MadWorld is the definition of Grindhouse gaming, inspired as much by movie directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez as games gone by. With striking monochrome visuals spattered with gobbets of gore and enough violence to keep the tabloids in column inches for the next sixth months, it’s by far the most stylish Wii game to date. But beneath the gory facade is a staggeringly simple concept.
The first surprise is that the game’s huge amounts of gore are backed up by a surprisingly sophisticated plot. Basically, our man Jack is infiltrating a city in the grip of a terrorist attack-come-gameshow in which the citizens are forced to kill to stay alive. More surprising still is just how straight faced the characters manage to stay in the face of such riotous, over the top nonsense. And we mean nonsense in the best possible way, of course.
The core of the gameplay involves extreme violence doled out with simple button presses and gestures, but meat is added by the challenging points-based system. It’s this that transforms the game from a straightforward Streets of Rage style brawler into a sadomasochist’s playground where every action is scored, and higher scores unlock more and more challenges.
Naturally, Jack is capable of turning crazies into sandwich paste with fists alone, but the resulting mess results in only slight point increases. Effectively, you can bludgeon your way slowly through the game with one button kills and the occasional wave of the Wii-mote, but as with the best games of its type, MadWorld encourages creativity. Bloody, horrible, stomach-churning creativity. Each stage is littered with new and bizarre ways to dismember and destroy.
Experimentation is recommended if you’re to get the most out of MadWorld. It pays to try everything twice if you’re going to rack up the highest possible scores and see everything the game has to offer. There’s no place for the squeamish here. Simpler still are the game’s controls. Remote gestures are used simply and effectively reduced down to swipes, slices and deft little twirls used contextually as the gameplay demands. While many Wii games highlight just how inaccurate the motion-sensing controls can be, MadWorld uses the broad strokes the machine is capable of to its advantage.
Simply put, the messy moves work so well because you believe in them. They’re so convincingly and easily implemented that you’ll find yourself adding flourishes to certain finishers such as jerking up the remote as you slice an aggressor in half. Such gleeful invention and implementation brilliantly disguises the fact that you’re constantly performing the same actions to do a variety of things. It’s an impressive use of the system’s controls that’s rarely mastered outside of Nintendo HQ, but Platinum have managed it superbly.
In terms of gameplay, story and invention, the boss battles are the real highlight. Working his way up the ranks of the game’s ‘contestants’, Jack comes face to face with the most inventive villains since MGS4’s Beauty and the Beast regiment. There’s a dim-witted giant, an ice-dancing cowboy, a turbine-fisted Nazi and a family of werewolves to name but a handful. Some of the solutions to these battles are equally inventive, and it’s the brutal, remote-based, God of War-style Quick Time Events and finishers that make them stand out. During Jack’s confrontation with Frankenstein’s monster, for instance, he must pummel away before initiating a QTE in which you circle the remote to unscrew the bolts that provide the creature with life-giving electricity.
On the one hand, MadWorld refuses to take itself seriously. The constant rantings of the commentators highlight the general silliness that’s unavoidable when you start throwing buckets of claret around. But on the other hand it’s an impressively deep game if you have the imagination to help it do its work. It would be great fun on any console, but that it’s on the Wii is cause for celebration. Sega, it seems, are determined to carve out a new niche market for the console with this and House of the Dead: Overkill. Mad? Maybe, but seriously good fun, too.
Mar 10, 2009