Essential tips for starting out in Mad Max

Oh, what a game! What a lovely game!

Just because your world is fire and blood, doesn't mean it should be frustrating. 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.

So here's your chance to get the leg up on all those anarchic War Boys. These tips should make staying alive in the post-apocalypse infinitely easier, especially when you're first starting out. If you're chipping away at that other big-budget, open-world desert, be sure to check out our tips for starting out in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Otherwise, 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.