System: Nintendo Wii
Genre: Beat em up
Release Date: March 10, 2009
Developer: Platinum Games
Ever since its launch, the Nintendo Wii has served as the pinnacle of casual gaming for the modern industry. People who once overlooked video games were playing Wii Sports and working out with Wii Fit, and those who already played games were drawn in by the intuitive controls and party-style gameplay. For the more mature gamers, however, the novelty soon wore off and countless Wiis were found gathering dust in closets and on unused TV stands. While Nintendo continued to release and re-make more and more casual-style games, hardcore gamers abandoned Wii altogether, often selling their systems in order to purchase another. The lack of more mature and hardcore titles on the system has served to be one of its major catastrophes, and also its biggest pitfall. But of course, with a new year comes a new mentality, and game developer/publisher Sega has strayed into all but untouched snow with their stylized black and white beat em up, Madworld which has proven to be not only the Wiis first big blockbuster of the year, but also the most fun I have had playing video games in a long time.
Between watching the trailers and starting up the disk, one thing about MadWorld stood out above everything else: It is not your average game. Developed by Platinum Games (Okami, Viewtiful Joe) and released exclusively on Wii, MadWorld is a game built in an entirely black and white environment with more-than-occasional splashes of red and yellow for blood and sound effects, respectively. In addition, the game features a gruesome, bloody, horrifying, and all around hilarious display of violence and vulgarity that goes above and beyond anything the game industry has seen before, including the likes of games such as Grand Theft Auto, No More Heroes, and Manhunt 2. In all likelihood, MadWorld only avoided an AO rating as a result of the sheer jocosity of it all. In essence, this is the main thing that makes it such a wonderful game.
The premise of MadWorld is simple: Varrigan City (the location of the game) is under siege by a terrorist group simply known as “The Organizers.” They have isolated its citizens from the rest of the world and have turned the city into a bizarre and twisted game show environment called “Death Watch.” In this game of survival, all the citizens have become reluctant contestants and they are pitted against unknown enemies in the ultimate battle of life or death, where only the strongest will prevail. As Jack, players make their way through the various levels and environments in Varrigan City, crafting clever traps and using various weapons – chainsaws, street signs, and daggers, to name a few – to destroy enemies who threaten their lives. The game is controlled with the standard Wiimote + Nunchuk layout, using various motions to mimic on-screen actions. The infamous waggle controls does make its return, but no worries: Its presentation is quite solid, and only adds to the experience.
One of the most important elements to MadWorld is the overreaching and often laugh-out-loud hilarity of the game’s commentators. What sport would be complete without some sports commentators? Apparently not even Death Watch. The games two announcers are arguably the most laughter-provoking duo in the history of video games, and it is obvious why this is. Platinum Games spared no expense in getting top-quality voice actors for these roles, and they delivered on every level imaginable. John DiMaggio, best known as the voice of Bender from “Futurama” and Marcus Fenix from the “Gears of War” series, is the first of two announcers. The second is actor/comedian Greg Proops, best known for his role in the hit TV series, “Whose Line is it, Anyway?”. These two men drive the game with such enthusiasm, that you will literally be forced to pause the game in order to avoid getting killed because you’ll be laughing. But be warned though, these two alone give the game an ‘M’ rating, and within seconds of starting the game you’ll see why. F-bombs are dropped at every turn, vulgar (though humorous) lines are spewed without relent, and insults are shot back and forth every time anything at all happens. If you are not tolerant of swearing and vulgarity, MadWorld is a title that will turn you off very quickly no matter how hilarious it is. Despite this minor detail, it is hard not to find the commentators somewhat amusing when they’re churning out lines full of sarcasm, wit, and downright-insanity along with the constant insults towards Proops from his co-host that are so blunt you can’t help but at least crack a smile when you hear “Dude, I will f***ing kill you.” for the eighth time in a row.
The kill threats towards DiMaggio’s co-host aren’t the only references to killing in the game. In fact (surprise!) that is what the game is all about. Be it with a tire and a signpost, or a barrel and a vat of boiling oil, the number of ways to kill your enemies in MadWorld outnumber those in every video game I have been able to play to date, and with each level comes an entirely new “weapon” which adds an entirely new kill possibility which adds an entirely new level to the gameplay. In the first level, for instance, you are limited to boxes, barrels, signposts, chainsaws, fists, tires and rosebushes (which are essentially spiked walls). Once you move to the next territory, you will have boxes of money (which, upon throwing, all enemies within line of sight will gather around it to take all the money they can, leaving them vulnerable), human trash dumpsters (throw someone in and watch them get split in two!) and trains (get in its way and get killed, or hold someone against it as it drives by) to name a few. These simple but wonderful additions to each level bring about an entirely new aspect to the game, and ensure that you will never be bored when playing.
