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Sorry George Miller, but you’re wrong about the Mad Max game

George Miller expressed dismay toward the 2015 Mad Max game recently, but Avalanche Studios' take on the lore is still so good to this day.

Mad Max Game: An image of Max Rockatansky in the Mad Max game and director George Miller.

With Furiosa hitting the big screen this weekend, acclaimed auteur filmmaker George Miller‘s recent round of promotion has stirred fans of the underrated Mad Max game the wrong way – myself included. Not only is Miller not a fan of Avalanche Studios’ approach to the franchise, but he even suggests that Hideo Kojima should be the one to helm a videogame entry next. Miller couldn’t be more wrong.

The age of movie tie-in games has dwindled away over the years, leaving the possibility of new PS5 games and new Xbox games set within the worlds of famous IP slimmer than ever. Sure, we’ve got excellent titles like Star Wars Jedi Survivor proving that the franchise’s future is stronger on the gaming front, than it is with its woeful Disney+ output as of late. I’m hoping that Indiana Jones and the Great Circle will be worthy of Indy’s legacy, too. But Mad Max is a rare gem, bringing a niche action series to the masses with a refined spin on Avalanche Studios’ open world game formula.

Miller recently told Gaming Bible on the red carpet for Furiosa that the 2015 title “wasn’t as good as we wanted it to [be], it wasn’t in our hands.” Furthermore, to add salt in the wound for Avalanche Studios, Miller expresses interest in asking Death Stranding 2 mastermind Hideo Kojima to conjure up a new Mad Max game. However, Miller says, “he’s got so much fantastic stuff on his own head, so I would never ask him. But if someone like that would take it on, because I couldn’t do it.”

@gamingbible George Miller wants Hideo Kojima to direct a Mad Max game 🔥 #furiosa #madmax #hideokojima ♬ original sound – GAMINGbible

Look, I adore George Miller. He’s one of the planet’s greatest living filmmakers, blessed with an understanding of kineticism, scope, and storytelling that few directors can match. He guides his camera around the Australian wastelands like it’s a lone drifter in itself, capturing brutality and elite tier action set pieces with awe-inspiring results. And I get it, the Mad Max series is his prized achievement, he wants to protect the IP and do it justice. Yet, while he’s the custodian of the Mad Max franchise, the game should be considered a near-perfect companion to his work.

The game’s rendition of the apocalyptic wasteland may be mostly empty, but it doesn’t feel lifeless. Remnants of a once thriving civilization rise up through the sand, but now they’re surrounded by brutal tribal camps, bandits, War Boys, and anyone else looking to rip the clothes and skin off your back. It looks stunning still in 2024, and you can feel the benefits of FPS boost and HDR on Series X|S consoles, making it one of the best Xbox games available on my dashboard.

Having delivered some of the best games that ever graced my PS2, PS3, and PS4’s disc drive, Avalanche Studios’ penchant for large scale chaos was abundantly clearly in the Just Cause franchise. Every Just Cause game is a canvas for vehicular feats beyond human comprehension, or explosive skirmishes that revel in the glory of 80’s action cinema, a time period that Mad Max firmly claimed its own piece of it. Roaming around the wasteland in the Magnum Opus, feeling its engine rumble and seeing its fumes permeate the desert air, it all enhances the immersion of stepping into The Road Warrior’s torn up shoes.

Mad Max also enacts the one objective that any spin-off of a beloved franchise should do: enrich the past. Avalanche Studios crafts its own worthwhile story here, a simple one that sees Max Rockastansky vengefully seeking reclamation of his beloved Interceptor. Exploring the wider world introduces new elements, many of them often calling back to 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome or deep pockets of Mad Max lore.

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This is something that Miller does exceptionally well in his big screen adventures, and that’s this blow to the game’s reputation stings as Furiosa debuts. Having watched the movie gloriously command my local IMAX screen last night, I was left thinking about how much love the movie pays to the game’s lore. If you think that mechanic in the third act is that one in the game – you’re right, even check the credits. But non-spoiler aspects like locations such as Gas Town and Bullet Farm are featured in both, even if their iterations are slightly different.

Without Avalanche Studios’ chapter in the Mad Max saga, these elements wouldn’t have the same impact as they do currently in the movie. It deeply enriches both experiences, while Furiosa also supplements Fury Road. It’s so good that I can’t think of Fury Road without feeling the need to run back to the theater for another Furiosa screening, or feeling the desire to boot up the game again. But why does Miller feel like the Mad Max game isn’t entirely worthy of its place in the franchise’s pantheon?

That’s likely because the road to get Mad Max made was a furious one, to say the least. Mad Max began taking shape back in 2008, and was originally in the hands of God of War Ragnarök creative director Cory Barlog before his eventual departure from Sony. Barlog would later return to the franchise in 2013, joining Santa Monica Studio once more. This iteration would have tied into an animated Mad Max movie Miller was developing. After this stalled, a tie-in game for Fury Road was in the works, before EA bought the rights for $20 million and halted development on it.

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Cut to 2013 and Avalanche Studios started working on an entirely new Mad Max project, one that wouldn’t tie-in to any existing movies, but would instead tell a standalone story. With unprecedented access to George Miller’s archives and material that was in conceptual phases for future movies, like Fury Road, Furiosa and the in-limbo Mad Max The Wasteland, Avalanche could honor Miller’s vision with aplomb.

However, intervention from Warner Brothers is reportedly one of the game’s biggest shortfalls. According to Avalanche Studios’ co-founder Christofer Sundberg, a recent social media thread reveals that “after the first year of development, they [Warner Brothers] realized that they had forced us to make a linear experience rather than the open world game we pitched.”

Mad Max was “forced” to release on the same day as Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, making Miller’s commendation of Kojima all the more painful. As a result of this release day conflict, Sundberg clarifies that “they blamed us for the bad sales and cancelled a bunch of awesome DLC that was just sitting there waiting to be released.” There’s no denial of Hideo Kojima’s impact on the gaming industry in the last three decades, but as much I’m infatuated with his design ethos, he isn’t the man for Mad Max. Kojima is far better to suited his own IP, where drinking Monster cans can be converted into piss grenades – it rules.

Now, Mad Max is more popular than ever right now. Fury Road and The Road Warrior are consistently cited as one two of the best action movies ever made, and the former persists as screenshot fodder Film Twitter accounts drooling over John Seale’s cinematography. Tom Holkenberg’s Brothers in Arms is an earworm you don’t want to remove. Even Epic Games’ ever-popular battle royale game Fortnite has just launched an apocalyptic-themed season that is using so many Mad Max-isms, despite there being a surprising absence of an official Mad Max crossover.

Whether or not a new Mad Max game arrives in the future, I have to say on this occasion George Miller, you’re wrong.