Features How the Mad Max game connects to the cinematic universe

Features

Martin Bigg

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Despite not being a direct adaptation of the critically acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road, the recently-released Mad Max game still has plenty of fan-pleasing nods that suggest it takes place in the same post-apocalyptic world carefully crafted by director George Miller, despite developer Avalanche Studios insisting it’s not canon to the series. The game tells an original standalone story seemingly set after Beyond Thunderdome and before the events of Fury Road, but fans have also suggested it shares similarities with one of the Fury Road comics which incidentally also acted as a prequel to the film.

After spending many hours wandering the wasteland, we thought we’d uncover some of the game’s connections to the Mad Max cinematic universe in the run-up to our final review. This also happens to coincide with the belated blu-ray release of Mad Max Fury Road in the UK (because we love receiving home media releases after everyone else). Having already watched it three times this year, you could say I’m a fan of that film.

Be warned: this article contains spoilers to those who may not have finished the main story missions in Mad Max.

Max Rockatansky

The game’s titular character Max Rockatansky has a lot in common with his cinematic counterpart. As always, he’s an ex-cop turned lone warrior searching for a purpose in the wasteland and a tortured soul haunted by those he couldn’t save, as depicted by photos of his former family pinned to his dashboard. He’s on a quest to reach the Plains of Silence where he believes he will find peace, a place which is also briefly alluded to in Fury Road.

Max is more vocal in the game than he was in Fury Road however, acting less animalistic than Tom Hardy’s gritty portrayal of the character who had very few lines and spent the majority of time grunting. This would make sense, though, since the game is a prequel to Fury Road, so his mental state would have further deteriorated following the events of the game. But if we’re comparing video game Max to cinema Max, he most closely represents the Mel Gibson era (Gibson’s Mad Max famously only had 16 lines of dialogue in The Road Warrior), but doesn’t share a likeness with either Gibson or Hardy other than his trademark leather jacket.

If anything, the game’s character appears a tad bland at first, showing little personality or emotion and speaks only when necessary; but then living in the wasteland where your only purpose is to survive would strip anyone of their humanity to an empty shell.

Max doesn’t become truly mad until towards the end of the game after he loses the very few people he cared about, causing him to exact revenge on those who took them from him. This is a possible nod to the climax of the first Mad Max film, where his descent into madness was fueled after he witnesses his family mowed down by a merciless bike gang. The game has similar circumstances, as his love interest Hope and her young daughter Glory are brutally killed by main antagonist Scabrous Scrotus, causing Max to go on a manhunt. In the game and films, a guilt-ridden Max also starts to hear voices in his head of those he couldn’t save. At the end of the game, Max hears the voices of Hope and Glory talking to him in his head, similar to the voices of his family he hears throughout Fury Road.

Max remains detached from people, for the most part: the only person he appears to get close to is love interest Hope, who is also the only person he reveals his name to in a scene similar to Fury Road when Max finally reveals his name to Furiosa at the end.  Even his relationship with the hunchbacked mechanic Chumbucket, who rides along with Max at all times to maintain the Magnum Opus car, is subdued.

Max and Chumbucket loosely mirror his initially reluctant relationship with Furiosa in Fury Road – both come along for the ride, but are ultimately using each other to get to their destinations. In the film, Max helps Furiosa escape from her life as a soldier under Immortan Joe’s reign and reach her birthplace The Green Place, while also escaping capture himself. In the game, Max helps Chumbucket build the Magnum Opus to help him reach Scrotus and retrieve his Interceptor, promising to lead Chumbucket to salvation in return. Every film revolves around Max helping survivors of the apocalypse before disappearing back into the wasteland to continue his journey, and the same is true in the game: when Max helps Hope reunite with her daughter Glory, he sees this quest as a “contract” which, once completed, leaves him with no more obligation with her, despite her romantic advances towards him.

Indeed, the key difference between Hope and Furiosa is that Hope is portrayed as a love interest for Max, but while Max does try to fight his feelings for her, he ultimately doesn’t fall for her. Frankly, ending the game by having him whisk her off into the sunset would have done the character a huge disservice. The bleak ending of Max returning to his life as a lone warrior after failing to save them is far more befitting.

Max’s fighting style mimics that of the films in the game’s numerous fighting scenes. While the combat system borrows from Rocksteady’s Arkham series, Max is no superhero, and this is reflected in his cumbersome fighting style. You can upgrade Max’s brawling abilities and also adjust his appearance if you find his immaculately trimmed facial hair unfitting for the apocalypse.

Thankfully, Avalanche Studios chose to retain Max’s Australian heritage which is a trademark of the character –Mad Max is Australia’s most successful film series after all. Early game trailers depicted Max speaking with an American accent, but fan criticism clearly prompted Avalanche to replace it.  There was similar outcry when the first film was released with abysmal American dubbing in the US as it was feared the audience wouldn’t understand the film’s strong Aussie accents – until the BluRay release, this was the only way American audiences could watch the film.

