MadWorld for the Nintendo Wii. Developer: PlatinumGames Publisher: SEGA
At last Spring’s E3 convention Sega unveiled two upcoming, headline titles: MadWorld and Bayoneta. Both looked derivative and needlessly hyperviolent, as if to mask some gameplay deficiency. To make matters worse, we didn’t get to actually play the two games, but watched a representative walk us through a demonstration. As we left, we overheard another member of the press divisively state, “I liked the games better when they were called Manhunt and Devil May Cry.”
At first glance Madworld, a recent release for the Nintendo Wii has a number of similarities with Rockstar’s Manhunt. Both are framed within a dystopian television show that places its contestants in a kill or be killed challenge. Each game lingers on the violent execution of enemies, ratcheting up the Grand Guignol spectacle with each subsequent level. Whereas Manhunt and its sequel were set in a pseudo-realistic environment, MadWorld wisely strives for a darkly comical tone. This oblique path (with apologies to Robert Frost) has made all the difference.
The game’s narrative seems initially skeletal; terrorists known as the Organizers have sprayed the citizens of Varrigan city with a nasty viral weapon that will kill them within a few hours. The game’s protagonist, Jack, enters the gladiatorial bout with one goal- to slaughter enough enemies necessary to gain an antidote. However, as we played through the seven-hour storyline, we became increasingly interested in the motivations of Jack and those behind the Organizers.
At its core, MadWorld is a well executed brawler, incorporating subtle grappling and wrestling elements. Players move Jack with the nunchuck; the ‘A’ button is used to attack, or if held, to grab a foe or environmental object. The ‘B” button revs the chainsaw mounted on the Jack’s prosthetic arm. Various simple and effective Wiimote gestures offer a variety of blood spilling moves- a vertical slice or horizontal hack slivers enemies accordingly. Players are encouraged to apply excessively brutal combinations of punishment to rack up the required minimal scores for progression. Applying a spare tire to incapacitate an opponent, then throwing them in front of a speeding spiked train is both a typical and elementary execution. MadWorld’s strength lay in its environmental variety- there are turbine jet engines, razor-sharp dumpsters, and spiked dart boards all thirsting for foes.
Despite our hearts racing during ‘bit(s) of the old ultra-violence’, MadWorld has two nagging imperfections. Although players can use the ‘C’ button on the nunchuck to center the game’s camera behind Jack, we occasionally found ourselves viewing the mayhem from an awkward vantage point. Secondly, while boss attacks are pattern-based, being able to discern their behavior introduces a speck of frustration into an otherwise enjoyable romp.
Madworld’s black and white palette is perfectly accented by crimson bloodletting, creating one of the most visually arresting titles of the year. While graphic purists may bemoan the title’s lack of 480P support, the title is engrossing and fluid, we barely noticed the omission. The title’s framerate rarely falters, allowing the player to become immersed in Varrigan City’s brutal splendor. MadWorld’s hip-hop soundtrack, combined with the color commentary of Greg Proops and John DiMaggio, synergistically propels the title. We often couldn’t believe the game’s combination of masturbation jokes that accompanied the annihilation of enemies.
Along with House of the Dead: Overkill, MadWorld represents Sega offering Wii owners an amazingly violent, and obscenity- crammed thrill ride that gleefully pushes the limits of the ESRBs ‘M’ rating. Pulverizing enemies into red splatters feels shamefully exhilarating. We encourage all Wii owners seeking an adult-oriented diversion to pickup MadWorld. Just don’t let your non-game playing friends behold the on-screen mayhem- they likely won’t understand the draw of such a delightfully sadistic title.