'Mad Max' Is the Waypoint 101 Game for May 2018

It could never live up to 'Fury Road,' but what can we learn from it in retrospect?
May 7, 2018, 10:44pm

I could feel the excitement leave me every time I saw a little bit more of 2015's Mad Max. It was an unfair situation, really: It released months after Mad Max: Fury Road, an action movie that made me remember how much I loved action movies, one that didn't so much transcend the genre distinction so much as execute on it in a way that reminded me of its potential. The war rig, the puffs of colored smoke across blue sky, the grey wastes, the convoy kicking up dust. Everything was big and bold, and as columnist Cameron Kunzelman points out, hopeful too.


It was so easy to hope a Mad Max game would capture some of that feeling. But if Fury Road felt expansive in its understanding of the action genre, in previews (and in the quick look I eventually sat in on over at Giant Bomb) Mad Max the game seemed restrained and limited. Partially that had to do with the glut of open world action games in the years surrounding its release (to say nothing of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which released day-and-date with Mad Max). But it was also because because Just Cause 2 had, in 2010, shown that Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios were absolutely capable of delivering in gaming the same feeling of exuberant action that Fury Road served in film.

So, I skipped on the game. As did the rest of Waypoint's editorial team. As did, I suspect, many other people. We had other, more exciting games to play after all. And fuck. Furiosa wasn't even in this thing!

But in the time since, there has been a murmur, as there often is when a game gets looked over. "Mad Max wasn't that bad," it started, a broad defense before more specific apologia would form. "Best skyboxes in the medium," tweets an acquaintance. "The hand-to-hand combat was so-so, but the driving felt great," said a friend. "Some really bad story beats," says a forum post, "but the dialog is so unique and distinct." And then most important of all: "Hey, did you see that Mad Max is free on Xbox Game Pass and part of PS Plus this month?" Well, yes, I did see that actually.

Listen to the most recent episode of Waypoint 101, on Fortnite, right here:

And so, Mad Max becomes May's game for Waypoint 101, our semi-regular podcast, forum thread, and streaming series where our editors and you, the Waypoint community play through a game we missed or would like to revisit. Which doesn't always mean a game we think will be great, or even particularly good. In fact, from Binary Domain to ZombiU, a lot of Waypoint 101 games end up looking a lot like what critic Aevee Bee calls a "7/10 game."

She lays out the idea in her review of Fatal Frame 4:

In terms of plot and storyline [7/10 games] are either cliche or incomprehensibly surreal. In the space of 7/10 games plot and story doesn't really matter. It doesn't even matter if it's good—it doesn't have to be good, not really, or even new or interesting, in the ultimately all summed up sort of way, like if you browsed the wikipedia entry for the game. Because we're not really interested in what it looks like all summed up, we're interested in the grammar and vocabulary of the game that expresses something with so much texture and depth that it can't be summed up. A lot of 7/10 games say something stupid very beautifully…

Which is to say that "7/10 games" are more than just products with middling-to-positive scores, they're also lenses through which we can examine our own expectations and tastes, and which can say a lot about the context of a game's release. After all, a lot has happened in the time since Mad Max, even just within the realm of the open world action game. We've had Breath of the Wild, Mafia 3, Watch Dogs 2, The Division, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Assassin's Creed Origins, just to name a few. Which on paper, could make it even harder to like Mad Max. But we've also had the soulless Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the disappointing Shadow of War, and the unfocused Agents of Mayhem.

Which is all to say: We have a lot more context now. And as we head into an E3 that will likely be filled with even more open world, third person action games, it's as good a time as any to revisit one that's right in the middle of the pack (and which, hopefully, can be a great kickoff for thinking through the genre all together.)

As always, we'd love for you to be part of this conversation, so go ahead and use this thread to start chatting about it, and feel free to start sending questions in to gaming@vice.com using the subject "Waypoint 101 Question," too!