So I have finished up Mad Max.
Mad Max may be the most miserable end-of-the-world scenario I've seen in any game. After thinking about it, I kinda reasoned that Metro was probably the runner-up, but in Metro the average person seems to have reasonable access to water and shelter, such as they are, and the farming of food sources like pigs and fungus is common. Metro has enterprise, commerce, and society as we would recognize them. Throw in Last Light, and you have the whole "nuclear spring" theme, with the very beginnings of a possible re-emergence of life beginning to show. But Mad Max is totally, 100% committed to a bleak reality beyond any recovery, and a nihilism beyond rehabilitation. Death in the fall was unquestionably preferable to life in the aftermath, and the world is now hell.
Mad Max is relentless in drilling in the message, again and again, that civilization is done, that there is no chance the old world or anything like it will or could rise again. There's nothing left for humankind but dust, rust, and scooping the maggots out of rotting human torsos and eating them, forever. Beauty, love, hope, family, faith, trust, stability, safety, joy, all gone and never coming back, ever, for anyone. Max himself ends the story exactly where he began, having learned and accomplished nothing, except perhaps that there is nothing to learn and accomplish, and everyone he linked up with in the interim ends up dead. There is no salvation for Max, and none for mankind.
Which means that, thematically, this game might actually have more in common with the first Mad Max movie than any of the others, especially Fury Road, which was probably the one with the brightest outlook. It's closer to Road Warrior in the sense that the world has already fallen and new generations are rising/have risen without knowing the old world at all, but then Road Warrior never matched that bleak, empty feeling of Max leaving a hacksaw for Johnny's leg and driving indifferently away. The game, meanwhile, pretty much lives in that moment through its entire runtime, conspicuously reprising Max's fall into hollow, bitter derangement from the first movie despite already starting at that point, on purpose.
Which leads me to my number one, maximum, cowboy-cut, extra premium deee-lux meaningless nitpicks of the day: how old is Max supposed to be anyway? Max looks like he's always looked in the movies, a scruffy guy probably somewhere in his twenties or thirties, which works because Max is basically a cipher without much of a character or role of his own in every movie except the first. But then the game goes out of its way to set up this idea of the dying memory of the old world, and the fast-dwindling remnant of anyone anywhere who didn't just grow up in the wasteland never knowing a different mode of existence had ever been. But Max certainly remembers the old world, and must have lived through all the changes. So it's unclear how long ago things really finally collapsed, especially the drastic environmental changes. Chum, your sidekick, seems not to remember civilization in any capacity and regards the ocean as a myth, yet he seems to be older than Max. It's hard to tell, since Chumbucket is a deformed hunchback with a burned head, and you can't really peg down his age just by looking. Hardly anyone specifically mentions recalling the old world, but lots of people let on that they don't remember it, and they all seem to be around Max's age. So is Max, like, a really youthful 60 year old or what? Part of this is down to the confusion caused by probably-misguided attempts to "age up" and "modernize" the Mad Max backstory; things didn't end in the near-future of 1979's Mad Max movie, they seem to have ended in the near-future of the 2015 Mad Max game, with at least one of the photos of the old world showing a smartphone. With that, they also screwed with the nature of the cataclysm itself. It's one of those very well-known little-known facts that insufferable people love to point out that Mad Max (1979, movie)'s future isn't post-nuclear like a lot of end-of-the-world fiction in the Cold War era, it's just a worldwide societal collapse triggered by the collapse of the global oil market, among other things. I don't think Road Warrior ever referenced nukes, either. But then Beyond Thunderdome, I think, specifically introduced the idea that a global nuclear exchange had also taken place sometime during the collapse. Then in Mad Max (2015, game) the state of the world is also heavily implied to be the result of global warming, specifically the ocean's recession, and also also some sort of plague affected (all of?) mankind at one point, especially children. So the world of Mad Max (2015, game) is post-market-collapse, post-nuclear, post-climate change, and post-plague? Did the fucking Rapture happen, too? Are the Tripods on their way from Mars? On one hand, the "every apocalypse at once" angle helps to sell the absolute bleakness of the setting; the idea that we managed to permanently screw ourselves every way that we could, mostly without even noticing, fits right in with the game. But I think continuing in Beyond Thunderdome's tradition of trying to progress or modernize the apocalypse as time goes on is not really advisable, just as I don't think following Beyond Thunderdome in any way is really advisable. Mostly because it doesn't actually matter; the fall of mankind itself only really mattered in the first movie, in which the decay of civilization into the wasteland was at the forefront, and for which the slow, unglamorous, anticlimactic decline of humankind depicted therein was most appropriate thematically. From there on out, we've already got the wasteland; no need to dwell on the irrelevant past, just have Max inadvertently steer the Black-on-Black headlong into some sort of bizarre wasteland trouble and deal with the complications for 120 minutes. Also, I have this visceral, venomous hatred of the idea of a "sliding backstory" that's always the same distance behind/ahead, a la comics dyscanon; kindly fuck off with that. They want smartphones in their backstory, but they still want an automobile-centric future based entirely around cars from the '70's or earlier? Pah. They're inviting a vision of Mad Max in which Max drives a riced-out Dodge Magnum, being chased by raiders in spiked Hyundai Santa Fes and PT Cruisers with barbed cow-catchers, and no one wants to see that. Thankfully, none of that managed to infect Fury Road, and probably won't make its way into the cinema until George Miller dies, Roberto Orci writes a soft reboot for the franchise, and Zack Snyder directs it. We all know it's comingm, we all hate it, but we can't stop it, just like our excruciating deaths in the imminent multi-pocalypse.