Mad Max tips: 12 things we wish we'd known before we started

Mad Max

You may be mad enough, but are you Max enough? Here's a clue: I don't know what that means. After fifty hours of Mad Max, however, I do know what I wish I'd known before I started playing. Here are some general tips to keep in mind while laying waste to the wasteland in Mad Max.

Don't rush through the story missions

Do you play open world games the way I do? Because I put off story missions in favor of doing whatever the hell I want, and only when I've satisfied my wanderlust do I remember that, oh yeah, people are waiting for me to help them with their drama.

But even as I meandered through the story, I found myself having to do a good amount of grinding to get my car ready for the finale, which tells me the game is more than a bit weighted toward wasteland tasks than it is toward the main quest. So, pace yourself as much as you can. If you want to enter the end game with a powerful car, you're going to need to invade a lot of enemy bases, pull down a lot of enemy towers, clear a lot of minefields, and gather a whole mess of scrap metal. If you don't do enough of this in between story missions, you might wind up doing tons of it all at once before the final story mission.

Build cleanup crews immediately

Scrap metal is the basis of just about every upgrade in Mad Max (even those that common sense would dictate don't have anything to do with scrap metal), and collecting it is both important and time-consuming. This is especially true when you demolish enemy cars, which drop bits of scrap whenever they explode. There's even a truck called a Scrapulance, which drops tons of scrap metal when you catch and defeat it and is worth even more if you remove the driver and return the truck to your base.


The issue? Max has to stop, get out of his car, and run around manually picking up pieces of scrap that appear in the road after a car explodes, and it quickly becomes tiresome. That's why your first order of business is to put together a cleanup crew to gather fallen scrap for you. The moment you complete Jeet's first stronghold story mission, talk to him about making improvements to the base. Then, run around looking for the cleanup crew node (it looks like pile of junk died and became a ghost, if that helps). Track it on your map to find the locations of the parts you need, and go out and get them immediately. Return to the base, find the node again, and build it. From then on, scrap from demolished cars will automatically be collected.

The crew in Jeet's stronghold only covers car scrap in Jeet's territory, so each time you reach and unlock a new stronghold you'll need to do it again: find the cleanup node, track the parts, collect them, and build it. Also, don't confuse the cleanup crew with the scrap crew. The scrap crew collects scrap for you while you're not playing the game, which is less useful: they don't provide much scrap and you need to have an online connection to collect it when you return to the game.

Know which challenges are nearest to completion

There are two ways to upgrade Max himself. One is through the menu, where you can tinker with his knuckle dusters, shotgun, clothing, appearance, and fighting skills. The other is by visiting a mystical weirdo named Griffa who wears the largest backpack in history and appears periodically in different spots in the desert.

Increasing Max's abilities with Griffa requires tokens, which Max earns by accomplishing certain challenges. You'll beat a lot of these challenges accidentally, simply by playing the game. For instance, you'll just be absentmindedly driving a shiv into the neck of a gibbering War Boy and you'll get a notification saying "Challenge complete: absentmindedly drive a shiv into the neck of 10 gibbering War Boys!" The prize: a Griffa token.


It helps, though, to keep an eye on which challenges are almost complete before you hit the wastes. In the menu's Legend tab, there's a list of challenges and how far you've progressed. Always take a look at the top of the challenges list before you venture out, so you know a quick and easy way to earn a few tokens. If you see you've destroyed four cars by ramming them head on, and a fifth will complete the challenge, or if you've disarmed nine of ten enemies, you can make a mental note to finish these up at the next opportunity.

Upgrade your car's suspension

With so many different and exciting things to upgrade on your car, like spikes, rams, flamethrowers, and nitro boosts, it's easy to overlook suspension because it doesn't kill anybody. It's important, though: most of Mad Max's races are optional activities, but two races are required story missions, and beating them is going to be more about the handling of your car than about ramming other cars. Suspension ain't a sexy choice for a war machine, but sometimes you need to be practical.


Something else to keep in mind: adding heavier armor and a bigger engine has a negative effect on your handling, so if you've maxed out your suspension upgrades but are finding your car a bit sluggish to control, consider downgrading a few other elements.

Keep a gas canister handy... for balloons

One of your priorities is to visit all the hot air balloon locations on the map. These provide spots for fast travel and can be used to scout the landscape for enemy camp locations and perimeter defenses. While you can sometimes just hop in and ride the balloon, other times there's a bit more work involved. If you notice there are cables leading up to the balloon, you need to detach them first, so drive around in your car and use your harpoon to yank them away before entering the balloon base, or you'll have to tromp back down to your car.


Often you'll also need to fill the balloon's tank with gasoline. It's hard to spot at first, but there is a small tank on one side of the balloon you need to be standing right in front of to get the 'fill tank' prompt. There are often several gas canisters nearby, but sometimes there's just one, and sometimes it's not even full. Plus, due to the same key being used for 'fill tank' and 'ignite canister' you may occasionally accidentally blow up the canister (I speak from experience) and have to leave to go find another. Always keep a full gas canister in your car just for balloons. And, fill the balloon's tank up all the way! It drinks gas faster than an SUV, and you don't want to get halfway up, run out of fuel, and have to descend to fill it again.

