Shadow of Mordor Meets the Wasteland in Mad Max

While fans of George Miller’s excellent “Mad Max: Fury Road” might be bummed to hear that now-iconic characters like Imperator Furiosa or Immortan Joe aren’t in Mad Max, Avalanche Studios’ brand-new take on perhaps the most famous post-apocalyptic Wasteland of them all, that doesn’t mean players shouldn’t be excited for what’s in store, however.

After all, Avalanche has one of the most impressive, intriguing track records in open-world gaming with the Just Cause series. Avalanche has delivered some of the most innovative moments in the genre over the past decade, and Max certainly comes equipped with an arsenal of his own gadgets as he takes on packs of relentless War Boys across the Wasteland.

Mad Max also takes inspiration from another popular open-world game released just last year – Monolith Productions’ Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Sure, both of these action-adventure titles count Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games as a direct progenitor, but we definitely feel like Mad Max is a closer cousin to Mordor. The developers at Monolith could only use certain elements of J.R.R. Tolkien’s extensive lore, so they had to get creative… and the result was one of the best games to ever feature the Middle-earth name. It looks like Avalanche has gotten adventurous without the big-screen stars Mel Gibson or Tom Hardy, and their game has spawned similar open-world accolades.

What connects Mad Max and Mordor, precisely? Let’s start with the fact that, like Mordor, Max revolves around two distinct protagonists. As Shadow of Mordor began, Talion, a valiant Ranger of Gondor, lost everything – including his mortal form – and teamed up with a mysterious wraith. Similarly, Max loses it all at the start of his adventure – even his iconic vehicle, the Interceptor. But no beatdown from Scabrous Scrotus’ thugs can keep this post-apocalyptic icon down for long. He’s out for revenge, with a four-wheeled customizable comrade-in-arms made of twisted steel: the Magnum Opus. Naturally, vehicular combat plays a major role in Mad Max. Anyone who saw “Fury Road” knows that you won’t get very far in the Wasteland hoofing it around.

Whatever you can imagine, it’s likely that Mad Max offers it as an option when the rubber hits the road. Nitrous boosts allow you to make up ground on packs of feral War Boys. And just as Mordor allowed players to aim in slow motion when unleashing arrow strikes against hordes of rampaging Uruks, Mad Max slows down time whenever you’re aiming while driving. It’s handy, say, when you can unleash a rocket-propelled weapon affectionately known as the Thunderpoon into a pack of foes, engulfing the Wasteland in a prolific blast that obliterates everything on the road (at least for a while, anyway).

But it isn’t just the spectacular detonations that got us pumped – it’s everything leading up to those moments. The slow-mo mechanics allow you to pull War Boys through windshields and smash up the grilles on countless cars competing for real estate on the roadway. In fact, sometimes it’s even more fun to take your time and save the Thunderpoon for the end of destruction derby, making the ensuing carnage all the more satisfying.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Mad Max without good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat, and the game offers countless opportunities for Max’s fists to meet War Boys’ faces. It’s here that Mad Max feels the most familiar: Anyone who’s played an Arkham game or Shadow of Mordor will instantly take to the intuitive, counter-based confrontations. Max is a one-man wrecking crew (as a certain blood-splattered “Fury Road” scene under the desert moon aptly illustrated), and the fact that the game borrows so heavily from Warner Bros. Interactive’s other action epics means that you’ll be cracking heads and clearing out enemy strongholds – necessary to unlock more of the Mordor-esque map – like it’s no big deal. Considering the fact that the rest of Mad Max definitely feels like it takes some risks, we don’t mind a bit of familiarity in the mix here.

You can find out exactly how much DNA Mordor and Max share right now: Mad Max is out now on Xbox One and Windows PC.