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Gaming Review

'MadWorld' (Wii)

By
Released on Friday, Mar 20 2009



Also available on: N/A
Developers: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Brawler / Beat-em-up
Release date: March 20, 2009

The idea of MadWorld goes against everything the Wii stands for. It's a family-friendly console that wants to be Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and Walt Disney all in one, pleasing the masses with sugar-coated games of bowling and shying away from pushing polygons and attempts at graphical prowess. Yet Platinum Games has decided to develop a mature and visually striking game aimed squarely at an audience of core gamers and adults - should there be many left holding Wii Remotes these days - with violence, blood and gore to make Manhunt blush. But as Rockstar's effort failed to hide a poor game behind its facade of controversy, it's satisfying that this is completely awesome.

MadWorld is so mature and hyper violent, it's actually immature. You play as Jack, a contestant in the inner city gladiatorial game of DeathWatch, where the only rule is kill or be killed - and to make as much of a mess as humanly possible. Like any good brawler, countless enemies line up to be impaled on hooks, stuffed into explosive barrels, or skewered like a sausage on a cocktail stick, all before being thrown into spike pits, torture machines and giant dart boards. The more blood you spill, the more the commentators squeal with delight, the more weapons you unlock, and the more points you accumulate. It sounds completely brutal and shocking, but it's all a silly, messy spectacle that's as much fun to play as it is to watch.

Each stage is an open playground full of toys at your disposal, where creativity is king; while stabbing a road sign through someone's head offers a healthy amount of points, slicing them in two with a garbage lid after will double your score. While the types of kills are essentially limited - you can really only skewer people, bind them in barrels, and finish them with the environment's many deathtraps - each stage has a unique theme and challenges to go with it, whether it's chucking bodies in front of high-speed trains or bouncing them down a bumper-lined casino strip. It keeps your grey matter ticking over as you spill the red stuff, looking out for new ways to clock up points, even if you are effectively doing the same thing over and over.

There's also a small array of melee moves at your disposal, such as deploying a chainsaw with a swing of the Remote, or a swift, blunt headbutt with a flick of the nunchuk. Battering opponents is much more involving due to the well-placed use of motion controls - a quick parting of the controllers will snap necks, and smashing enemies against a wall is like hammering a nail. While other games shoehorn motion control to tick PR boxes, MadWorld uses them to visceral effect, and it all works perfectly within the confines of the arcade setup. Aside from a few action cutscenes and boss battles, motion is minimal, sensible, and always fun.

Motorcycle stages and minigames of human darts and bowling human pins into a giant jet engine break up the brawling nicely, and can be played later with two players. Every stage rewards you with a humorous cutscene of the pimp Black Baron and his murderous girl, and more quips from the utterly brilliant squabbling commentators, adding to the dazzling spectacle of taking part in the show. (They also make the credits one of the most entertaining to date, almost worth playing the game for alone!) The only weak link is the boss fights, with the lock-on mechanic breaking away with every power struggle, and it's irritating to find which move initiates them to begin with.

The striking visuals go perfectly with the tone of the game, a living comic that sticks two fingers to the electromagnetic spectrum just so blood shows up a little better. While there's plenty of detail in the surroundings, it's styled so that everything is easily distinguishable, from on-screen motion prompts to weapons lying on the ground, with box panels and written sound effects livening up cutscenes. There's a real sense of progression moving up the DeathWatch rankings as bosses lie dead in your wake, with a satisfying story full of pop culture references to chain everything together as you discover Jack's true intentions. A particular highlight in the narrative is the excellent voice cast, making the comic vibe really come to life.

While at heart this is a straightforward brawler, the dazzling presentation makes it a thrilling rollercoaster ride from start to finish. It's a gory, exciting, brainwashing spectacle, with motion controls that add to the gameplay rather than take away, and wouldn't be nearly as fun without them. While it's on the short side (around six hours) and could have done with more multiplayer options or co-op, it's a rich and wholesome package that shows high definition graphics and raw processing power aren't needed for a bloody good time.


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