You don't need the Adaptation ability until you suddenly do

Speaking of Griffa and gasoline, Adaptation is a token-fed ability that decreases the amount of gasoline Max uses when driving vehicles. It won't take long for you to notice that you really don't need to put points into this ability because Max already gets excellent mileage. In fact, I never ran out of gas once in my first thirty or so hours of playing, and I rarely even had to refuel.

Mad Max

This will change all of the sudden late in the game when you get the chance to add flamethrowers to your car. They're useful, no doubt, for keeping cars from smashing into your sides and setting enemies on fire, but boy do they drink up the go-juice. In other words, throw a token into Adaptation every so often, even if you feel like you don't need it, or you'll have to do some grinding to max it out later.

The Shiv Grapple Escape is the best fighting skill

Most goons you face have standard attacks you can parry, even when they have melee weapons. A few, however, have special attacks (signaled by angry red symbols over their heads) that you have to dodge. Failing to dodge usually means you're staggered by these attacks and take some extra damage, but unless you're at death's door it's not a big deal.


Grapplers are different, in that they're the worst and I hate them. They grab you from behind, which immobilizes you. While holding you, they begin whaling on your kidneys repeatedly. To escape, you have to mash a key really fast. And, that key is not one you normally use while fighting, so it's awkward mashing to boot. Plus, once you escape, the grappler is still alive and may grapple you again. I hate them so much you guys!

Unlock the Shiv Grapple Escape skill as soon as you can. If you get grabbed, you can tap a key once and drive a shiv into the stupid grapplers stupid face. No button mashing required, plus he's dead and can only grapple angels in heaven!

Yellow helps you navigate except when it doesn't

Very early on you'll be running around as Max, encounter some obstacle like a rock or a waist-high wall or a half-buried cargo container, and try to climb it or jump it or mantle it. That's when you'll first realize that Max has the agility of a geriatric sea lion. Seriously, I know the dude has a chronic knee injury but I haven't seen jumping and climbing this weak since the original Doomguy.

However! There are things Max can climb, and those things are marked in yellow. Ladders don't need to be yellow for you to understand you can climb them, but certain walls marked with yellow stripes indicate he can pull himself up, and ledges marked with yellow paint can be sidled along. This is helpful, because due to Max's general lack of athleticism you'll often forget climbing over something is actually an option.


Occasionally, though, there will be something climbable not marked in yellow, just to be completely confusing. So, remember to keep an eye out for gross brownish vines as well.

Remember that fast travel swaps out your car

There's none of Bethesda's "You cannot fast travel while enemies are nearby" nonsense in Mad Max. You can fast travel pretty much whenever you want, even in the middle of a brawl or car battle. One thing to keep in mind, though: if you're driving a car other than the Magnum Opus, it'll vanish when you reach your destination and be replaced by the Magnum Opus. So, if you're cruising in a faction car, or one of your Archangels, or Chum's buggy, don't fast travel unless you're completely done using that other vehicle. Otherwise, you'll have to retrieve it from a stronghold garage.

Use Chum, not the dog, to find minefields

Your hunchback mechanic Chumbucket is happy to point out local attractions while you drive around, such as approaching war parties, deadly storms, and scarecrow towers that need to be pulled down, even though you've already pulled down thirty of them and you really don't need to be told that anymore.

Chum can also spot minefields. If you hear him shout about "boom-boom fields", quickly check your map. If there's not a minefield icon, either mark or memorize the spot on your map, then return in Chum's buggy with the dog to clear it. (For some reason, the icon doesn't always show up automatically.)

Mad Max

The dog can lead you to minefields too, but it's much easier to let Chum find them, because driving around with the dog means you don't have the harpoon or nitro-boosts to deal with roving war parties. When you take the dog out to clear the minefields, it's easier if you've already used Chum to find them.

If you're caught in a storm, make it worth your while

Dust storms are exciting, surprising, and deadly as hell. They can turn your car into a burning wreck and fling you into the sky when you step outside. They also blow a ton of debris around, including huge boxes of scrap metal, and there are a couple ways to collect them.


Safest is to try to weather the storm by getting into cover. Not inside a friendly stronghold—that will cause the storm to immediately pass—but a camp or some other structure to protect you from debris and lightning strikes. Then, wait it out. After several long minutes, the storm will let up and you can quickly hop in your car and try to find some of those huge crates of loot lying around in the dust.

Your other option is to harpoon a crate during the storm and try to drag it with you until the storm dissipates. If you survive (no easy trick), you need only kick it open to collect several hundred pieces of scrap.

Let a War Crier live

War Criers are found in enemy camps, sitting in seats that dangle from cranes. When a brawl begins, they start beating their drums and shouting encouragement to the goons you're fighting, which gives them a buff. As a general rule, you try to take out War Criers before a fight begins, either by sniping them from the car before you reach the base, or with a quick shotgun blast from up close.


Just once, though, let the War Crier live! After the fight, when he sees that all his War Boys are dead, the same War Boys he was just screaming at to kill you, and he realizes he's just dangling helplessly in his goofy chair at the mercy of a dangerous and furious wasteland legend, his attitude changes considerably. Look, he was just doing his job, you know?

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.