It'd take one hell of a video game to live up to the brilliant, relentless action of Mad Max: Fury Road. This does not appear to be that video game.
I got to play the Mad Max game during a brief hands-on session in Los Angeles last week, and although the upcoming game does a good job recreating some of Fury Road's vicious car battles, it also feels empty and shallow, the result of too open a world and too many lessons from gamification. As I played, the game barraged me with notifications, achievements, and arbitrary objectives that felt more like a to-do list than a grand open-world adventure.
As an example: when I used my harpoon to rip off an enemy's tires, metal screeching, the game immediately greeted me with a prompt saying that I yanked 1/5 tires and that I should go do it some more to get the achievement (or trophy, or whatever). When I destroyed an enemy watchtower, the game said GOOD JOB and told me to rinse and repeat. Every accomplishment came coupled with an endless reminder that I was just filling boxes on a checklist — it felt like the worst parts of a Ubisoft game or, to some extent, like the dreaded Farmville.
This is all too bad, because the hand-to-hand combat is really fun — basically the Arkham games with more brutal weapons and guns — and it's quite satisfying to drive around smashing into enemy Warboys (who are way less entertaining when they're mindless NPCs). There's a ton of stuff to do, from chasing down enemy convoys to sniping baddies out of the back of Max's car, but so much of it feels like it's in the game to hit some sort of arbitrary list of features — look what you can do! — rather than to create a meaningful experience. Objectives are there just for the sake of having objectives.
I should also mention the framerate, which got really bad during some car fights as I played. Pop-in was also a problem: as I drove around the wasteland, shrubs and rocks would appear out of nowhere as if conjured from Valhalla, shiny and chrome. Of course, they have got a few months left to polish and optimise before the game actually comes out.
Mad Max comes out September 1 for PS4, XB1 and PC. New trailer above, if you're so inclined. The one advantage the video game has over the movie? The steering wheels are on the right.