- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2015

A thrilling, third-person adventure gives gamers the chance to control director George Miller’s legendary road warrior in Mad Max (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Avalanche Studios, reviewed with Xbox One, Rated Mature, $59.99).

Max Rockatansky is back and still stuck in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. So what else is new?

This loner looking for indiscriminate revenge rambles on in an authentic Australian accent and has the facial features mixing the most grizzled attributes of Mel Gibson, Tom Hardy and a pinch of Hugh Jackman.

The exciting open world action features missions to propel the thin story of Max’s struggles against Lord Scrotus’ minions and his eternal search for the Plains of Silence while loading a player up with brawls, vehicular combat and busywork.

That means our hero, wielding a sawed-off shotgun, will collect scrap, fill his canteen with water, find gas for his car, take rides on hot-air balloons and stomp on the occasional gecko to eat while exploring exquisite desert terrain peppered with caves, canyons, large rocks and the occasional deadly sandstorm.

Despite Max’s myth of being a lonely survivalist, he gets help during this epic from a talkative, Gollum-like hunchback companion named Chumbucket. The fanatic is in constant need to enhance and fix Max’s new vehicle, dubbed the Magnum Opus, a car considered a religious experience by the mutant.

Chumbucket often hangs in the car’s open back seat, jumps out to repair his metallic deity after battles and will drive it back to Max when the hero wanders off on foot.

The car is an ever-evolving project as Max uses the metal scraps collected to upgrade nearly everything on it, including suspension, engine, tires, ramming grills, nitrous-fueled boosts, hood ornaments and flaming side-burners.

Max and his new pal also work together to handle a devilish collection of weapons used aboard the vehicle. I loved the harpoon to pull an opponent out of his vehicle and appreciated the animation work involved when using a sniper rifle.

Specifically, I never grew tired of watching Chumbucket switch places with Max mid-drive as the warrior goes to the rear to handle his sniping duties.

Much of the game’s drama features crazed minions in need of a shower driving around the areas in exotic vehicles looking for a fight that either turns into a high-speed death race, a demolition derby or an old-fashioned donnybrook by forcing the enemies of out the car.

I usually really hate the complexity of driving games and got very annoyed the last time I played “Twisted Metal,” but I found the driving here fairly simple and the potential explosive destruction it reaped a pure blast.

Besides car attacks and busy work, Max is kept engaged by more formal side missions such as raiding oil refineries, clearing minefields (with help of a dog and high-speed buggy), destroying flaming metal scarecrows, assaulting enemy camps and helping the less homicidal citizens of the wasteland.

His collects more scrap and receives tokens for his accomplishments that he gives to a mystic named Griff who will further upgrade his abilities tied to such attribute as Attunement (take less damage in fights) and Munition (increase ammo looted).

If it isn’t obvious by now, upgrading everything is an important part of the game to keep Max ahead of the curve in subsequent battles.

Now, when Max has to walk around to explore camp areas or barter for his life with tribal chiefs, he also comes under attack.

Grandiose, bloody brawls that Batman’s “Arkham Knight” would love to dive into involve punching, kicking, using shivs and melee weapons and some wrestling type moves to subdue the war-painted thugs.

Suffice to report, overall, a player will find himself pleasantly immersed in the events that play out within a very authentic “Road Warrior” world.

Take the case of a car duel while trying to stop a crude-oil-carrying convoy. A ferocious passenger in an enemy car jumped onto the Magnum Ops and started poking at me with a spear until I rammed into large rock to knock him off. It felt like I was right in the middle of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Additionally, as the game progresses, a player has access to an ever-burgeoning encyclopedic resource to learn about the heroes, villains, locations and vehicles to really give him a sense of the Max’s maniacal mythology.

Gamers familiar with the much more expansive and dynamic “Borderlands” and “Fallout” franchises won’t be as impressed, but Mad Max devotees will appreciate the developers’ passion to the universe through the dozens of hours of vehicular attacks and fist-shredding fun.

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