With violence, innuendo, and stark monochrome aesthetic, MadWorld stands out--especially on the family-friendly Wii. It makes an obvious grab for attention, but this M-rated game doesn't just rely on shock value. MadWorld makes killing fun again using the Wii's unique controls and creating an interactive game show you'll literally kill to be a part of.
At first, there's very little evidence of an actual plot in MadWorld. You control a badass loner participating in a deadly game show called Death Watch, and your job is to waste every other contestant you come across. But as you go on, you'll learn details about who's organizing and backing the sinister spectacle, get a whiff of government conspiracy, and find out that Jack has his own agenda. It sometimes feels loosely connected, but for the plotline of an ultra-violent interactive comic book it's better than you probably expect.
As a star contestant on Death Watch, your job is to cause as much carnage as humanly possible. Considering Jack has a chainsaw attached to his arm, he's definitely cut out for the job. Each area is loaded with enemies and, not coincidentally, plenty of sharp objects, weapons, and environmental hazards. It's not too hard to put two and two together, especially with a well-integrated tutorial from your sponsor.
For every bone-crushing brutality you inflict on your fellow man in any given level, you're rewarded with points, which add up to unlock new weapons, bloodbath challenge mini-games, and main event boss battles. The more pain and suffering you can inflict on one enemy, the more points you get for your kill combo. Levels are large and open, and you're given a 30 minute time limit to do your thing and reach the required number of points to activate the boss battle.
Because of the emphasis on exploring the level and finding the best spots to earn points, playing MadWorld can almost feels like being in a skate park, except instead of a skateboard you have a chainsaw, and instead of tricking spots you're murdering guys in brutal and hilariously over-the-top ways. Okay, so maybe it's not that similar, but you'll still appreciate finding a nice place to grind.
MadWorld's population of violent freaks don't put up much of a fight in the early levels--at least until you unlock the insanely tough hard mode by completing the game the first time through--but your enemies will slowly develop backbones and brains as you unlock new themed areas including the chop-socky cultural mishmash known as Asia Town and a Halloween-themed zombie fright fest that's perfect for horrific acts of violence.
Motorcycle action provides some variety on your journey to the top of the rankings, and a decent multiplayer mode lets you relive the bloody mini-games again via split-screen. MadWorld delivers on variety and replay, but it's the one-two punch of the gameplay and presentation that will keep you going.
Dealing out damage with a Wii remote and nunchuk feels great thanks to MadWorld's smart control setup. Jack's punches and grabs are easily executed using the A and B buttons, saving the waggle for special attacks and gory finishing moves. You'll still get that hands-on feeling when you're doing dirty work, but you won't wear out your wrist in the process.
Turning your murderous impulses into reality is fun and easy when it comes to controls, but it can take a couple of seconds to lock-on to an enemy or break the lock. It's usually not necessary--or even worth the trouble--to lock onto smaller enemies, so it's not a crippling problem, but you're likely to experience a few clumsy attacks and missed grabs from time to time. You'll also have limited control over your viewpoint, but you can center the camera and the game does a good job of providing you with a functional view to a kill--or better yet, a multi-kill.
Combos are king in MadWorld, letting you multiply your points when you multiply the pain. Hitting an enemy with multiple props like street signs and tires before delivering the final blow gets you big points, as does trashing more than one enemy at once. You can quickly off most with a slice of your chainsaw, but you'll take forever to get to the boss battle, and besides, where's the artistry in that?
MadWorld gives you a whole lot of creative ways to turn people into mulch. Each area has its own unique features to hunt down, and you may miss a few of them your first time around. Still, there's a certain amount of repetition involved. Simplistic motorcyle trips are novel and provide some speed, but for the majority of the game you're right in the thick of a good, old-fashioned beat-'em-up.
Thankfully, while you're free to do the same thing over and over again and rack up points, the game doesn't encourage it. Different weapons such as clubs, torches, and daggers wait to be unlocked from stage to stage, and doing well in a bloodbath challenge like the death press or man darts lets you build big points fast so you can make it to the appropriately insane boss battles.
Some title fights are more memorable than others, but each ranked battle is a spectacle unto itself, and every boss goes down in a unique way that will leave no doubt that they're truly out of the competition. With so much fantastic violence on display, you'll definitely come across a few images that will stick with you.
MadWorld's comic book-inspired black and white style may seem a little gimmicky at first, and story scenes seem to have received less attention than the actual game environments, but smart texturing and the striking contrast provided by copious amounts of red blood make this a truly great-looking game. This visual package isn't just good for a Wii game, it's an impressive artistic design that masks the system's processing limitations while delivering stylized violence that's comical, gruesome, and flat-out awesome.
Speaking of flat-out awesome, MadWorld may have drafted the best game announcers of all time for death watch. Not only do these guys have real personality and sound like they're right in the same room ribbing each other, they deliver genuinely funny, foul-mouthed banter that's often as shocking as the visuals, feeding right into the game's guilty pleasure vibe.
Your ears will also be treated to an original hip-hop soundtrack with catchy beats, murderous lyrics, and character voices that are also dead on the money. Everything sounds so natural you may even forget that the game was developed in Japan.
One of the most eye-catching games to come along in a while, MadWorld is stylish, bloody, and a great fit for the Wii's controls. Though there's a surprising amount of incentive to replay it, it's barely seven hours long, so if you aren't persuaded by the novelty of extreme violence buy with caution. Along with No More Heroes, Wii owners can point to MadWorld and say that not only do they have shockingly violent games, they have shockingly violent games with style and substance.