When you’re watching a bloke getting a road sign impaled in his skull and he then staggers about with it sticking out like some grotesque piercing before he falls in a river, what’s not to laugh at? Wii has never seen anything quite like MadWorld. Only Scarface comes close for tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top violence, but not even Tony Montana gave people a rose bushing – this being repeatedly slamming someone into a wall of giant spikes. Sure, Manhunt 2 and The Godfather are the antithesis of the Wii’s family-friendly billing, but their inherent brutality isn’t played off against a dark-as-the-devil sense of humour like it is here.

If we had our lazy Comparo-Tron™ switched on, we’d label Madworld ‘Sin City meets God Hand’. The nod to Frank Miller’s dystopian urban tales is an easy spot in terms of the artistic direction the game has taken. Indeed, it looks absolutely badass. Obviously, the characters and settings are all in comic book black and white, and it’s equally obvious that pints of claret are spattered around the screen at every sharp-edge-meets-fleshy-human juncture. Not shown in the first screens or trailer are the additional splashes of colour that come from the comic book call-outs – no prizes for guessing that they’re mostly exclamations of pain, surprise and anger.

As to the God Hand reference, Clover Studio’s PS2-only beat ’em up was far from a critical or commercial success – repetitive gameplay, and shoddy graphics saw to that. However, its signature over-the-top scrappery, custom special moves,and dark, tongue-in-cheek humour areall carried over to MadWorld. And you could alsobludgeonsomeone with a road sign in God Hand. MadWorld’s gameplay appears to be very much the roaming beat ’em up, with different move sets available depending on the context. When you’ve got the chainsaw equipped, for example, swishing the remote will swing the whirring blade on screen, and likewise for other melee weapons.

Your anti-hero Jack’s hands are also lethal weapons. You can grab enemies with one button press before doing unspeakable things with a combo of other buttons and swishes. Unspeakable things such as tearing people in half, or ripping out their heart and squishing it in front of them. Oh Mama. Alternatively, you can slam them into bits of the environment – the ‘rose bush’ was the only example we saw, but there are sure to be plenty of other delightful ways to maim and murderise. We were also privy to a ‘Blood Bath’ minigame called Man Darts. Here, a giant dartboard appeared and the developer proceeded to whack men at the board with a large bat by swinging the remote. It’s against the clock and you score points just as you would in real darts. Perhaps we’ll see it this year at the Lakeside? Or not. We’d wager there’ll be plenty more of these Blood Bath diversions.

As to the plot, nothing was revealed, but we’re not sure it’ll matter what the story is. Looks a bit Mad Max-ish to us, in a lone-hero-battling-gangs fashion. Then again it could be more like The Running Man/Manhunt, where you’re pitched into the situation by nefarious persons and have to fight your way out. Whatever, there are sure to be boss fights along the way, and if it’s similar to God Hand then you’ll either unlock new moves as you progress or be given the option to buy them with in-game currency.

As MadWorld’s not slated for release until a non-specified date in 2009, all this will be revealed in time. But we’re concerned that the majority of Wii owners won’t want to listen. It’s a brave move from Sega, signing up this game, and Wii certainly needs more quality titles in the action genre (not necessarily this bloody, but certainly more action-oriented), but it ain’t exactly the sort of thing that Mom and Dad will be playing with little Johnny (or Jack) in the living room. Concerns about commercial viability aside, this has shot to the upper echelons of our most-wanted list. Bloody good stuff.

Jul 7, 2008