System: Wii :: Rating: Mature :: Players: 1
Genre: Beat 'em up :: Released: 10 March 2009
By Aaron Robinson
14 May 2009 — It occurred to me about an hour into MadWorld that I've probably never played a game as violent as this. Sure, I've seen some pretty gruesome things in video games. I've hacked off limbs, exploded creatures into meaty chunks, impaled people on spikes and watched as others were eaten alive. MadWorld finds a way to incorporate all of that, and more. In MadWorld, it's not enough to stab a man with a spike and then throw him into a dumpster that slices people in half. In order to get the big points you need to encase someone in a flaming bin, stab them with as many sharp objects as you can find, then throw them into a moving turbine. Yep. MadWorld is all class.
At this stage you're probably wondering exactly what MadWorld is. Well, imagine a 3D beat 'em up to the tune of The Warriors, but with the violence amped up like crazy. When a shadowy group of terrorists called The Organizers take over Varrigan City, they quickly transform it into a bizarre game show called Death Watch, where the remaining population is forced to kill one another in order to survive. As the citizen population falls and the number of bloodthirsty hooligans rises, a new seemingly unstoppable player named Jack enters the fray. You control Jack as he makes his way up the Death Watch food chain, killing everything in his path. But it doesn't take long for The Organizers to notice that Jack's intentions lie beyond completing Death Watch — and they're not going to let Jack get by easily.
The most obvious reason why MadWorld gets away with as much violence as it does is its art style. The only color you'll ever see in MadWorld is red. Everything else is shaded in either black or white. It gives the game a distinct manga feel, with an obvious influence from Sin City; Jack even has a passing resemblance to Marv. Not only does the lack of a color palette help to amp up the cartoony nature of the violence, it gives the game a unique visual style.
Most of the enemies you face are muscled morons who wouldn't look out of place in Fist of the North Star. (It's hard to feel sorry for them when they look like fodder to be slaughtered.) Of course, enemies don't just look dumb; they act dumb, too. If that sounds like a negative, it's not; it actually works really well for how the game is structured. In order to reach bosses you need to earn a certain number of points. Every level has a 30-minute time limit, so creativity is generally your best bet. Knocking multiple enemies into a trap or prolonging an enemy's death by maiming them will increase the amount of points you receive. Stages vary a bit in size, but if you're keen on exploring, you'll often be rewarded by finding hidden items and more vicious traps.
To help keep you on your toes, you'll unlock new items, release new enemies and gain access to the Bloodbath Challenge. The Bloodbath puts you in an enclosed arena with a time limit, and generally requires you to slaughter a set number of enemies in a creative fashion. It's a nifty way of mixing up the gameplay and giving you a chance to earn points quicker. Sure, there's not a big difference between whacking henchmen onto a massive target with a baseball bat and sending decapitated heads into a ring with a golf club, but they're so fast-paced and short that they never really become stale.
The real challenge comes less from the stages and more from the boss fights, and there are a lot of them. Not only are there boss fights at the end of every regular level, some stages are just boss fights. Whereas regular enemies can be taken out without much effort, bosses require a more proficient use of dodging and are home to some pretty lengthy Quick Time Events. What's cool about them here is that they actually coincide with the actions you make with the controllers. Punching down on an opponent often requires you to shake both controllers, slicing them might require you to make a slicing motion with the Wiimote. It goes a long way to putting you into the action, even though you're just watching events occur on screen. They still have the same flaw that QTEs have always had — failure often means losing a big chunk of health, and having to wait a while before you can attack again — but they're incredibly satisfying to pull off.
On the control side of things, MadWorld works in a similar way to most Wii platformers. Both the Wiimote and nunchuck need to be used; the remote for attacking, the nunchuck for movement. Even utilizing most buttons, there's no way to control the camera beyond centering it wherever Jack is facing, but platforming segments tend to be pretty simple to navigate, so it's rarely a hassle. Using the motion controls is a little problematic, though. I had almost no trouble using it during QTE segments, but there were a few points (particularly with the chainsaw) where it just didn't register the movement I was making.
The audio design in MadWorld is another high point. Most of the music consists of gangsta rap and hip-hop. It's not the best collection of artists, but it's perfect for the setting and style of the gameplay. The commentary, provided by John DiMaggio and Greg Proops, is hilarious. It's pretty much two guys playing off each other in a competition to see who can use the filthiest language possible. Sadly, it has a habit of repeating way too often, but there's still a lot of great material in there. There are also some really clever audio touches, like how the Wiimote speaker revs whenever you use Jack's chainsaw.
The only other real flaw is its length. Not including any time spent replaying stages or watching cutscenes, MadWorld is only about three hours long. There's a hard mode to unlock and a multiplayer minigame to give it a bit of replayability, but the main game is over way too quickly. If you're not the kind of person who enjoys replaying games, it makes MadWorld a bit of a hard sell. Of course, if you are the kind of gamer who likes replaying games, there's quite a bit to do. Especially with the way the game is built around earning points.
MadWorld is far from a flawless game. It's a little too fiddly, a little too short and a little too repetitive. But the sheer joy of slaughtering hundreds of dumb henchmen is something that's hard to describe. It's so inventive and unique that it's easy to overlook its flaws. If you're looking for a fun game to mess around with and don't mind a whole lot of carnage and filthy language, you could do a whole lot worse than MadWorld.
Final Grade: 8.0/10