swung open as intended.
Speaking of saves, the game uses an auto-save system, so it will save automatically and pretty frequently, although you can manually save to the auto-save slot. When you load the save, you will spawn at the appropriate stronghold or camp.
Returning to the on-foot stuff, besides clearing camps there are also many scavenging locations to clear. These areas have scrap to collect as well as history relics and the other car bodies. Some also have water collectors, and these are marked with a water drop shape on the map. Once cleared the scavenging locations will disappear from the map, but the water drop will remain.
There are also encounters with people in the wasteland. I mentioned how some encounters provide you with scrap earlier, but some also provide missions, like completing epic jumps to grow your legend, and some give you intelligence on nearby camps. This intelligence delivery is a bit odd, because what the NPC actually says may include information not given in the window that pops up with the info, and the window very often includes information besides what was said. One example of this is when a wanderer suggested using knives on a Top Dog enemy, which are the mini-bosses/bosses of the game. In a previous encounter with one of these I found the knives to not be very effective, but they actually were useful with this one.
The reason I describe the Top Dogs as mini-bosses/bosses is that there really is no other boss-like enemy in the game, and their design is more what I would expect from a mini-boss. They have higher health, their attacks cannot be blocked, but they are stupid and can be dodged and attacked after swings of their weapons. While I have no complaint with this design, it does make the game somewhat repetitive as there is such little variation to the enemies throughout. The environments change, forcing some level of adaptation, and the challenge does increase, forcing some adaptation to tactics, but nothing too significant. For me it basically meant I started using my shotgun more at the end, because it could take out multiple enemies at once.
As you clear camps and scavenging locations, you will find project parts, which can be used at the region's stronghold to build something useful. These projects include items to refill different resources, like health, water, fuel, and ammo, as well as one for picking up scrap from destroyed cars, revealing all scavenging locations on the map, and awarding you scrap while out of the game (if you have an Internet connection, which I am guessing is a check on time away). Each completed camp will also award you with scrap every so often. I am not sure just how frequently it happens, but it can add up to a lot of scrap, so definitely take the time clearing them. Also clearing a camp lowers the threat level in the region, until it eventually frees it from Scrotus' patrols. You will still have groups of Roadkill enemies to deal with, so the wasteland will not be completely empty of danger.
In addition to clearing camps, removing snipers and tearing down Scarecrows will also reduce the threat level. Scarecrows are giant, grotesque towers meant to frighten people for Scrotus. Considering the number of hanging bodies on them, the fear makes sense. To find these points and the camps, and the death races you can participate in, you want to visit hot air balloons in each region. The concept is similar to the various towers in other games for revealing areas, although there can be a puzzle element for how to access the balloon, and once you are up in one, you have to manually scan the horizon with your binoculars to find points to mark on the map. This is easier than it sounds as you can leave the binocular view and look around, because dots will appear for each of these points, but only with the binoculars will you identify what they are and get them added to the map.
One kind of area you will only find by driving are minefields. These are areas with several destroyed cars in them, as well as three invisible mines to destroy any would-be scavenger. You can find them by chance, driving by in the Magnum Opus, but it is best to go out in Chum's Buggy as Dog can sense the fields and reveal the mines. To be honest, I think the design for Dog's behavior with the mines is not what was originally intended. It just feels like it would make more sense if instead of pointing you to the mines' locations, Dog jumped out of the buggy and ran over to the mines, digging them up to reveal them. This would explain why I noticed a buff of sand and dust each time one is revealed. I can think of several technical reasons why that is not the behavior, such as Dog's AI for it never quite working right, or even just making sure Dog remains with the Buggy, if you decide to just drive by a minefield, and not actually destroy the mines.
Because of the minefields, you will find yourself driving Chum's Buggy on multiple occasions, and not just the Magnum Opus. Sadly, only the Magnum Opus can receive any modifications. I say sadly because it would have been nice to have some means of modifying at least the Buggy, to give it better speed, acceleration, and/or handling.
There are many other cars you can drive, too, which you acquire by capturing them. None of these can be modified, many have variants, and they do have their uses. For one thing, cars of a particular faction will not be detected by that faction for a while, so you can get up close and even drive right into camps without being attacked. Some also have special weapons on them, like a means of dropping mines. I never really used these other cars, except the special car, The Twelve, because of its great speed. The reason I never really used any other vehicle is because the Magnum Opus is superior to them all. Only it can be repaired for free, just by stopping and letting Chum have at it. Only it offers weapons like the harpoon and Thunderpoon. Finally, only it can be called to you almost anywhere you wish. This is especially useful because you can drive around in whatever vehicle you want, and then when you need it, shoot off the flare to summon Chum, and you have the Magnum Opus at your full disposal.
By the way, fast travel only takes you and the Magnum Opus around the map; no other vehicle comes with you, so expect to drive the others from strongholds to where you need them. The fast travel points are the strongholds, the hot air balloons, and the Death Race locations.
The Death Races are races with some twists based on their designs, but they are called Death Races because your car has a bomb strapped to it. This makes sense, because for the traditional races, you could just kill or disable all your opponents, and finish whenever you wish. Other races involve running from enemies trying to kill you. Tried one of these and did not fare well, as I had very limited defensive capability in the non-Magnum Opus vehicle I was using, and the enemies were faster, so I could not out run them, or outmaneuver them. Except for a handful of Death Races, I never really bother with them, other than unlocking them as fast travel points. They can also be a source of Griffa tokens and fuel, but I found it easy enough to acquire both from other means.
