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Essential tips for starting out in the Mad Max game

Essential items, priority upgrades and strategies for getting started in the open-world Max Max game

Mad Max on PS4 is a thrilling and deceptively deep open-world game that didn’t get the recognition it deserved back in 2015, largely due to publisher Warner Bros. peculiar decision to launch it on the same day as the higher profile open-world epic Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Well, the good news is that Mad Max is free for all PS Plus subscribers in April 2018, and we’ve got all the tips and strategies you need when getting started in this underrated PS4 game.

Mad Max is an excellent open-world adventure full of invigorating car combat and gorgeous (if desolate) locales, but exploring the wasteland can be pretty harsh when you’re first starting out. If you’re hoping to live long enough to get revenge on the big bad Scrotus – yes, that really is his name – and reclaim your prized black-on-black Interceptor ride, you’re going to need every advantage you can get.

These tips should make staying alive in the post-apocalypse infinitely easier, especially when you’re first starting out. Buckle up for a quick crash course in surviving Max’s crazy world.

The Jimmy Bar should be the first thing you buy

Before you go tuning up the Magnum Opus or worrying about Max’s post-apocalypse accoutrements, there’s one item you absolutely need: the Jimmy Bar. The moment you’ve got enough scrap (the de facto currency), head to the ‘Tools’ section of Max’s inventory and treat yourself to this handy appliance. It’s not very exciting, given that it’s just a crowbar, but you’ll need it to open up certain crates, barricaded doors, and secret compartments you’ll find strewn across the wasteland, all of which result in precious resources. If you buy the Jimmy Bar straight away, you won’t have to worry about coming back to previously inaccessible treasure troves later on.

Upgrade your Essence and Adaptation ASAP

The mysterious merchant Griffa offers Max many ways to strengthen his inner self, including handy upgrades like increased Health and faster Fury generation. But liquid, be it water or fuel, is your true lifeblood in Mad Max, and you’ll want to be as economical as possible with your reserves. To that end, you should make it a priority to boost your Essence and Adaptation abilities during every Griffa visit, which will give you additional bonuses on water and gas consumption, respectively. These stats are infinitely more important than things like extra regen from eating food (which is already sizable) or additional melee damage, as Essence and Adaptation will constantly be saving you from those times when you’re running dry and desperately seeking sustenance for your body and/or car.

Let Chumbucket do all the harpoon aiming

Your hunchbacked pal Chumbucket specializes in all things mechanical, but he’s also an ace with a harpoon cannon. And while it can feel pretty dang cool to slow down time and line up a shot while you stomp the gas pedal, you’ll eventually just want to leave the targeting to ol’ Chum. Tapping the fire button will let Chumbucket decide what to shoot, and he’s awfully smart about his targets; he’ll rarely deviate from what you probably wanted/needed him to hit, like the driver of an incoming vehicle or a scarecrow as you go speeding past. Once you make him your designated harpoon gunner, all the car combat will feel a lot faster (and in turn, more exciting).

Hold off on exploring until you get the Thunderpoon

Despite its absolutely ridiculous name, the Thunderpoon – a javelin with an explosive tip that controls just like the harpoon – is not an item to be trifled with, and not one you’ll want to do much exploring without. You get the Thunderpoon after completing a mission for gang leader Gutgash during act two, and you’ll have to do some world-traversing before you get to that point. But because the Thunderpoon can destroy weaker cars, gates, towers, and even the strongest scarecrows on impact, it makes otherwise tricky tasks completely effortless. You’ll want to have it in your arsenal before you dig too deep into the wasteland sands.

Don’t run from storms – use them to get a ton of scrap

When a storm’s headed your way in Mad Max, you’ll get a big ol’ sign from the game slapped across the screen telling you to SEEK SHELTER or die. Well, ignore that entirely, because you’ll be much better served by braving the elements. Those torrential gales contain treasure troves (called Muthaloot crates), each worth a whopping 300 pieces of scrap. To nab a few for yourself, keep driving after a storm hits and watch for sun-shaped scrap icons that appear on the mini-map, then harpoon the boxes and give them a blast from the shotgun to collect. Out of bullets? Harpooning and stomping the crate works too.

Remember: you can actually jump

Mad Max is no platformer, but you’d think the game’s tutorial would do a better job teaching you that you can jump. By tapping L2/LT, Max will do a jaunty little hop – nothing that would give Mario a run for his money, but just enough to clear pesky dunes or shin-high blockades. This can be a godsend when you’re frustratedly trying to clamber up a rocky hillside, though it won’t help you scale ladders or vault up ledges any faster. What’s more, there are some History Relics hidden throughout the environment that seemingly require a short jump to access, so if you find one that seems impossibly out of reach, a running jump off of a nearby structure is likely the answer.

Save your shotgun shells for Scrotus insignias

Part of clearing out the many encampments that dot the desert is the dismantling of Scrotus insignias, those bright red, skull-on-fire emblems hanging on the walls in each camp. And while most of them are conveniently placed at chest level, where Max can shatter them with a few forceful smacks from his crowbar, a few will be hanging overhead in large rooms, or even mounted on the side of tall towers. Nothing’s more annoying than spotting one of these hidden insignias only to realize that you don’t have any shotgun shells to blast it down, forcing you to come back later. With that in mind, it’s best to save your ammo when fighting your way through each camp, especially early on when your supplies are low – you really shouldn’t need any bullets to take down the opposition in the earlier camps. If you’re desperate, you could try lobbing a lit gas can at an out-of-reach insignia, though their tricky explosion timing may be just as frustrating.

