After the controversy surrounding the ultra-violent Manhunt 2 and it’s subsequent disastrous sales, Sega must have questioned whether their decision to publish MadWorld on Wii was the right choice. Bone-crunching fatalities, decapitations and a not-so-healthy dose of claret – all things you wouldn’t expect to see on Nintendo’s whiter-than-white box of tricks. But ignoring protests from family groups and despite the troubles gaining age ratings in some of the stricter territories (Germans must look elsewhere if they want to get their hands on this), Sega have gone ahead and released it anyway and we’re glad they did, because MadWorld is an absolute beauty.
MadWorld is set in Verrigan City, after a group known as the ‘organisers’ have turned it into the backdrop for a Running Man-style game show known as Death Watch. The city was quarantined after a poisonous gas was released by the organisers and now its citizens must kill each other to fight for the vaccine. Into this stage comes Jack Cayman, a man with a shadowy past and a retractable chainsaw attached to his arm. Jack enters the tournament armed with his deadly chainsaw and utilising spikes, signposts and all manner of environmental hazards to battle against other fighters hoping to win Death Watch and claim a very large cash prize.
Putting the violence aside for a moment, MadWorld is one of the most visually striking games available on any of the current consoles. Seeing as their previous titles Viewtiful Joe and Okami have used cel-shading to maximise the impact of their graphics it’s no surprise to see that Platinum Games have once again used the technique to elevate their latest title above the rest of the crowded action genre. Frank Miller’s distinct black and white style, most notably used for his Sin City graphic novels, forms the basis for Madworld’s striking universe. In the hands of lesser developers, this could have been a case of style over substance but Atsushi Inaba and his team have delivered a game that plays as good as it looks.
Controlling Jack is simple, you can either punch your enemies to death by hammering ‘a’ or press ‘b’ to whip out your chainsaw for a more immediate end, or combine the two with a deft flick of the wii remote for a satisfyingly gruesome finisher. If you feel like it you can use signposts, tyres or flaming oil drums to exact a little more punishment on your opponents and increase you score multiplier for each one you send to the afterlife. Combine these with the numerous environmental hazards like spiked walls, ceiling fans or passing trains and you have some entertaining and very rewarding (score-wise) ways to despatch the many foes you’ll face on your way to the top of the rankings. Each death is accompanied by some great commentary, provided by Greg Proops and John DiMaggio (the voice of Bender from Futurama, and Marcus Fenix in GoW), which is incredibly funny to listen to and make MadWorld just as fun to watch being played as it is to take part yourself.
Breaking up the action are the much-publicised and very fun bloodbath challenges like Man Darts and several levels set on a motorbike. There are also some great bosses to look forward to, cementing Platinum Games reputation for memorable, and tough, boss fights, which require a more hands-on approach via motion controls to overcome.
The repetitive nature of MadWorld’s action, despite these distractions, is its only major Achilles heel and if you find yourself growing tired of impaling enemies or throwing them into trashcans within the first few levels it’s unlikely you’ll be able to stomach the ten or so hours it’ll take to finish. Those who do see it through to the end will no doubt get plenty of enjoyment from the huge variety of ways to maim and decapitate and relish the challenge offered by the bosses and the incredibly entertaining mini games. And as a lot of the fun comes from trying to get the best combos possible there’s a definite urge to replay levels to maximise your score.
Platinum Games have produced one of the most entertaining games on the Wii and one that should be a must-have for anyone craving more action on the console. Show Sega (and the gaming industry) you care about original IPs and give MadWorld some love.