It’s not so much “bring me the hori­zon” as “smash into the hori­zon re­ally fast” in Mad Max

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - EXTRA - Hal Tar­rare

“Re­turn­ing to Mad Max is a joy – it hasn’t aged, be­cause very few other games copied it”

There’s some­thing beau­ti­ful to me about look­ing across Mad Max’s blasted hori­zon. It’s not Avalanche’s still-un­matched work in turn­ing the colour brown into a gen­uinely gor­geous pal­ette with which to work, nor the dust clouds kicked up by one of the sparse world’s end­lessly rac­ing con­voys, or even the oc­ca­sional roil­ing, gen­uinely fright­en­ing desert storm ripped straight out of Fury Road. It’s that there’s al­most never an icon to clut­ter the view.

The game doesn’t dis­pense with the scat­ter­shot sto­ry­telling and goalset­ting of its open world peers – far from it – it just chooses to dis­pense that in­for­ma­tion a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. Pass­ing a point of in­ter­est doesn’t flash any­thing on your screen un­til you’re prac­ti­cally in­side it, set­ting a way­point adds noth­ing more than a green line on the mini-map. The clos­est you’ll get to the peb­bledash UI of your com­mon-or-gar­den Ubisoft game is a sin­gle, small marker, hov­er­ing above the hood of a nearby con­voy leader to help you iden­tify the right car to smash. There’s a re­spect for the hori­zon in this one-off open world, and it goes be­yond a sim­ple aes­thetic choice.

Road thrill

Among the first things you’re shown in the game is the ending – it’s the giant belch of black smoke com­ing from the North, sig­ni­fy­ing Gas­town, your new nemesis, Scabrous Scro­tus, and the last known rest­ing place of your beloved, stolen car. The en­tire game, in other words, is a push to reach the hori­zon.

It goes fur­ther. By re­mov­ing icons telling you where to look, look­ing sud­denly means more. A plume of smoke is an ob­vi­ous tell, but what about cir­cling birds, the back half of a car wreck pok­ing from the sand, a rusted oil pipe­line that sud­denly just ends? What would usu­ally be noth­ing more than set dressing sud­denly be­comes rich in pos­si­bil­ity, just be­cause the game re­fuses to con­firm or deny whether you’re right. The map fol­lows suit. Mad Max might have its own equiv­a­lent of tow­ers to climb – pleas­antly quiet teth­ered hot air bal­loons – but once you get to the top there’s no radar pulse or ea­gle vi­sion. You whip out your binoc­u­lars and spot things your­self. Even then, not ev­ery­thing’s au­to­mat­i­cally marked, mean­ing that you need to keep your bear­ings once you’re up in the air, so as to visit what you saw from a bird’s eye view at ground level. For once in an open world game, you’re not con­cen­trat­ing on the min­imap, fol­low­ing mag­i­cal lines drawn on the floor, or speed­ing to­wards col­umns of light you’ve placed down. You’re just go­ing where you think you should go, whether that’s some­thing as grand as “re­claim­ing what was right­fully mine”, or as pro­saic as “I hope there’s some wa­ter over there be­cause my HP’s low and I don’t want to watch Max eat mag­gots again”.

This strange, ex­ploratory feel­ing makes re­turn­ing to Mad Max a joy – it hasn’t aged, be­cause very few other games copied it. It also makes Mad Max a more pon­der­ous game than oth­ers of its ilk – and that prob­a­bly af­fected its rep­u­ta­tion when it ar­rived. But in a world where the lat­est Zelda, or Red Dead Re­demp­tion II ex­ist – both games that put a premium on quiet­ness, and player-led goals – Mad Max sud­denly looks for­ward-think­ing, even vi­sion­ary. And do ei­ther of those games fea­ture a cack­ling hunch­back who sits on the back of your car and screams at you to ram pass­ing dune bug­gies? No they do not. Head back, and see what the hori­zon holds for you.

Pub­lisheR Warner Bros / Developer Avalanche / For­mat Xbox One / re­lease date Septem­ber 2015

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.