Note: This article was written by freelancer DeMorris Edberson. If you would like to learn more about getting paid to freelance for Xbox Enthusiast, please check out this page for more information. The opinions are purely that of the author and do not reflect the entire XBE staff.
It’s a great time to be a gamer, particularly a console gamer. In the last couple of weeks, there have been so many amazing games that have been released, and it’s been very difficult to keep up with them all. Just in the last month we have seen Madden 16, Dishonored: Definitive Edition, Rare Replay, Disney Infinity 3.0, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Forza Motorsport 6, Destiny, Fifa 16, and this little title that’s seemingly taken over the gaming schedule of many a player (including myself)….the absolute juggernaut known as Metal Gear Solid V.
Now you wouldn’t be doing anything wrong to have invested in any of the aforementioned titles, in fact all of those are amazing in their own right, covering many interests and varied genres. There is a game that has came out recently in the midst of all those others, though, and that is Mad Max.
Developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, Mad Max is a game that I feel is a victim of circumstance. This circumstance has caused the reaction to the game to be very mixed, to say the least. The vast majority of professional reviews , though not necessarily negative per se, have been very middling, with average to low scores that have affected the perception of the game’s worth. But on the opposite end of the spectrum the user reviews, have told a very different story, with a largely positive reception.
THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN REVIEWERS AND CONSUMERS
Now, this isn’t meant to create a rift between gaming journalists and gamers themselves, but this is something I feel needs to be addressed. There seems to be a difference of opinion when it comes to those who are paid to play the game for professional purposes and those who have purchased the game to play for personal purposes. The professional reviewers say that the game is full of “tedious and repetitive busy work”, while the consumer reviews say that the game has “massive amounts of gameplay with plenty of side quests”. The issue here is that both sides are speaking of the very same tasks in the very same game. Why is this? I feel it has less to do with trying to view one side as being right or wrong, because being quite honest, both sides of are technically correct. Mad Max is a game with a HUGE world with lots of tasks that are spread out over the world that are critical to being able to advance the story.
This creates the issue where the sheer amount of things to do seem like a chore to some, but as fun gameplay with lots of content to others. So it’s really more a matter of perspective. When a game is being reviewed, there is usually a deadline to be met, meaning that as much of the game needs to completed as quickly as possible, in most cases trying to finish it, to be able to present what is thought of as the best possible views on the worth of the title to the consumer. Well, when it comes to said consumer, the game can be digested at their own pace, in their own leisure. There is no pressure to finish everything to be able to present an opinion which then may or may not influence the next consumer. But an opinion can still be presented.
When the game is played at a more deliberate pace, there is more opportunity for those cool personal moments, because the game is being experienced in a more organic manner. Those organic and personal moments, when shared with others through word of mouth or via online streaming, give a wholly different view of the game than the typical large scale review has to give. I have noticed this trend before in the past, but Mad Max has been the game that has made the very stark contrast between reviewers and consumers stand out very sharply.
THE SUM OF ITS PARTS
Let me say this first: Mad Max is graphically gorgeous, for a world that is mostly desert, the developers have done an amazing job of making the desolate wasteland look absolutely beautiful, including excellent draw distances, and textures that have to be seen to be believed. Rust looks like rust, to the point where you feel like you need a tetanus shot. Sweat soaked clothing looks appropriately dirty, and the denizens of this post apocalyptic wasteland look grotesque, with flesh growths and tumors, as they should, given the subject matter its based on. But as far as the gameplay, Mad Max, for all intents and purposes, isn’t a very original title. This isn’t me saying its bad, this is my saying that its not original in its execution.
This game takes a vast open world, which if you’ve played any of the previous outings from Avalanche, particularly the Just Cause series, you know they can do open world VERY well. The map is virtually infinite, with no true boundary, other than the amount of resources (gas and water) you can take with you or can procure along the way. Avalanche then throws in a vehicular combat and customization system that is very reliant on finding the scrap that is well hidden throughout the open world, thus taking advantage of the inate need for players to find all the loot.
While out hunting for resources you may come across an enemy outpost that is not marked on the map or even encounter a random storm (if you’ve seen the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, you know what this is) that could possibly net you valuable scrap or parts. And then they throw in a nice helping of third person exploration and combat, that is a very reminiscent yet slightly simplified version of the contextual combat from the Batman Arkham series, where you choose between when and what direction to strike or counter. Max, being the nomad he is, naturally doesnt have the grace or gadgets of Batman, so his attacks lend more to brawling, relying more on deadly force by using items such as knives and shotguns in combat to lethally dispatch of his enemies.
This makes his combat seem sluggish, but more visceral and raw. What all of this means is that you have a game that takes parts of different games and mixes them all into one. It does each part very well, but no one area every truly outshines another.
Lets just be honest here, releasing on September 1st, alongside Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, has not done Mad Max any favors at all. Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus (pun definitely intended) is nothing short of a masterpiece that has no doubt cast a huge shadow on every game that has released around it.
Unfortunately when having to make a budget for their purchases, buying two AAA releases in one day isn’t something the average consumer can do. Especially coming off the summer season and then with the extremely busy fall/winter coming with such huge releases as Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Call of Duty Black Ops III, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Fallout 4, and Halo 5: Guardians. Mad Max released in such a way that it would instantly appeal to those who were already planning to buy it (like myself), but unfortunately to a good majority of gamers, its seen as the lesser title that released that day and is seemingly doomed to be lost in the shuffle.
In my own opinion, Mad Max could possibly be the best game that nobody is playing or really even talking about. This is an almost criminal offense because the game truly is worth giving a try. Even if it doesn’t become an overwhelming commercial success, maybe Mad Max will receive critical acclaim and become a sleeper hit, such as other games like Beyond Good and Evil, Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor, and Spec Ops: The Line. Mad Max might even become a budget title or a Games with Gold offering in the future….one can only hope.
But why wait?