“Be­fore the bombs fell, it was once the floor of a vast ocean”

Find­ing beauty in the waste­land of Mad Max


At first glance, the Great White looks like any other postapoc­a­lyp­tic waste­land. An ex­panse of bar­ren desert lit­tered with the re­mains of the old world. But then you re­al­ize that, be­fore the bombs fell, it was once the floor of an ocean. You see the rusted car­casses of boats buried in the sand and rag­tag set­tle­ments built around con­tain­ers spilled from cargo ships long ago. What used to be a sea­wall is now an im­pen­e­tra­ble fort with an in­tim­i­dat­ing, fire-spew­ing gate block­ing ac­cess to the Dead Bar­rens be­yond. And your faith­ful me­chanic Chum­bucket’s tem­ple is a vast, up­turned cargo ship. It’s a unique take on the world of MadMax, and won­der­fully evoca­tive.

Even­tu­ally, you break through the gate and jour­ney into the Dead Bar­rens, which was once the coast­line of that for­got­ten ocean. Here, you find the ru­ins of small coastal towns and the fallen tur­bines of a wind farm—a last at­tempt to avert the oil cri­sis that trig­gered the world’s col­lapse. Head north, and you’ll reach the Dunes, an area swal­lowed up by sand. It’s mostly an empty desert roamed by ruth­less ban­dits, then you see some­thing like the tip of a spire pok­ing out of the dunes, giv­ing you an idea of just how deep it is. There’s a sur­pris­ing amount of va­ri­ety in this wasted land.

As you drive from the Great White through the Dead Bar­rens and up to the Dunes, a pic­ture forms in your mind of what this land­scape would have looked like be­fore the world went to shit. There’s a con­sis­tency to

It’s one of the pret­ti­est, most at­mo­spheric open worlds on PC

its de­sign that isn’t ob­vi­ous, but emerges the longer you spend there. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into the map’s struc­ture. The de­vel­op­ers have thought about where things should be rel­a­tive to one an­other, rather than just stuff­ing it full of cool im­agery.

Whole New WOrld

It’s one of the pret­ti­est, most at­mo­spheric open worlds on PC, and con­fi­dent enough to make its own mark on es­tab­lished Mad Max lore. There are some ref­er­ences for se­ries fans, like the re­mains of a war rig in a col­lapsed tun­nel, and a bat­tle in a thun­der­dome, but oth­er­wise it’s a new world. And I like how vague it is about where it’s set. The right-hand drive cars and Aussie ac­cents sug­gest we’re in Aus­tralia. Then you see a sign for Gallup, a city in New Mexico, and clues that this might be some­where in the for­mer USA.

But MadMax has al­ways been in­con­sis­tent. The Road War­rior is a leg­end of the waste­land, and each film is a story about him told around a camp­fire, with ex­ag­ger­a­tions and em­bel­lish­ments. A trend the game con­tin­ues, sug­gest­ing de­vel­oper Avalanche un­der­stand the movies be­yond its vi­su­als. And that’s why it’s such a suc­cess. It cap­tures the tone, haunt­ing land­scapes, and myth­i­cal as­pect of the char­ac­ter per­fectly. This makes it feel like a le­git­i­mate part of the MadMax world, and not just a spinoff to co­in­cide with FuryRoad.

The waste­land is full of evoca­tive scenery.

Max gazes across the vast­ness of the Great White.

A rare mo­ment of peace in the Dead Bar­rens.

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