One thing that may have you bored about the game, however, is the feeling of sameness. From the comments spit out by Proops and DiMaggio to the boss fights, the game is cluttered with quite a bit of repetition. On a regular basis, this is something hardly noticed and easily dismissible, but there are moments that the game will literally re-use control sequences from previous missions. The most noticeable of any of these are the boss fights. While each fight has its own very distinct feel and strategy, the basic idea is the same. Attack the boss with whatever means possible and eventually cause what is called a clash. During this clash, you collide with your enemy and waggle the hell out of the Wiimote and nunchuck, after which (assuming you succeed) you will be directed to move the Wiimote in one of four directions. Succeed at these two things and you cause a good chunk of damage to the boss. Every boss fight is like this, with a few exceptions. Though, this is not to say that the waggle controls are bad, or that any of the motion controls detract from the gaming experience in any way. Really, the controls of MadWorld (though nothing spectacular) are far from being harmful to the experience. One thing that may be detrimental, however, is the length.
If you go into MadWorld thinking you will have a long, time-consuming experience, you will be very sorely disappointed. It is easily beatable in less than 10 hours, and (though you’ll find yourself wanting to go back and play through again) there is no real incentive to play anymore other than to try a sub-par multiplayer experience and a harder difficulty level. Despite the length, however, MadWorld manages to pack more action, blood and comedy into the 8-hour experience than most games can do in a full 20 hours, which is quite a feat.
Even with the limitations presented to Platinum Games in terms of the Wii’s graphical capabilities, the game delivers as a visual marvel as well as a style spectacle. The game (neglecting its arguably wonderful art style) is one of the best looking on Wii, and though it may seem simple to create a game with such graphical quality, the game brings a level of particle effects not seen on the system before this, and it does it with (you guessed it) blood. There is blood everywhere. From it being on your chainsaw after you cut someone in half, to it covering the bodies of the surrounding people after you’ve blown someone up by shoving a firecracker down his or her throat. It splatters, it stains, and it sticks to everything and anything that gets in its way, and that (for the Wii) is impressive, made even more so by the fact that it does not simply disappear seconds after it stains the surface of an unfortunate soul while he wanders aimlessly with a sign-post through his head and a tire constricting his body.
All of this violence at first glance may seem simple and mindless, with even the premise of the plot leaking fluids of unoriginality, but within the first few hours of the game, it is clear that Platinum Games was not looking to create a mindless brawler: They wanted to create something that was a whole lot deeper, and they accomplished that. The story, at first, is basic; you’re Jack and you’re on a game show to kill people and get money, but it isn’t long before things begin to interweave, and (though it never accomplishes the novel quality of games that are more story oriented), MadWorld proves itself to be one of the better written games on the Wii, rivaling the execution of top-line stories like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Aside from being surprised by the story quality, many other things in the game showed high presentation values and some reasonably hilarious traits as well. The music, for instance, may be the best example of this. The bouncing rap tracks and the female pop vocals feature something that hit me off my guard; all of the lyrics were written to match the game. Not just in terms of feel, but they literally talk about Jack, and about Death Watch and the like. And not only in sheer quality is the music good either. The songs are substantially well done and very fun to listen to in and outside of the game. Lyrics such as “You die, I get paid. More cash surroundin’ this game. It’s crazy, I get more money by killin’ these goons, now ain’t that funny?” and “Jack, Jack, he’s a psycho maniac. That’s right, he’s defo’ psych. It don’t matter who’s wrong or right!” not only give the game a perfect feel that matches the tone of the game itself, but the time spent on creating an entire soundtrack of music and lyrics shows how much Platinum Games cared about the title.
Of course, no matter how much you care about a game, it will have its issues, and MadWorld does have its fair share. They aren’t prominent, and usually not even noticeable, but they are there, and (aside from repetition) MadWorld has the occasionally camera issue when you do quick turns and forget to ‘C Target’. They don’t last for more than a second or two, and camera problems don’t occur very often, but they are certainly worth mentioning because they are noticeable and can very easily frustrate you for a second. This aggravation is soon lost when you are able to take it out on a goon by repeatedly smashing him into a spiked wall.
All things considered, MadWorld is not the perfect game, and dare I say it, but I would even go as far as to conclude that it didn’t even live up to the hype that some groups gave it. Regardless, there is not a single game like it that I’ve ever heard of, and if that isn’t enough to make you want it, you’ve also got top-notch gameplay, hilarity that tops any other, a style that in unmatched, and a quality story to add to this already wonderful experience. From the near-perfect style of the game to the wonderful soundtrack, MadWorld screams “Sequel!” so loudly that it hurts your ears. Not because it was so good that it needs a sequel, but rather because (like Suda51’s “No More Heroes”) the game needs only a few minor things fixed – like length, camera, and repetition – to top the charts and win a few Game of the Year awards.
This game is for people who:
- Are enticed by the premise of the game
- Enjoy beat em ups in the style of God of War or Final Fight
- Enjoy games that sweat style from every inch of playability
This game is not for people who:
- Dislike the style
- Dislike over-the-top violence
- Dislike vulgarity
Overall score: 8.9/10