MadWorld is such a tough game for me to critique. In short bursts of a level or two at a time, it is one of the most viscerally satisfying gaming experiences on any platform, not just the Wii. The thing is, it is such a shallow and generally brain dead beat-‘em-up that it becomes downright tedious if played for an extended period of time in one sitting.
As the debut release of new developer Platinum Games, MadWorld is a “Smash TV meets The Running Man meets Sin City meets God Hand” brawler. You play as Jack, a badass with a retractable chainsaw blade strapped to his arm, fighting through a city gone mad as a terrorist group has taken the city hostage and forced the survivors to compete in a televised blood sport called DeathWatch.
As Jack, you work your way up the DeathWatch ladder by completing short timed missions and defeating the crazy bosses standing between you and the #1 ranking. Basically, this encompasses killing waves of stupid enemies as violently as possible to earn points. As your score rises, new weapons and power-ups spawn around each stage, new areas of the environment become accessible, special BloodBath Challenges become active – they are mid-stage mini-games like smacking enemies into a giant-sized dart board with a baseball bat and shaking up bottles of champagne, shoving the bottle down an enemy’s throat and watching as the carbonation launches said enemy into spikes protruding from the naughty areas of girlie billboards – and eventually the boss gong drops down for you to ring and start the final battle.
For the first couple stages of skewering baddies through the neck with street signs, repeatedly slamming them on spiked walls, ripping them limb from limb with your bare hands, and just plain mutilating them in the most comically violent ways imaginable, MadWorld is pure, unadulterated brilliance.
Although the camera control system and lock-on targeting mechanic aren’t the greatest, the game’s motion-control implementation is quite possibly the best yet on the Wii. The controller gestures all correlate to the in-game actions in a sensible way and deliver a tactile sensation that, unlike a lot of Wii games, is actually immersive. Swiping down with the remote to saw an enemy in half, for instance, or rapidly shaking the remote and nunchuk in tandem to overpower your foes in close-combat weapon struggles.
Also, the game’s black-white-and-red-all-over graphics, squishy, bone-crunching sound effects and bumpin’ hip-hop soundtrack give the game a unique sense of style that allow it to stand out against every other game on the market, and Greg Proops and John DiMaggio infuse the experience with an appropriately dirty sense of humor as the foul-mouthed DeathWatch sportscasters providing commentary as you terrorize the competition.
And to top it all off, Jack is an awesome lead character worth building a franchise around, and the storyline is actually pretty compelling… well, for this type of game anyway.
Unfortunately, the MadWorld experience is far too shallow and brain dead to hold up, even through what is a ridiculously short series of story missions taking no more than three hours to complete from start to finish. Now, I’ve heard a lot of folks saying it took them more around six hours, but my completion time was just at three hours and I hardly rushed through the game. In fact, it took me a few weeks to complete my three-hour DeathWatch tour because I found it very difficult to play more than a level at a time. The over-the-top violence and satisfying controls are tremendous fun when you first pick up the remote and nunchuk, but after about 10 minutes of brutalizing air-headed enemies who generally just wait around for you to kill them the gameplay becomes repetitive to a fault.
Because of this extreme repetition and limited staying power, MadWorld is a game that becomes relegated to the role of gore-filled stress reliever. And hey, that’s not entirely a bad thing. I think every gamer has a couple games in their collection that aren’t necessarily great games, but are fun guilty pleasures to pull out when a quick pick-me-up is needed. If that’s all you’re looking for, give MadWorld a try and decide for yourself if it’s worth holding onto.
+ Intuitive, well-implemented motion controls
+ Extreme violence works as a great stress reliever
+ Cool black, white and red art style
+ Excellent audio all around: awesome music, satisfying sound effects, hilarious commentary
– Shallow, repetitive gameplay
– Limited lasting appeal
– Camera and lock-on needed a bit more tuning
Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: 3/10/09
ESRB Rating: Mature