Genre: Third-Person Action
Platform: Nintendo Wii
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The words mature and Nintendo Wii may not be offered in the same breath very often, but Sega and Platinum Games are looking to rectify that problem with MadWorld, the latest entry in Mature rated Wii titles. With a style reminiscent of Sin City, and action that looks to capture the feel of contemporaries like God of War or Devil May Cry, could Nintendo’s once bitter rival set the example in how adult games on the Wii should be done?
When you first fire up MadWorld, it may appear that you’re just going to be playing through an overly violent action game looking to emulate the Running Man to the nth degree. It may seem that there is no concern for narrative, but before long, it’s clear that Platinum Games is doing more than providing gamers with another Manhunt. A mysterious group has taken over entire section of Varrigan City, turning it into an arena for the reality show tournament of death, Death Watch. You play as Jack, a bounty hunter of sorts, who enters the tournament for reasons all his own. Of course, as the story progresses you learn Jack’s true motivations, and while the characterization isn’t exactly deep, you’ll find there’s more to Jack than being a mindless killer. Players will also witness a brutal satire of reality television, and a commentary on why violence on television is acceptable, but violence in games is not. The game’s story and message may not change the world, but the fact that there’s more to MadWorld than senseless violence is a testament to how much effort the developers put into making this game an engaging experience.
Typically, controls on the Wii fall into the trap of adding waggle or motion controls only because the system allows it. There are a few rare exceptions to this rule, and thankfully, MadWorld’s controls aren’t gimmicky. Jack can punch and grab with the A button, pop out his chainsaw with the B button and jump by hitting Z. The motion controls are used in most instances for context sensitive attacks like jamming a signpost in someone’s head or throwing bodies into traps. Many of the boss fights will boil down to some sort of motion sensitive finisher, whether it’s swinging a giant spiked ball, or firing off a set of six-shooters, and while it may sound forced on paper, once you actually perform the moves, you’ll see that Platinum made sure the motion controls made sense. At its core, MadWorld is about a tournament of death, so you will be scored on how good you are at killing. The more ridiculous the fatality, the more points you earn, thus opening up more of the current arena. Combining several methods of mutilation like a signpost to the head, followed by a jamming the bad guy in an empty barrel, followed by smashing him onto a spike jutting out of the wall, will earn you mega-points. Eventually, you’ll start searching the arenas for more inventive ways to deal damage, and before long you’ll be stringing five and six part combos together. Once you earn enough points, the arena will open an insane mini-game called BloodBath Challenge. There are about ten different games to test your murder mettle like Man Darts, where you swing a bat at an enemy trying to get the best darts score, or the Turbinator, where you’ll fling foes into a running jet turbine. The challenges provide a nice change from the frenetic pace of the game, and are incredibly fun to play. As you progress in the tournament, enemies will become tougher, and bosses will straddle the line between cheap and challenging. MadWorld never becomes frustratingly difficult, but there’s enough challenge in the game to provide regular and hardcore gamers alike reason to keep playing.
Despite much of the game being in black and white, MadWorld looks fantastic. The stylized characters and environments pop off the screen in spite of the limited color palette. The game doesn’t shy away from blood, and the stark contrast of the bright reds spurting forth from your defeated opponents makes each killing much more enjoyable than it should be. Though, that enjoyment may have something to do with the wonderful commentary being spouted non-stop from Greg Proops and John DiMaggio. Whether poking fun at the player, or themselves, the two broadcasters provide color commentary that would shame many sports titles, if not for how great it is, then certainly for how vulgar and uninhibited it is. You’ll learn more about bodily functions from these two than you could ever hope to learn in a high school health class. The other voice work in the game is stellar as well. Dialogue and the actual acting is nearly perfect, and even though many of the characters in the game are completely over the top, the excellent voice direction helps provide a sense of humanity that text bubbles could never hope to convey. Also worth note is the devilishly fun hip-hop soundtrack. Many of the tracks revolve around Jack and killing, but they don’t take themselves very seriously, and are actually worth a listen on their own.
MadWorld’s multiplayer may be confined to playing split-screen BloodBath Challenges, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Two players will compete to see who can generate the highest body count in more than 10 mini-games, and even though some of the challenges are better suited to a full-screen experience, throwing down in this game mode can provide a nice change of pace from your standard deathmatch multiplayer. While the rest of the game shines thanks to the graphical presentation, multiplayer suffers a bit due to the spilt screens being so compressed. You may have to strain your eyes at some points, and that’s not exactly the best way to play this game. It would have been nice to have full arenas opened up for a competitive match, but even though it could use some improvements, the multiplayer included is certainly not a disappointment.
I know it’s only March, but MadWorld has certainly set the bar pretty high for Wii games this year. Looking at the rest of Nintendo’s slate this year, I’d be surprised if any other game matched the experience that MadWorld gave me. Its solid controls and wonderful presentation make this game an incredibly tough act to follow. MadWorld is easily a must own for anybody who has the system. If you don’t have a Wii… well… it sucks to be you because you’re really missing out.