The upcoming Mad Max video game, like the incredible Mad Max: Fury Road has been in development so long that the two products resemble each other only vaguely. The game doesn’t have Tom Hardy, Furiosa, flaming guitars, or the ensemble of badass women non-assholes loved. Ultimately, it’s a view into the worse movie that Fury Road could have been.
Savage Road heads in a very different direction.
Sam Machkovech at Ars Technia laments the inability to play as Fury Road’s breakout protagonist Imperator Furiosa, or any women characters, period. As phenomenal as it would be to assume the role of the coolest character in the whole film — besides, y’know, this guy — the reason isn’t as cringe-worthy as Ubisoft's claim last year that drawing and voicing a woman would've been too much work.
Warner Bros.’s Fury Road and the Mad Max game by Avalanche Studios were made independently, though stylistically, especially in the trailer’s title, one could easily mistake Mad Max for being a licensed tie-in.
Mad Max: Fury Road had been in development as far back as 1998, so long ago that ur-Max Mel Gibson was still involved. As Fury Road kept getting postponed for many reasons, plans for a video game started independently. Mad Max mastermind George Miller was involved in both projects; the game was set to tie with an animated film that was later canceled.
The game suffered its own version of development hell, with a revolving door of developers, publishers, and licensing rights alongside the production of Fury Road. Now the game is set for September release, not long after Mad Max: Fury Road blew up the box office and became a cultural phenomenon.
Fury Road’s feminist slant has been credited to George Miller recruiting Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler to help on the film. But she had no reported involvement in the video game, and perhaps there was nothing for her to get involved with, because the game was never going to follow Fury Road.
The results should still be read as a glaring indictment of the video game industry’s predictability. The safe, “default” route for video game plots is to send a violence-prone white male to save a helpless damsel. The technology has evolved, but these stories are still Donkey Kong with better soundtracks. The Mad Max game’s dude-centric nature is clearly appealing to gamers who have already spent time in other dystopian virtual wastelands — Borderlands, Fallout 3. But it missed a chance to match the cultural moment that Fury Road stirred.
Games could really use that perspective. Less than a year after the mortifying #GamerGate while new games dare to venture beyond the playground of violent guys with guns, Mad Max could have started some real conversations.