MadWorld Review

By Rob Manuel - Posted Mar 10, 2009

In this X-Play Review, we take a look at the new black and white noir Wii exclusive 'MadWorld'. Does the game live up to the violent hype? Find out in this review.

The Pros
  • Over-the-top-everything
  • Slick and stylish
  • Crazy bosses
  • Unique content at every turn
The Cons
  • Short, Repetitive action
  • Blood and violence not family-friendly

Only fifty thousand more points to go till the Blood Bath Challenge, but this guy just won’t stand still. A candle stand through the neck, a gear around the waist, and repeated applications of the wall spikes through the sternum can only take you so far in this game.  There’s an elephant in a gimp mask wielding a large drill that just laughing at me somewhere in this “gothic gone wrong” arena. I wasn’t even thinking about the score after throwing a pair of zombies into the electric chair. All I knew was that somewhere out there underneath a pair of tusks and a leather facemask was a pulsating neck just waiting for the signpost in my right hand.

MadWorld is a mix of excessive violence, sophomoric humor, and a list of ESRB content descriptors that sounds like the best college experience that you never had.  Yeah, it’s that good.

I am Jack’s Sadistic Storytime

MadWorld ReviewImagine waking up one day to find your path blocked by burning wreckage. As panic fills the streets, a voice echoes across the crowd. It’s time to play a game. Already you’re at the losing end since you’ve been infected with a virus giving you only hours to live. The man who just dropped to the ground beside you obviously had less. But there’s a way out. By becoming a contestant of Death Watch, a game centuries old that’s controlled by the only the wealthy, you’ll be given an antidote and a chance to live. All you have to do is kill someone – anyone. This is not Jack.

Jack is the guy on the outside wearing more leather than a Village People reunion tour. If you manage to get through all the F-Bombs and jabbering announcers, you’ll find that there’s an actual story in this blood soaked opera. One part Running Man with equal parts Battle Royal, Jack races through the varied areas of the city to find the mayor’s daughter stuck behind enemy lines. While you might already be drawing your own conclusions to the story, rest assured that you are probably wrong and will need to kill a couple of hundred people to find out why. With so much going on in the game, there’s very little need to tie everything together, but the sadistic gang over at PlatinumGames managed to create a story just as unique as the game.

This is an advertisement - This story continues below

I am Jack’s Pounding Fists

Our black and white hero strolls into the arena with a chainsaw on one hand and a signpost in another. Death Watch, the organization recording your every move and calculating every head trauma, doesn’t just care how many spines you crush but how creatively you do it. Points are awarded not just for deaths, but also for added injury just before you finish them off. For you Picassos of pain out there, this combo system is the real core to the game mechanics. A chainsaw to the face will do in a pinch, but it doesn’t make for good T.V. Taking a sign post, a tire, a horn, a pumpkin, or just about anything else lying around on the ground and shoving it into their head before ramming them sphincter first into a spike will bestow more points than a quick and messy murder. After reaching a certain point requirement, item boxes open up to reveal new weapons of murder, Blood Bath Challenges, or a chance to face the boss and rise up in the ranks.

With this being a beat-em up, you’ll find yourself in the same signpost/barrel/spike combo to obtain the max point value. For most of the game, you will pick up a guy and perform the same brutal acts that make Jack Bauer a little sick to the stomach. Even at the beginning of the game, enemies a little more than standing rag dolls waiting for punishment. As you get deeper in the game, however, these dolls start to really fight back. But it’s the environments that make this tedious task of malicious murderous mayhem tolerable and even fun.

MadWorld ReviewEach of the five regions is broken up into three smaller areas that usually reflect the theme - from an Asian village to inside the bunker of Area 51. The locations are deceptively larger than they first appear with different routes crossing the arena and hidden areas filled with more weapons, items, and enemies to eliminate. Even after replaying sections, I found myself finding new places and new ways to kill wandering zombies or fleet-footed ninjas. Each section feels new and different than the one before it, never copy and pasted. What MadWorld does right is allow for exploration and experimentation when it comes to killing. There’s only a brief mention of some of the areas of interest at the beginning of the level before the game sends you on your way. There’s very little in the way of hand-holding except for special sections that allow for an instant death.

Blood Bath Challenges break up the sections even further by allowing you to score additional points through mini-games. The Black Baron introduces each of the mini-games only to get killed off by his partner, Mathilda. Games range from throwing guys into a crushing press to playing golf with the heads of zombies. Some sections play better than others, depending on how much fine-tuning you need to hit your targets. Money Shot, for example, require contestants to shake and then jam bottles of champagne into the mouths of enemies who will then rocket into billboards of half-naked women wearing only spikes over their bathing-suit areas. (I bet you weren’t expecting that.) The problem comes from having to angle the camera and Jack into the correct position for your victim to go flying into the right direction which is all more frustrating than fun.  Camera issues aside, the mini-games do give players a welcome break from murder to present new and exciting ways to eviscerate people.

And there are bosses. Just like the crazy world surrounding you, the bosses are equally bizarre and entertaining. Looking for a giant Frankenstein monster? We got that. How about a sexy lady with blade fans? We have that too. Werewolves? Try a whole pack of them. While they all have their own methods of attacking, running up to them at the right time and chainsawing them in the face still works quite well. At certain times, you’ll be instructed to participate in a quick time events where you will put your chainsaw against their giant spike ball/blazing fist/motorcycle/ect. The instructions here work quite well and the Wiimote is very responsive to the motions of the players.

Though bigger than life and twice as fun to kill, bosses in MadWorld do have a couple of drawbacks. First would be the camera issue. Often, locking on to a boss won’t always mean that you stay locked-on. Moving away from the boss or even picking up an item can quickly switch off that precious lock-on when you need it the most. Bosses also don’t always follow the same difficulty curve. Frank, that towering monster of meat and metal, gave me more trouble than the busty vampire chick I (literally) spanked in under three minutes.

I am Jack’s Twitching Eye for Style

MadWorld ReviewDive into any pile of manga and it’s not hard to see where PlatinumGames got their inspiration for their stark black and white title. The environments never feel flat or repetitive. The design team put a lot of effort into giving surfaces texture with the limited palette presented to them. If nothing else, the starkness of the world around you makes the splashes of red gushing from your foes that much more visceral by comparison.

While the world may feel empty without color, sound covers every corner of the world like a thin film of blood. Chainsaws scream in your hand as you wail on the cursing victim. Announcers spout out dirty one-liners and riff about nearly everything that you come across during the game. These two ADD talking heads often repeat the same phrases throughout the game, but I found new (and yes, even grin-inducing) phrases coming tumbling out of their dirty mouths every time I played a new match. Add in the rap-rock, announcers, screams, and constant profanity; you’re looking at a massive wall of sound that you can’t throw a severed torso through. At times, it all got a bit much but most of it washed over me as I impaled a sixth thug onto the spiked bus.

I am Jack’s Bloody Thumbs-Up

Far from a perfect game, MadWorld is perhaps the answer to gamers’ pleas for a hardcore title to arrive on the Wii. You’ll be able to clean up the city in a little under seven hours without breaking a sweat – but it’s seven hours of pure bloody mayhem that you won’t find in most twenty-hour games. If you don’t need a parent’s permission to buy this game, strap on your chainsaw arm and prepare to have a bloody good time.

Written by: Rob Manuel
Producer: Tim Jennings