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Mad Max was a great ‘fast food’ game

Content of the article: "Mad Max was a great ‘fast food’ game"

I played through this game over the past few weeks because I heard they were shutting the online servers off which would make one of the trophies impossible to get, so I figured I might as well get it done now since I got the game through PS Plus a year or two ago. I actually had a pretty good time, all things considered. I knew from the outset that this was the epitome of the '7/10 Game' and that's totally true – but sometimes that's exactly what the doctor ordered.

To be clear, if you've played any Western AAA open world game released between 2012 and 2017, you've played this game. It has every cliche in the book. The world is split into regions which are further split into sub-regions which you reveal by using hot air balloons (towers), there are about six or seven types of task for you to do which include clearing enemy camps, destroying scarecrows (statues/propaganda/mini-towers), destroying enemy convoys (high level enemies of which there are a finite amount) and scavenging for loot (not literal loot, just currency and collectibles). Each region has a 'threat level' which you lower by accomplishing these tasks, thus granting better upgrades and access to new locations. Everything is neatly presented in a series of checklists for you to complete. It's repetitive and unoriginal, but dang it, I keep coming back. Or at least, I'm not sick of it just yet (nearly 30 hours).

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Obviously I know that the game, like pretty much all open world games from that period, are designed this way to give you a consistent source of dopamine and make you want to clear one more objective. They're never too far away, there are plenty of them, and it feels good to see the colour of the map gradually brighten as you clear the hazards. Call it psychological manipulation if you will, but it's like fast food – it's not fine cuisine, but it's cheap, it's tasty and it fills you up. You'll forget about it 30 minutes after you're done, but sometimes that kind of dumb fun is exactly what you want in your life.

Games have mostly moved away from this design and it's for the best, open worlds are becoming more interactive, more detailed and varied, more immersive, encouraging player curiosity and exploration more than following waypoints on the minimap. So in that aspect Mad Max probably won't age super gracefully.

The combat in the game is fun. It's not deep or thoughtful. Ground combat is ripped straight from the Batman games. In vehicles, you can do a side-bash, use your shotgun, rip wheels off with the harpoon, or even blow them up outright with the thunderpoon. There's not really a lot of strategy, but the game does a great job of really letting you feel the hits through its animations and sound design. Again it's not exactly a Naughty Dog game, but the fighting animations are crunchy and brutal, there's a slow-mo effect that's used on finishing blows, and sound effects come out of the PS4 controller. Watching a car explode after you fire a rocket at it is something that's just inherently pleasing to see. So even if it's mechanically pretty basic, it's still really satisfying on a more raw, primal level. It's essentially like that meme where the bearded guy is like "haha car goes boom".

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The game's narrative was a big load of nothing, there weren't many story missions but they were spread out via forcing you to clear open world objectives to a certain point before advancing. None of the characters were particularly memorable and the game's attempts at trying to make me care were laughable. It's so funny to me that the one character the game wants me to feel attached to is this sexy red-haired woman with an American accent while everyone else is ugly and disgusting and talks with an Aussie accent. It's dumb, and all of its emotional moments fell completely flat, but I didn't care. I wasn't playing it for a gripping story, I don't even watch the films for a gripping story.

In short, this isn't exactly a game I would blindly recommend, but as a palate cleanser between bigger, better games (I recently finished Death Stranding and I'm probably going to play Jedi Fallen Order soon), it was really enjoyable. Great game to play while listening to podcasts.

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