V8 Interceptor

Max’s black Ford Falcon XB GT ‘Pursuit Special’ is just as much a character in its own right, having appeared in every Mad Max film to date bar Beyond Thunderdome (which might as well not exist anyway, in this writer’s mind). With resources so depleted, cars are a rare commodity symbolising wealth and power in the Mad Max universe, giving them something of a religious following. The Pursuit Special is particularly significant as it represents ‘the last of the V8s’; hence why it’s known as the V8 Interceptor.

The Road Warrior’s iconic Interceptor returns in the Mad Max game, albeit briefly. Like in Fury Road, it has precious little screen time as it’s stolen from Max by bandits within the first few minutes. You can at least unlock it as a playable vehicle, however.

Both Fury Road and the game have incredibly simple plots: in simple terms, Max’s primary quest is to survive, retrieve his stolen car and exact revenge on those that wronged him, but the film and game take you on very different journeys.

In Fury Road, Max teams up with female lead Furiosa and becomes entangled in a plot to overthrow the town’s villainous ruler Immortan Joe by stealing his beloved bride breeders and help them escape. In the game, Max joins forces with the hunchbacked Chumbucket to build the ultimate war machine, the Magnum Opus, and a good chunk of the game revolves around you gathering parts to build and upgrade your car to overthrow Scrotus’ ruling and retrieve the Interceptor.

Max is reunited with his prized Interceptor at the end of the game after killing Scabrous Scrotus and his army in a climactic clifftop battle. This could be seen as a neat lead-in to Fury Road, which begins with an opening shot of Max beginning his journey atop a cliff with the Interceptor just as bandits begin to hunt him down. Suffice to say, the Interceptor doesn’t have a happy ending in Fury Road – much to Max’s dismay, Warboys have retooled his ride which ends up being crushed between two trucks.

Car Combat

Considering that Mad Max Fury Road is essentially one messy, high octane car chase that lasts a couple of hours, the source material is an ideal premise for a video game. Fortunately, if you like smashing into things then there is a lot of fun to be found in the Mad Max game as car combat is one of the game’s central gameplay mechanics. Ramming into opponents is deliciously destructive thanks to a dedicated ramming button that can cause some spectacular wrecks, and I can’t get enough of those excellent explosions.

When roaming the wasteland, it often doesn’t take long before you find groups of bandits on your tail. Alternatively, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can take on vehicle convoys that drive through specific routes on the map transporting goods which of course mimics the convoy seen at the start of Fury Road led by Furiosa, but we wouldn’t advise this until you’ve installed plenty of car upgrades as you’ll find yourself easily outmatched.

Granted, the convoys in the game don’t quite match the scale of Fury Road’s automotive armada (the game struggles to cope with a few cars on screen as it is, sadly), but when you’re surrounded by swarms of armoured cars and fighting off attacking enemies leaping onto your moving car, you’ll instantly feel like you’re re-enacting a scene from the film.

Faction vehicles

Fury Road plays on the idea that cars are an extension of your personality. Indeed, all the vehicles were perfectly cast: I can’t think of anything more fitting for crazed dictator Immortan Joe to drive than a souped-up monster truck made from two Cadillac De Villes stacked on top of each other.

From hot rods and pickups, to the cars driven by the Buzzards that have every panel covered in spikes, fans will instantly recognise some of the distinctive vehicles driven by the various different factions in the game that share the designs of their cinematic counterparts.

It’s just a shame the game lacks some of more outlandish vehicles featured in the film: there’s no Dodge Charger converted into a tank, for example. I also would have liked to see bandits riding on bikes – the scene of the bikers jumping over dunes whilst hurling grenades at the War Rig was one of the best action sequences in Fury Road, and any film this year for that matter.

War Boys

You’ll fight against a variety of enemies in Mad Max, but those who are familiar with Fury Road will instantly recognise the ghoulish War Boys, who act as Immortan Joe’s foot soldiers in the film. War Boys were seemingly born and raised to drive and worship all things V8, perform suicidal acts for Immortan Joe with the promise of being granted entry to the promised land of Valhalla and also arguably have the best lines in the film – I still try to fit in quotes like “Witness me!”, “What a lovely day” and “Mediocre!” into everyday conversation as frequently as possible.

In the game the War Boys look identical in appearance to the film with their shaved heads, pale skin and black war masks, but you’ll also fight different coloured War Boys with different abilities. They’re just as suicidal too, and are often seen riding on roofs and climbing onto your moving car to stab you with their thundersticks.

Scabrous Scrotus

The Mad Max films have introduced us to plenty of larger than life villains, from The Road Warrior’s Lord Humungus to Fury Road’s Immortan Joe. The Mad Max game features possibly the most psychotic of them all with Scabrous Scrotus (I know, I laughed as well), a bloodthirsty warlord who also happens to be one of three savage sons of Immortan Joe. He’s not quite as grotesque-looking as his breathing-mask-wearing father, but his hulking stature makes him a formidable opponent when you inevitably come to blows with him. Having said that, he does still require a breathing apparatus which only adds to his unsettling appearance.

While some of the villains in Mad Max looked a tad goofy (it’s hard to take Lord Humungus seriously in a homoerotica bondage outfit), Scrotus couldn’t look more menacing: did I mention he wears a belt adorned with severed human heads and survives being mauled in the face by a chainsaw in the opening scene?

