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Why Do I Like This: Mad Max


Why Do I Like This is a series that takes a look at games I know are bad/flawed/really not all that good, but still tickle the hell out of me nonetheless. Inherently different from ”guilty pleasures,” these are games I have no shame in playing, but feel rightfully wrong about liking due to their very nature. I’ll analyze the negative features of the game and try to rationalize why after all evidence telling me I shouldn’t, I still like it. After all, nobody’s perfect.

I know a couple of weeks ago I kind of railed against a popular end-of-world, open-world game for being mostly derivative and unambitious in scope. This week, I’m going to dedicate the inaugural Why Do I Like This post to a seemingly unpopular end-of-world, open-world game that is mostly derivative and unambitious in scope – Mad Max.

Don't get too excited - it's rarely this frenetic. Or fun.

The game, as you may know, allows you to play a Max Rockatanksy, the main character from the Mad Max series of films, as he traipses through the blank post-apocalyptic nothingness in search of…things. Gas? War? Solitude? It’s never been exactly clear. Just go with it. As Max, you’re tasked with helping random survivors and territory-owners in the wasteland obtain crucial elements – such as steel, gunpowder, and weaponry – in exchange for small perks from said stocks (doesn’t seem to really work out in Max’s favor, but whatever). You of course fight baddies, race cars, and talk with NPC’s throughout the 15-ish hour long campaign and eventually see the end credits as Max saves the day yet again (kinda).

Throughout the course of the game, however, one notices just how very few original ideas exist as far as game features and mechanics are concerned. For starters, the game is essentially Assassin’s Creed as far as mission structure and endless collectables goes; as you go to different parts of the map, you find new little areas (outposts, really) at which to beat dudes senseless and collect a small trinket for your troubles. The map is as sprawling as it is packed with essentially giant wastes of time, so driving around for hours on end will eventually net you enough in-game currency to add a new piece of armor to your car! Wheeeeeee!

Did you like the fighting mechanics from the Arkham games? Not as much as the Mad Max developers did! This game pretty much lifts the fighting mechanics from Rocksteady’s broody masterpiece beat-for-beat(down), essentially giving the player the same (but obviously inferior) experience. As your only other method of defeating opponents is shooting them with a shotgun (or running them over), you’re going to be doing a lot of Batman punching during your time with the game. I hope you like timing reversals with the Triangle button!

This seriously took me like 20 minutes to do.

It’s easy to compare open-world games to GTA, but it’s also easy to make games that work with mission systems and driving mechanics just like GTA, so who’s the lazy one here? You encounter random people in the dusty map that give you (extremely) light missions to go accomplish as you drive around in your car, with physics taken straight from the eponymous series (to the point of HITTING TRIANGLE TO STEAL A CAR WHY DOES THIS GAME USE TRIANGLE SO LIBERALLY). And don’t get me started on the poorly-implemented races that do nothing but irritate you when you lose this race for the fifteenth goddamn time before finally resorting to exploits to win. Throw in some GTA: San Andreas (or Crackdown [or Just Cause {or literally anything else at this point}]) style territory control features, and you’ve got yourself a game! Yeah!

Throw in some Fallout (kooky characters, endless “dungeons” to loot), Just Cause (grappling hook –like mechanic on your car), and Twisted Metal (car combat which inevitably gets stale) and you’ve got yourself a standard current-gen game! So, despite the ~600 words I’ve used to explain why I probably shouldn’t like it, one question yet remains:

Why do I like this?

My lawyers and I are reviewing the case of The State vs. Wes's Opinion of Mediocre Game.

I think we can start with the time it requires to play a game; I don’t have a ton of time to sit in front of a TV and push buttons on a controller to make an imaginary figure do stuff I probably couldn’t do in real life, so when I do indulge, I tend to stick to something I can easily jump in and out of. With a game like Mad Max, everything is so instantly familiar that I don’t need to spend a lot of time learning new game mechanics, figuring out how to solve any issues that may arise during my time with the game, or mastering any new skills; I can instantly pick up the controller, punch the absolute shit out of a bunch of multicolored wastelanders, and go about my getting some quality Me-time.

Apart from the time it takes to learn a new game, what I like about Mad Max is that it’s accessibly unambitious. This means that they didn’t invest a ton of time into long cinematics or enormous setpieces, but instead opted to make a more or less functional game that got the basics right without adding a lot of fluff. Since most things in the game take relatively little time to complete (EXCEPT THE GODDAMN “MASH X TO OPEN THIS CRATE/KICK DOWN THIS DOOR WHY IS THIS HERE?!) I can get bite-sized chunks of the game complete in a short hour or so session, making it not at all unlike properly-designed mobile titles. Ain’t nobody got time for hours-long gaming sessions requiring coordination between people for an optimal gaming experience.

Like mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, Mad Max is a comfort food. It’s set in an already-established universe into which the player doesn’t have to devote a lot of time to understand (assuming you’re familiar with the films [as I’m assuming if you aren’t, you’re likely not playing the game]). I know Max. I know he’s quite mad. I know he likes to punch stuff. I don’t have to commit brainpower to new characters or concepts or lands. Like a nice dinner roll, it’s more filler than anything else, but I gobble it up anyway.

Most of all, the game is mindless fun. As mentioned, all of its mechanics are sound and work more or less exactly as they should, making for an incredibly familiar, but thankfully competent, experience. I haven’t encountered any major bugs, I know when I die it’s typically my own damn fault, and since I know what to expect from it I don’t get disappointed. It’s the copycat serial killer of triple-A game development, and you know what? It basks in its role. Like your last-minute prom date it may not be the flashiest thing around, but you’ll at least get a happy ending.

Me, finally getting the satisfaction I deserve as a strong, competent, and independent late-20s woman. Thanks, Mad Max!

And isn’t that what we wanted all along?

What did you think of Mad Max? Did I give it too little credit for its achievements? Why has it taken my dad 29 years to purchase cigarettes? Let me know in the comments!

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About Wes Tacosone of us since 9:23 PM on 11.29.2011

Contest Baboon, part-time Mod, full-time dick joke specialist. Destructoid's official Hot Biscuits.

I've personally backed exactly one KickStarter/crowdfunding project: Sony's PlayStation, by Dtoid community member darrenhupke.
PSN ID:pmanningrocks


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