Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
The Nintendo Wii has been somewhat devoid of anything good lately. Oh sure, a flash in the pan like Zack and Wiki and No More Heroes comes around now and again, but nothing with great longevity has graced the system from a third party developer since Boom Blox.
Sega, hoping to capture a niche market on the system, is trying to take up the mantle in hardcore, mature games for the Wii, a market in itself that is fairly bare. Games like House of the Dead: Overkill, the upcoming Conduit, and Madworld have been made to try and capture that mature crowd on the sleek white box. The game Madworld in particular has irked some for it’s over the top violence and crude sexual humor on a “family friendly” system, despite Nintendo defending the game.
Madworld is a third person action game where you star as Jack, a contestant who enters a game show known as Deathwatch, which has taken over an entire island and has enlisted numerous homicidal lunatics to run amuck and kill each other for the pleasure of the audience in a youtube channel gone wrong.
The entire object of the game is simple enough. You kill some enemies, kill some more, and then find new ways to kill them. Jam lamp posts through their eyes, set them on fire, throw them on a bed of spikes or smash their heads in with a stone pillar. The games over the top style is pretty much an exercise in the macabre, as you literally go around and fight everyone to the death, and try to kill your opponents in the most unusual ways possible.
To keep an incentive in the carnage, using certain techniques and weapons, and constantly beating opponents with your fist, trusty chainsaw arm attachment, or the environment to build up points. And thankfully, the wii controls work real well in manipulating Jack in his movements, such as slashing up slashes up with your chainsaw, or making a circular motion with the wiimote to perform a helicopter spin on a dazed enemy. Even the quick time events are well done, especially during the fantastic boss battles that you go through. The controls are intuitive and don’t feel out of place in the game, which is a lot more than what most games actually do for the system.
The game also breaks the frantic action with a bunch of “deathwatch challenges.” These involve insane mini-games which have you throwing convicts on a giant dartboard, playing golf with their heads, or shoving them into firework shooters and watching them blow up in the sky. The best part is these mini games, once unlocked, can be done in multiplayer for high scores, which adds to the fun and some longevity for the game.
Sadly, the game has some major flaws, the first being a retarded camera. While you can control the camera with the wiimote, it’s sadly not as dead on as the actual gameplay controls. Sometimes, the camera gets caught in a wall, and you can’t even see Jack as he’s fighting a wave of enemies. Other times the camera is slow to turn, making it hard to predict when oncoming enemies or moving hazards, such as oncoming trains or busses, are right in front of you.
Another major problem is the longevity of the experience. Madworld is a really, really short game, one that can be beaten in one sitting for the hardcore crowd. About five to six hours in length is the main game, which then unlocks the voluntary hard mode, which in all fairness is the “real” game if you play it afterwards. Without a proper multi-player game, there really is no reason to play it over again unless you want to improve your scores or challenge yourself for the hell of it.
The game’s graphics are perhaps the strongest point. The game take’s its cues from the Frank Miller’s school of design and go with the “Sin City” black and white style, with red and white blood gushing all over the place. The entire design is really beautiful and something unique, like the old school “ink” mode cheats in Goldeneye, except more fleshed out. And ironically, this art style elevates the over the top spectacle the game represents, and helps in turning it from an average game to a good game.
Another aspect that helps it stand out is the voice cast. Prolific voice artists like Steven Blum, Danny Cooksey, and Jim Ward all have roles in the main cast, and do great jobs at delivering their lines. But the show stealers are Greg Proops and John DiMaggio, who star as the announcers of the game. With a ton of tongue in cheek, crude humor and some really funny lines, they make killing people over and over with a trash can funny to listen to, especially over the kind of cheesy, techno hip-hop that graces the soundtrack.
Overall, Madworld is the type of game that begs to be played. A lot of critics of it might claim that Sega’s bloody beat em’ up is too repetitive, too short and on the wrong system. And those are justifiable claims, especially when video game developers are somewhat afraid to take a major risk for something different. But Sega has actually made something that is worth playing for the Wii, something that will convince the Gears of War players to dust off their Wii’s in the corner, fire it up and cut some schmuck dressed as a ninja in half with a chainsaw. Madworld may not be the most complicated game ever made, but it is a damn good time when you play it, thanks to its unique style, tight control scheme and hilarious voice actors.