Harpoons

Harpoons play a relatively minor role in Fury Road, but in the game they’re one of your most used tools of destruction. Remember in Fury Road when the Warboys used harpoons to tear off the spiked armour from a car? You can do that in Fury Road, and much more besides: once you’ve upgraded it, the harpoon can rip off doors and wheels to disable pursuing vehicles, and it’s also a useful asset for reducing the threat as you can use it to tear down scarecrows and camping snipers.

But by far the best use of the harpoon is the ability to yank drivers out of moving cars before releasing the harpoon and comically catapulting their corpse through the air. Trust me, it never gets old.

Gastown

Gastown is one of Fury Road’s primary locations serving as the region’s main supply of gasoline, although we never got to see it up-close – it was the original destination for Furiosa to trade supplies and is seen in the distance before she made that fateful left turn which started the chase which lasts for the entire film.

In the game however, the Gastown refinery is a hostile area dominated by smokestacks blackening the sky as seen in the film which you can fully explore, and also acts as one of your strongholds.

Gastown was ruled by Scrotus in the game before he was killed by Max, and was taken over by The People Eater in Fury Road.

War Rig

The War Rig is the most central vehicle in Fury Road, an imposing tanker truck driven by Furiosa to transport supplies for trade to Gastown which Immortan Joe’s army spends the majority of the film pursuing. War Rigs sadly don’t play a big role in the game, but one does make an appearance, albeit as an easter egg for you to discover.

During a Wasteland mission, you stumble across what is unmistakably the wrecked remains of the War Rig from Fury Road submerged in a sewer.

The Lost Tribe / Plane

The wasteland is full of remnants pointing to previous signs of life, from abandoned petrol stations to broken bridges. One of the more memorable landmarks in the game is an abandoned passenger plane submerged in the desert. This of course is a reference to Beyond Thunderdome, which centers on a tribe of child survivors of a crashed plane whose parents went on in search of civilisation but never returned. Max is mistaken as the flight captain who they believe was sent to rescue them and take them to “Tomorrow-morrow Land.” Despite Max crushing their hopes by revealing that society was destroyed in the apocalypse and insisting that they remain in the safety of their oasis, the children stubbornly rush out in search of Tomorrow-morrow Land, and form a line on top of the plane.

Not only can the same passenger plane be discovered in the dunes of the Mad Max game, but also, chillingly, the skeletal remains of some of the tribal children still stood on the plane.

Survival

Being set in a bleak apocalyptic wasteland, there’s a lot of emphasis on survival, and this is conveyed well in the game as you have to search for water sources to stay alive and top up your health.

Alternatively, you can always munch on some maggots or consume canned dog food – speaking of which, the dog food you find in the game looks weirdly familiar. That’s because it’s the same brand of Dinki-Di dog food Mel Gibson devoured at the start of The Road Warrior.

Sandstorms

One of Fury Road’s many standout set-pieces is the sandstorm sequence during the climax of the opening chase that dominates the first act, in which Furiosa brazenly drives through an intense storm to ditch Immortan Joe’s band of pursuers, resulting in many of them being engulfed in the storm and blown into the sky in spectacular fashion. It’s incredibly intense, and notably one of the few necessary occasions Fury Road utilises CGI in favour of practical stunt sequences.

Sand storms can also erupt in the game, and while they are very visually impressive, their hazardous nature becomes inconvenient when it disrupts the action. It’s recommended you seek shelter whenever a storm erupts unless you want to be pummeled by flying debris.

Dog

Dogs and post-apocalyptic worlds are something of a cliché in films and games. The 1975 film adaptation of A Boy and His Dog told the story of a teenage boy surviving the post-apocalyptic wasteland with his telepathic canine friend. Director George Miller has cited A Boy and His Dog as the main inspiration for Max’s canine companion in The Road Warrior.

The dog in The Road Warrior, known simply as Dog in the film, became the inspiration for Dogmeat in the Fallout game series, to the point the developers modeled the dog as a blue-heeler – the same breed as the dog in The Road Warrior. Just as the iconic image of Mel Gibson wandering the wasteland with Dog by his side was used to promote The Road Warrior, Dogmeat has become a seminal game character in Fallout and is frequently used in promotional materials.

Inevitably, Max also befriends a dog in the Mad Max game, but it’s used more for practical gameplay purposes than enhancing the storyline. Whereas Fallout’s Dogmeat can be used to fetch supplies and health, in Mad Max you use the dog to disarm mines in the desert. It’s just as tedious as it sounds.

Thunderdome

As much as I like to pretend the watered-down, family friendly farce that was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome never existed, I can’t deny its influence in popular culture. Not only did it give us Tina Turner’s hit single We Don’t Need a Hero, it also gave us the famous Thunderdome, a caged gladiatorial arena in which conflicts are resolved through combat which has been referenced to in a countless number of films.

A story mission in the game sees you revisit the Thunderdome in a one-on-one duel, albeit on a smaller scale. There aren’t any enemies swinging on ropes this time, but the famous “two men enter, one man leaves” chant is back despite your opponent being a woman in the mission.

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