Griffa tokens and scrap are the only two economic resources in the game. Scrap is used for upgrading the Magnum Opus and Max, and for quickly repairing any vehicle. Griffa tokens are limited to essentially stat improvements for Max, including maximum health, his efficiency with water and gasoline, and grants the Volition ability that gives extra scrap when you pick it up. While these abilities and improvements are useful, there are too few. I decided to play by completing regions before moving on. This meant that by the time I finished Act II I had already earned almost enough Griffa tokens to unlock every ability they can and take them to their max level. Granted this is not necessarily a normal way to play, but with half the map and game left to explore, it would be nice if there was some more to the Griffa system.
The vehicle upgrades are not quite so easy to unlock. Many cost a great deal of scrap, but you will earn it eventually, and some are only unlocked by missions. Curiously, some of the highest level upgrades can be unlocked before lower level ones. While it is nice to see progression is not completely dictated by the story, it is still odd to see the best stuff available before lower upgrades. I am not complaining here. I am just stating that it is odd.
Something else about the upgrade system that is very odd is that you can use it anytime and anywhere. If you want, you can enter the Garage menu and change out any option, including engine, car body, exhaust, armor, and more wherever you're at. This functionality I would have expected to be limited to the strongholds, but I can think of one reason why anywhere access is the best decision. It allows the balance of the different upgrades to be more extreme without sacrificing choice for the player. If players could only change upgrades at a stronghold, then they would always tend to keep the best armor and ram on, to be prepared. That limits what the player can experience, but by making it possible to change things on the fly, then the player can mess around and know they can go back to what they need for any situation. I would still like to have seen some greater depth to the upgrades, but this will do.
Something I have to mention with the upgrades is the Archangels. These are preset configurations for the Magnum Opus and make perfect sense to exist. These allow for some standardization for the Death Races, so you can race the Magnum Opus without being overpowered compared to the other vehicles. You also do need to build one for advancing the story, but I suspect that is more to introduce you to the Archangels, since once you build it you can modify the car as much as you wish afterward without penalty.
Obviously a big portion of the Magnum Opus' design is combat, because you will be taking on enemy drivers that you just happen upon, fight in missions, and discover in convoys. Grinders, rams, armor, boarding spikes, and weapons are all available to make your machine the most lethal out there. Ironically, there is a simple strategy that makes fighting with cars useless. When you encounter a normal group of enemy vehicles, they will engage you and try to attack you in their vehicles. If you are on foot they will try to run you down, unless you stand by a car. Apparently the enemy AI will respond to such an impediment by stopping their vehicles, and getting out to attack you in melee combat, which you have a great advantage in. If you are not near a car, they will keep trying to run you down. I used this strategy a few times to defeat enemies I likely could not if I had stayed in the Magnum Opus. One thing to note is that it will not work with convoys, unless you take out the lead truck. The truck will just keep driving, as will its escorts, if you do not stop it. That is the goal of taking on a convoy anyway, as the lead truck has a hood ornament that will give the Magnum Opus a special benefit, like better handling or top speed. You are able to carry two ornaments: one on the front and one on the back.
There is a lot more I could talk about, but I am going to stop here because what more there is, is also what you would naturally expect from the game anyway. There are different enemy factions to deal with, different surfaces with different driving experiences, unusual physics-like glitches that launch you into the air, and there are collectibles. All things you can expect from an open-world game like this.
One thing I have almost forgotten to mention is the Capture Mode. Simply put, it is easy to forget. It allows you to manipulate the camera and apply some filters for taking pictures, but the controls are a bit awkward. You orient the camera with the mouse, as you expect, and you move the camera's position around with the keyboard, but only in the horizontal plane of the camera's orientation. To go up or down you have to look up or down and press the forward or back button. This makes precisely aligning some shots very difficult.
The Video Mode for capturing is really odd because it actually requires a controller. The idea is one person plays the game while another, with the controller, manipulates the camera. This is done in real time, too, and not just recamming something after the fact.
I did mess around a little with the Capture Mode, but after realizing its awkward design, I more or less abandoned it. I did end up using it to give me a bird's-eye view, as you can move the camera freely around a bubble surrounding your character. It was useful for finding minefields, since they have a similar appearance of a car graveyard. Not its intended purpose, no, but the best use I could really find for it.
In total I spent 42 hours and 23 minutes playing Mad Max, completing the story, clearing out every camp, reducing threat levels completely everywhere, and leaving only one scavenging location not looted. I did not complete every Death Race, as I already said, nor have I collected every vehicle. Through this and some combination of other things, I only have 68% completion, but I am happy with this, because I cleared out the map. Not a bad playtime, considering how much I did.
If there is one complaint or criticism I can have for the whole of Mad Max it is how repetitious it can be. It is still a fun game and upgrades can add some variety, but a lot of what you do you will be doing multiple times, just in different places. The camps do have their own distinct design, but there is far more wasteland and other encounters than camps. The lack of variety to enemies does not help either, as there seemed to be just seven different types (basic, fast, heavy, shielded, suicidal, leaper, and shielded), with some minor variation, like faction, and if they have a weapon or not. I already talked about the mini-boss/boss design. Still, the game is fun and what it does, it does well. It just does a fair amount multiple times.