Don’t bother chasing down Convoys until you’ve bought plenty of upgrades

As you zoom across the wastes, you’re sure to encounter Convoys: giant processions of enemy vehicles led by a humongous truck. Chumbucket will make wistful comments about the ‘mojo’ artifacts carried by the vehicle in the lead, which is actually one of the collectible Hood Ornaments that add a perk to the Magnum Opus (in addition to looking totally sweet). While it can be tempting to try and tussle with these warbands early on, it’s akin to automotive suicide in the earlier stages of the game. Instead of trying to chase down convoys and take out the multitude of cars surrounding the lead truck, just leave them alone for the first dozen or so hours until you’ve tricked out the Magnum Opus in protective gear like spiked hoods and barbed rims. Oh, and when you do finally muster the courage to take on a convoy, remember that harpooning drivers is the quickest way to disable a vehicle (though you’ll still need to destroy their ride after the fact).

Stronghold Projects are the key to collecting scrap fast

It takes a lot of scrap to upgrade Max’s abilities and the Magnum Opus’ parts, and you’ll only find so many metal bits on scavenger’s corpses or buried in the sands. Taking out encampments has the massive benefit of providing a steady stream of scrap every hour or so, increasing with each camp you overthrow – but the real way to make bank is to complete two specific Stronghold Projects. Building the Scrap Crew makes it so that your scrap income will be collected even when the game’s turned off (provided your system is still connected online), while the Cleanup Crew will collect all the scrap from the cars you destroy that would typically be a waste of time to stop and pick up. You’ll want to construct these ASAP, so be sure to inspect their glowing, vacant workbenches in each Stronghold to make their part locations spawn on the minimap – just remember that you can only track one project’s requisite materials at a time.

Complete the other Stronghold Projects fast to get important resources

In addition to being critical for scrap collection, finishing projects in the Strongholds gives you permanent access to important resources. Want automatic refills on ammo, water, and fuel whenever you roll into the base? Each Stronghold has a project that, once completed, will be a never-ending well for that resource, so you’ll never have to worry about running low on it again. Granted, this is only the case for regions connected to that Stronghold, so you’ll have to rebuild when you arrive at a new Stronghold. Alternatively, you can just fast travel to a completed Stronghold whenever you need a pick-me-up, though those load times may start to grind your gears.

Take out the camps if you’re looking to decrease threat levels in a hurry

Certain upgrades are locked behind a specific region’s threat level: the numerical representation of Scrotus’ dominion over that area’s terrified denizens. Pretty much anything you do – from eliminating snipers to tearing down scarecrows – helps whittle down the current threat level, but the quickest way to establish a foothold is to take out some camps. You can scout out where each camp is located during your hot air balloon rides, then decide which ones you want to take down first based on their difficulty (represented by those skull icons). Just know that if you’re chasing after a specific upgrade, you’ll have to make sure that you’re reducing threat in the correct area (though every bit helps out in the long run).

Don’t get fancy with your sniper shots

In most games, sniper rifles are a chance to line up the perfect headshot from a distance – but in Mad Max, those bullets are one-hit kills no matter where they connect. When trying to line up your sights, you should only be focused on getting the hit, rather than where you hit, because each bullet is precious. Gliding the reticle above an enemy will typically give you an auto-aim nudge toward their chest – and that’s the shot you want to take. And if a sniper is shooting back at you, keep your cool; it can be tempting to frantically try to nail them before they clip you, but that just makes you more likely to waste your ammunition. Instead, simply drive out of their range and come back later. Same goes for if you run out of ammo, because trying to get out of the car will almost assuredly get you killed (or at least have you dancing and dodging away from incoming shots nonstop).

Don’t always trust the auto-guide

Ever heard the travel expression “as the crow flies”? That’s typically a good rule of thumb when trying to make your way to whatever destination you’ve highlighted on your map. Like most open-world games, your minimap will highlight the optimal road you want to take in green – but you’ll usually make it to your mark much quicker if you just go barrelling off a cliff or two, bypassing the windy trails with some off-roading. Once you’ve unlocked nitro boosts, you can clear most canyons or cliffs without much trouble, which will save you tons of time while you cruise around the wasteland. And don’t worry about wrecking your car, because…

The Magnum Opus is effectively indestructible

You’ve got to hand it to Chumbucket: the little fella does good work. No matter what kind of body-shattering, axle-grinding torture you put the Magnum Opus through, Chumbucket can always repair it back to pristine(ish) condition. You can effectively ignore your vehicle’s health bar; as long as you get out of the car in time whenever you’ve taken critical damage, even an all-consuming car fire can be fixed. On top of that, the Magnum Opus will never tip over no matter what kind of death-defying jumps you take, so you won’t have to pull a Master Chief and flip over a two-ton vehicle in the middle of a fight.

Max is borderline fireproof

Not wanting to be outdone by his ride, Max himself is also quite resistant to high heat. If you’ve just rammed a bandit off the road and want to pick up the scrap from their car’s burning remains, go for it – those plumes of orange flame won’t leave a scratch on Max or his leather jacket. And though you’re not immune to explosions, you can withstand some pretty devastating blasts. For instance, the kind of detonation that’ll wipe out all nearby enemies will usually only ding about half of your health bar – so if those War Boys have you backed into a corner near an oil transfer tank or an explosive barrel, might as well blow it and hope for the best.

You can totally cheat during Death Races

It would probably be frowned upon if NASCAR or F1 drivers actively tried to kill each other while jockeying for position – but in Crow Dazzle’s Death Races, anything goes! Make you sure you load up on shotgun ammo before starting a race, because you’re free to blast the exposed gas canisters on the back of your competitors’ rides and permanently remove them from the rally. It’s not time efficient to take out all the other contestants, but this lethal bit of cheating can be a godsend if you can’t seem to pull ahead of the car in front of you. You can even take out the nearest vehicle right at the starting line without anyone – be they racer or event organizer – batting an eye.

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