Mad Max is only operating at maximum efficiency when he's joined by his better half - a badass car. Max's deformed, Igor-like mechanical assistant, Chumbucket, refers to the game's featured vehicular murder machine as the Magnum Opus.
Pursuing and taking down enemy vehicles feels awesome. Max has tools like a turbo boost, spiked grill, tire-shredding rims, mounted guns, and flamethrowers at his disposal to take out the Wasteland's trash. I love the options available when it comes to dismantling enemy cars. Sidling up next to another car and watching sparks fly as your rims shred theirs. Seeing would-be hijackers accidentally impale themselves on your defensive spikes. Even good, old-fashioned head-on collisions are a blast when you engage the boost to obliterate your enemies with a beefy grill.
Modifying the Magnum Opus is almost as fun as driving it, but that's a topic we'll dive deeper into later in our month of exclusive online content.
Early on in Mad Max, Chumbucket helps our hero by attaching a harpoon weapon to the Magnum Opus. This gun's primary function is to launch a cable-tethered spear into objects, which can then be dragged or pulled with the car. Discovering new ways to dissect and demolish structures and enemies with the harpoon is one of Mad Max's most fun features.
Players can take aim on objects like fortress walls and sniper towers while driving, then use their car's momentum to yank them to bits. Even more fun is tearing pieces of a pesky foe's car apart, then eventually blasting the harpoon into the driver themselves. Winning a heated vehicular battle by dragging your enemy off the back of your car is rewarding.
Chase Down Convoys
The Road Warrior's unforgettable climax involves an intense assault on a moving caravan that's barreling through the Wasteland. Moments like this one have been integrated into Mad Max's open world. Players are likely to see huge clouds of dust billowing up in the distance. Should they follow these cues, they're likely to drive up on a convoy of up to 12 vehicles defending a lead truck carrying precious cargo.
Charging grill-first into these wheeled warriors isn't the smartest idea. Max could easily succumb to a rear-mounted flamethrower, get caught in a pincer attack between two cars' grinding rims, or be boarded by an enemy. Players are better off picking off cars one-by-one. Destroying the lead vehicle of a convoy scores Max a hood ornament, which can be attached to the Magnum Opus for an automotive stat boost.
White-Knuckle First-Person Driving
Mad Max is primarily a third-person action game, but players have the option to look through the Road Warrior's eyes when driving. I'm usually averse to driving in a restrictive first-person view when I have the option to see more of my surroundings in driving games, but this is different. Seeing Max's jagged metal-studded gloves and the beefy engine jutting out of the hood elicited a cathartic, joyful thrill I haven't felt while behind the wheel in a game for some time. The sense of speed when cruising down a worn road and the visceral impact of boosting into a wrecked enemy vehicle feels amazing.
Max is fast behind the wheel, but his more lumbering fighting style still packs a wallop. This bruiser's approach to combat feels inspired by the popular mechanics first seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Max doesn't have Bruce Wayne's martial-arts training, but he can manhandle enemies with a more straightforward and murderous approach, complete with visceral suplexes and leg locks.
Enemies surround Max, sizing him up before closing the gap for a punch. Max has the opportunity to counter these attacks and follow up with a flurry of brass-knuckle punches. His Fury Mode helps differentiate itself from similar combat systems, too. Following up light attacks with a heavy attack deals more damage to goons and fills his Fury level faster. Fighting enemies builds up a meter that, when activated, sends Max into an adrenaline-fueled state where he deals more damage faster than usual. Similar to another post-apocalyptic tale, The Last of Us, Max can pick up rare shivs to take enemies out of the equation even faster.
Taking Down Enemy Outposts
Ripping around the deadly desert is a blast, but one of my favorite mission types is clearing out a camp of nasty raiders with brutal style. Max always has some objective to accomplish in taking out these camps, like destroying an oil pump or blowing up a cache of fuel reserves.
