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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Mad Max.

Transcript Edit

As much as it paints a very reductive portrayal of the mentally ill, I feel kinda sorry for Mad Max. It's such good video game adaptation material. Christ knows why it's been fucking around with movies around for so long. Movies are all like, "Ooh, look! A little film about S&M perverts driving around a desert and blowing each other up. Well, the Academy need look no further for the best dramatic screenplay candidate, fnahahahaha." Meanwhile, video games are all like, "S&M perverts driving around and blowing each other up? Where the fuck do I sign? Along your cock, using my saliva instead of ink? Can do!" 

So Mad Max, or, as it's called in its native land, 'Med Mex', finally rolls into Video Game Town (disregarding the Mad Max game on the NES, which doesn't count for a whole lot because fucking Wayne's World had a game on the NES) only to find that the industry is way ahead of it and we've already played what might as well have been the Mad Max video game about seventeen times already by my count, between Borderlands, Rage, Carmageddon, the entire Fallout franchise and, to a lesser extent, Mario Kart.

In a post-apocalyptic Australian outback, whose population has a slightly bafflingly-large percentage of people with American accents, Max Rockatansky is doing what he's always doing at the start of Mad Max stories, that is to say, bugger all. Drifting about, squinting into the middle distance until he falls foul of this week's roaming gang of S&M murderers, who will in some way fuck him over so he can mad all over them. 

Sure enough, one comes along and Max battles them in an overlong intro cinematic with a textbook case of "Why the fuck didn't they make this a playable prologue?", before losing his car and his jumper and being left for dead in the desert. Shortly, the other thing that always happens in Mad Max stories happens: he stumbles upon an insane person and teams up with them, although he tries his damnedest not to. 

Mad Max's personality I would rate a point seven on the Kratos scale of anti-hero-so-riddled-with-generic-anger-it-works-against-their-own-best-interests. He's filled with naked indignation whenever a character has the balls to be in his presence without bashing their heads in on the floor amid a stream of progressively slurred apologies. But who cares if the protagonist's personality is more repellent than a cast-iron toilet brush, as long as he has a relatable goal. Max sets out on an epic quest to... urmm... actually what the hell are we doing here? Well, we're antagonizing the local warlord, but that's more of a hobby thing, that's what Max does when there's no Games Workshop nearby where he can buy new paints for his Warhammer miniatures. No, that's just in aid of his main, if you pardon the pun, driving motivation, which is to make his car really nice. But you can be halfway through the game and driving a spiky death metal monster that fires rockets and plays ice cream van music and the game just keeps trundling along, shrugging its shoulders as to where the hell it's going. 

It's a sandbox in almost the most literal sense, in that you explore a whole bunch of sand and do a lot of bare-knuckle boxing. But it's the kind of sandbox where you're getting more of your money's worth in the side activities. If you only follow the critical path, you'll play the story of a man who shows up at friendly camps, promises them the earth and then fucks off to the next one, like a wasteland Jehovah's Witness. But Mad Max isn't just a sandbox game, it's the sandbox game, that is, the thing every sandbox game is now. You look for collectable caches of in-game currency, you go to some kind of observation tower thing that reveals all the in-game currency in the near vicinity, you bring down enemy strongholds to reduce threats and acquire more in-game currency, and then you spend it all on upgrades to make it easier to get in-game currency. In this case, it's scrap, which Max can use to upgrade his car and himself, for life is hard in the wasteland and the only way to learn new fighting techniques is to eat large quantities of jagged rusty metal. 

It made me think of Shadow of Mordor a little bit, and that in turn made me think (That's right, my brain can think about a whole two things, you jelly?) that "the sandbox game" has now become what the third-person-shooter was not too long ago: the default setting that tends to get rolled out for generic action games after the creative team have sat around a blank whiteboard all morning and have started hankering for an early lunch. Not that there's anything wrong with "the default game" - it's a staple, like bread. But without butter and/or luncheon meat, bread by itself's fit only for pigeons. Remember Kane & Lynch 2? I've been trying not to over the years, with the able assistance of Dr. Bleach. Putting aside the horrible camera effects and sweaty old man buttocks, it was shit because the gameplay had nothing besides the default third-person shooting. It was just bread and buttocks. 

The default game lives and dies on a unique selling point, like Shadow of Mordor's little black book of orcs. So what is Mad Max's USP? "Well, there's cars." Cars in a sandbox game? Shut your mouth! That would be like putting Bulgarian women in the Bulgarian women's national handball team. Car combat, I should say: as you drive around, you frequently run into convoys of enemy vehicles of some errand or another, that isn't so important they can't take time out to hound you remorselessly to your death. But that was more an annoyance than an impromptu break out of wacky races fun times, when you're trying to reach the next observation balloon and someone's grill is trying to french-kiss your exhaust pipe. I eventually found it much more efficient to get out of my car and stand next to a big wall, then watch the little cogwheels turn in the heads of the enemy drivers, until they realize they can't ram me without totaling their vehicle, and now have to get out for some of that now standard punch-counter combat that I am betting the Arkham Asylum people really wish they patented.  

Right, now let's get to that observation balloon so in future I can fast-travel past all this bullshit. "What was that?" says the game, "please call down a massive dust storm? Well, since you insist!" I never figured out what the fuck I was supposed to do in dust storms. If I'm supposed to wait for it to pass, then it takes way too fucking long, 'cause I always gave up and went back to the nearest friendly outpost. I tried to use the observation thingy regardless, but for some stupid reason the game doesn't think it's a good idea to fly hot air balloons in howling gales of jagged metal. 

So Mad Max is a resounding "meh". It's got a perfectly adequate, if occasionally buggy, sandbox setup, but the only USP seems to be the fact that it fucks you about on your way to places, which is precisely the same USP as the Birmingham one-way system.

Addenda Edit

  • Moderately perturbed Malcolm: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • You'd think the S&M murder squad in the desert would want to wear something that breathes a bit better than leather
  • Bruce Spence sadly does not appear

Trivia Edit

  • The a titular character drives a 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT coupe AKA Pursuit Special from the titular franchise.
  • The titular game holds a Volkswagen type 1 before smashing 2 Citroen 2cvs together.
  • An Evil Imp sits in the driver's seat of a Citroen 2cv before getting out to fight Mad Max.
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2

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