Platinum Games and Sega turn down the colour and turn up the violence with MadWorld, a brutal, bloody beat-em up for the Nintendo Wii.
As soon as the first black, white, and red all over screenshots of MadWorld first surfaced, everyone knew this wasn't going to be your ordinary Wii beat-em up. The game's art style neatly sums up the main goal of the title - to get the red on the inside of your enemies to the outside, where it can no longer do them any good. Its tongue-in-cheek approach to a violent reality game show coupled with its striking visuals made MadWorld a game to watch on the Nintendo Wii.
Well now we've watched, and played, and the collected game reviewers have had their way with the game. Do they cheer MadWorld on, or has it left a red smear on the Wii's pristine white surface?
Kids across the world are likely to be salivating over this gore extravaganza, getting their fill from YouTube, just as kids gathered around the arcade version of Mortal Kombat back in the early 90s. Any game in which you can skewer a string of ninjas onto a long spike shish kebab-style or drill a man's face clean off as he comes hurtling back to earth is bound to attract attention. The violence here is so over the top you'd be hard pushed to find someone who is truly repulsed by what's shown, though, with even the most squeamish person more likely to raise an unexpected smile than run to the nearest toilet. It's the gore that's going to bring in the punters, but it's the gameplay that's likely to leave a few people wanting more.
Jack is a fascinating antihero, easy to root for yet not exactly likable, and a cutscene in which he cuffs a smirking narcissist across the room is as shocking as any of the game's outrageous scenes of dismemberment. The grittiness of the story is further enhanced by MadWorld's graphic-novel looks. Aside from the copious spurts of red blood (or blue alien goo), almost everything is rendered in black and white, and for a while, it's hard not to be awed by this unusual presentation. Nevertheless, that style comes at the occasional expense of visual clarity and comfort; in time, it becomes increasingly difficult to see important items such as health drops within the busy environments. The game is at its best when played in short chunks, if only because you'll need visual and emotional relief from time to time.
The locations are deceptively larger than they first appear with different routes crossing the arena and hidden areas filled with more weapons, items, and enemies to eliminate. Even after replaying sections, I found myself finding new places and new ways to kill wandering zombies or fleet-footed ninjas. Each section feels new and different than the one before it, never copy and pasted. What MadWorld does right is allow for exploration and experimentation when it comes to killing. There's only a brief mention of some of the areas of interest at the beginning of the level before the game sends you on your way. There's very little in the way of hand-holding except for special sections that allow for an instant death.
If you play this game the way you should - by slaughtering victims in the most foul of ways - it ends up being a non-stop highlight reel. The ranked boss battles are especially entertaining - think Mortal Kombat Fatalities with the budget of a Star Wars movie. All of the accelerometer-based shaking and slashing works without a hitch, but the enemy lock-on system is an uncooperative mess, and the grab mechanic, which is used for almost every action, is unreliable, often making the simple action of picking up a club seem like you are attempting it blindfolded with oven mitts on.
There's very little not to love about MadWorld. This is exactly the game the mature, hardcore Wii crowd has been craving, and it's just too bad that Nintendo is too busy making the next Wii Play, Wii Fit or Wii Music to put more resources into projects like this. In any case, kudos should be paid to both Sega and Platinum Games, as they have teamed up to bring us a title that stands head and shoulders above the competition. Just don't hold your heads too high; that makes it too easy to lop them off with a chainsaw. If you happen to be a Wii owner over the age of 17 looking for a terrific hardcore title, this is the one. Go buy MadWorld right now.
MadWorld manages to be sexy, shallow, giddy, gory fun for hours, with a simplistic retro gameplay sensibility. Then the game continues for a few more hours, the novelty having worn off a little more than halfway through. Getting to that crescendo, however, having seen chunky thugs eviscerated, amputated and penetrated by street signs is a blast. It's perhaps made more enjoyable for how referential the game is, with not-so-subtle design references to quirky properties like Smash TV, The Running Man, Sin City, Hellboy, and Evil Dead. The game's bosses feel similarly referential, playing up archetypes that would feel at home in a Mega Man or Castlevania game, if those games went in a terribly gory direction.
Everybody enjoys a good bloodbath now and then.