Learning how to navigate these environments is just as satisfying as laying waste to a group of angry thugs. Some doors can't be busted down in these strongholds, so Max needs to find fuel canisters he can use to explode his way deeper. Thundersticks, often found in convenient armory racks, are TNT-strapped javelins which make blowing up far-off targets a breeze.
These camps also present lots of off-the-beaten-path locations where Max can loot scrap to upgrade his car or find a spare can of dog food to replenish his health. On top of finding tons of useful items, these camps also benefit players thanks to helpful Wasteland residents who move in after the rabble is bloodily evicted. Once claimed, outposts will independently generate scrap and fuel for Max.
Drive Into The Big Nothing
After Avalanche Studios told me that Mad Max's sizeable open Wasteland has soft boundaries, the first thing I did was drive straight for the edge of the map. The geographical indications that you're leaving the defined territory of the world are subtle. Gradually, things become flatter, dustier, and more desolate. Then, "Warning: You are entering The Big Nothing" flashes on the screen around the time you see a gigantic wall of sand rising off in the distance. The huge sandstorm seems like it might take several minutes to intercept you, but it barrels forth at a surprising clip.
Eventually, Max and his Magnum Opus are enveloped in a blinding cloud of dust. The winds send pieces of deadly debris flying towards your car, threatening to shred it to bits. However, the player's impetus (beside suicide) for driving into The Big Nothing lies within the extra-rare pieces of useful scrap metal flying within the storm. Unfortunately for me, my car is struck by the storm's lightning and explodes before I can collect anything useful.
Scavenge Like You Mean It
Foraging for supplies in a huge open world may sound like a chore, but Avalanche is turning the task into a satisfying process. Max can pick up bits of metal scrap to upgrade his car just by exploring, but taking on enemy vehicles reaps more rewards. Ramming into a bad guy's car and blowing it up causes flaming parts to rain down, which Max can collect and use to upgrade the Magnum Opus. However, more methodical players can choose to take out the enemy driver, hijack their vehicle, and drive it to the nearest safe house, where it can be converted into even more scrap. Don't worry about Max's car - Chumbucket will drive it right to you.
Punching out murderous raiders and taking down convoys is tough work, so Max needs to find food and water to keep his health up. Avalanche has remained true to the bleak world's premise, forcing players to hunt for sustenance like maggots on rotting corpses or eat out of a Dinki-Di dog food can. Additionally, Max can refill his canteen at various spigots and other water sources scattered throughout the waste. This precious resource can replenish Max's health on the go, but unfortunately each reservoir only has a limited supply.
Reclaiming the Wastes
Max has never suggested the Wasteland belongs to him, but he's never let any tyrannical raiders stand in his way either. Various uncouth characters have made names for themselves across this portion of the world. Their men run down, harass, and kill unsuspecting folks that venture into their territory. Max can make the world a safer place to explore by toppling scarecrows, clearing outposts, and killing Top Dogs.
One of these Top Dogs is Noosegut, a formidable boss-type character that can be confronted and killed to reduce the threat he poses in the area. This foe wields a huge hammer, forcing Max to take evasive maneuvers while trying to pinpoint the hulking enemy's weakness. Doing all these things reduces the appearance of enemy patrols and makes Max more powerful.
Getting A Vulture's View
Each time Max enters an unexplored section of the Wasteland, it's in his best interest to find a strategically placed balloon and ride it up to spot new objectives and points of interest. Don't get any ideas about floating away on the winds, however, because these aircraft are tethered to the ground by a permanent line.
Riding up in these balloons is a perfect way for Avalanche Studios to show off the expansiveness of the Wasteland. Players spot shiny indicators through a pair of dirty binoculars (think Dragon Age: Inquisition), then those things will appear on his map. These might include camps to overthrow, snipers to be wary of, or scavenging locations. But not all balloons are ready for easy access. Max sometimes has to hunt down a jerry can with a few drops of gasoline left or find ways to free up bolted-down balloons in order to get them operational.