Mad Max and the Eternal Return

Mad Max was a fantastic video game that was released in 2015, and it's one of the few games where I took the time and effort to do everything and earn the Platinum Trophy. I loved the setting and the characters because everything had this strange dreamlike quality to it, like the world was comprised of disparate parts that had been pulled together. The gameplay was great too; the fighting was fluid and brutal and the car to car combat was intense. My only negative with Mad Max was the end game experience.

Max starts the game seeking this mystical place called "the Plains of Silence", a place where he can find peace from the world at large. He's got the car and the gas and he's out looking for the Plains of Silence when he's attacked by Scabrous Scrotus - the first son of Immortan Joe. Although Scotus gets away with your car, you steal his dog and implant his chainsaw glaive into his skull. Not exactly a win for Scotus.

 He had a nice weapon and a great canine companion... and you took it all from him. 

He had a nice weapon and a great canine companion... and you took it all from him. 

Throughout the rest of the game you're dismantling the empire of Scabrous Scrotus, taking out his lieutenants and ripping down his icons, all in an attempt to get your car back. Scrotus is in no small amount of pain after you shoved a chainsaw through his skull, so he's got an equally turgid hard-on for you too. 

 The dude literally has a chainsaw stuck in his brain... he's got some anger regulating issues. 

The dude literally has a chainsaw stuck in his brain... he's got some anger regulating issues. 

You drive around the map in a typical open world fashion, doing lots of fetch quests and helping out the locals make a stand against Scrotus. Everything you do reduces the influence of the psychotic warlord and eventually you're able to confront him directly in one of the most brutal car fight scenes I've ever played through. You actually end up building a better car than your original, but Scrotus does something to push Max over the edge and so you go after him despite this. At a certain point in the game, it stops being about the car and starts being about revenge. You end up ripping the chainsaw out of his head, killing him, and then driving off into the sunset in your original car.

 I can't find the video... but it's suitably badass. 

I can't find the video... but it's suitably badass. 

The game itself is great, I'd still give it a 10/10, my only problem is the lost opportunity with the post campaign experience. After you defeat Scrotus you're thrown back into the world with some iconic Mad Max gear, but everything is already done. The amount of enemies in an area depends on the amount of influence that Scrotus has there, but if you've already done everything then the chances for conflict post game are few and far between. 

Now, you could start again from scratch but there's nothing special about that because it's just a new game. But what if the developers had included an NG+ (New Game Plus) experience? You'd start the game again but Max would be fully leveled. You loose your gear and car at the start as part of the story, so that's no issue, and Scabrous Scrotus is back at full power. You could play through the whole game again, whittling down Scrotus' empire from full power without having to level Max all over again.

The thing is, NG+ is already built into the narrative of Mad Max without it actually being present.  All throughout the game you're running into this character called Griffa, this sort of desert-mystic who is trying to nudge Max along a spiritual journey while he traverses his physical one. He pokes holes in Max's world view, and questions his search for the Plains of Silence. And he knows things, about Max, things he shouldn't be able to know.

 The sounds of a wasteland fade away and a strange humming takes their place, as though the fabric of reality were tearing apart. Strange artworks line the stones that surround you, and no one seems to be able to see Griffa but you. 

The sounds of a wasteland fade away and a strange humming takes their place, as though the fabric of reality were tearing apart. Strange artworks line the stones that surround you, and no one seems to be able to see Griffa but you. 

All throughout the game Griffa teases out the good-side in Max, the parts of himself that he's buried deep and tried to forget. Love, friendship and trust - all that Care Bear stuff. Because of this, Max starts getting close to a woman and her daughter, Hope and Glory respectively. And right when it looks like he might have a family again - they're taken from him. 

Max flips the fuck out and goes after Scrotus, he's tripping balls and hearing the voices of Hope and Glory screaming for bloody vengeance. You lose your new car in the fight against Scrotus but you get your old one back. You drive off into the sunset, without looking back, in the search of the Plains of Silence. 

 The Black-on-Black is all Max ever needs. It's his chariot, but also his prison?

The Black-on-Black is all Max ever needs. It's his chariot, but also his prison?

Exactly how the game started. 

You're fleeing a traumatic past, you've got a car and you're looking for the Plains of Silence. Scotus steals the car. You build a new car to get the old one back, along the way you heal and build a new family. Scrotus kills your family, undoing the healing. You kill Scrotus and lose your new car. With your old car back, you flee your traumatic past in search of the Plains of Silence. 

The whole thing is a cycle, Griffa even says as much to you in the game. Max is stuck in a sort of purgatory, emotionally within himself as well as physically within the wasteland. The world makes no sense, not in terms of game design but in terms of the narrative. People have accents from all over the world, just like there are landmarks from distant lands within eye shot of one another. Max is far too young to remember the world from before, and there's the inclusion of this one particular History Relic.

 An advertisement for the Mad Max Buggy Tour... one of the many "History Relics" found throughout the game. Max even has a little comment upon finding this oddity...

An advertisement for the Mad Max Buggy Tour... one of the many "History Relics" found throughout the game. Max even has a little comment upon finding this oddity...

Mad Max is about a physical and spiritual journey, one of healing, that ultimately fails. Max ends up right where he started, with a car and a desire to escape. The game is Max's purgatory, and he's stuck there until he can find a way out. A fantastic way to express this would have been the NG+ option, to show the literal loops he's stuck in. It would have made sense from a narrative perspective and it would have given the game some much needed longevity.