Ever since we saw the first batch of screenshots for MadWorld we've been intrigued by its overwhelming style. Clearly influenced by the dark ink of graphic novels such as Frank Miller's Sin City, MadWorld is presented in supremely pretty ultra high-contrast black and white... oh and red, lots of red.
Jefferson Island, part of Varrigan City, has been sealed off by group of terrorists known as "The Organizers"; residents left on the island have been exposed to a deadly virus and vaccines will only be given to those who can prove themselves - by killing someone else. The island is soon transformed into the arena for brutal sport "DeathWatch" with a extremely large cash prize for the last man standing.
You play as Jack Cayman, a mysterious middle-aged brute of a man who happens to be a combat expert with a retractable chainsaw for a right hand. Jack lands on Jefferson Island and joins the DeathWatch bloodbath simply as another contestant, but as always in Japanese games there is more than meets the eye and there is a conspiracy to uncover which is slowly revealed throughout the game.
You start MadWorld with a DeathWatch Ranking of 150. Your map has been split into 5 distinct suburbs of Jefferson Island, such as Little China, each area then contains a number of different missions. You'll be required to complete one mission, increasing your DeathWatch ranking, before moving on to the next in classic linear style.
So lets get into the action; essentially MadWorld is your classic beat-em-up, however along with the dramatic visual style Platinum Games have also thrown in a bunch of new features, mainly in the combat department.
Not only does MadWorld look great, the gameplay is all about style as well. It's your prerogative to try and kill your fellow contestants in the most stylistic way possible; for example you can pick up a tire, slam it over your enemy rendering him helpless before wrenching a sign post from the ground stabbing it through his neck. To finish him off you can then pick him up and toss him into a dumpster whilst gleefully watching as his body gets sliced in two by the closing lid! Tasty.
Make no mistake about it - MadWorld is extremely graphic with its violence, probably the most graphically creative we've ever seen, but it's worth pointing out that it is done so in an completely over the top way - it's borderline comical like a cartoon and no-one of a mature age should find it particularly offensive - for all its outlandish killing methods, there is nothing genuinely sinister here; your average 18 rated Hollywood horror movie contains more shocking material.
Controlling Jack is done using a fairly typical Wiimote + Nunchuck setup with the to move him and to jump. An overview: offensively you can knock out a quick jab attack with , grab an enemy by holding , to use your current weapon, such as Jack's chainsaw arm you'll use then defensively a quick flick of the nunchuck will perform a back-flip.
At first this comes across as quite simple and you'll quickly get into the rhythm, but soon you'll realise there is actually quite a bit of depth to the gameplay, for example if you hold and swipe the Wiimote horizontally Jack will whip out his chainsaw and swipe as well, flicking the nunchuck whilst holding an enemy will deploy a quick headbutt, grabbing an enemy and swiping the Wiimote will cause Jack to hurl the foe across the scene. There are a number of additional combinations that you can master and it all works very nicely.
One of the unique features of MadWorld are the finishing moves, once you've beaten your enemy sufficiently you'll be presented with a "Finish" icon and depending on which button combo you decide to press this will cause Jack to unleash one of a variety of different brutal finishing moves - all for your viewing pleasure.
If there's one small gripe with the gameplay system it's the camera and targeting system. For the most part the camera behaves itself but when it does occasionally cause problems, quickly hitting will centre it for you. The targeting system presents a more significant issue; you have to press and hold whilst looking at an enemy to get the lock on, once locked you can release but it doesn't feel anywhere near as natural as the Z-targeting found in Zelda, for example. To be honest these are minor problems and caused largely by the limited button layout available on Wii.
The mission structure is quite simple and consistent throughout the game. Missions take place in relatively small environments with a good selection of z-grade baddies that you use to build up your points score - remember the more creative you are with your killing the more points you'll earn - once you've hit the first trigger limit of points it'll open up a "Bloodbath Challenge" mini game which earns you even more points. The Bloodbath Challenges are extremely silly and often a highlight in the game, for example in "Man Darts" you'll need to use your baseball bat to slug your enemies into a completely oversized dart board - brilliant.
The second, and more important, points total that you'll reach unlocks the boss fight. Boss battles usually take place in separate arenas, usually small in size, and you'll need to fight them, working out their weakness to complete the level. Difficultly wise MadWorld is fair; you'll die a number of times but it's not insanely difficult, normal deaths can resume play but a game over will require you to restart the level.
It's hard to put enough praise on MadWorld for its creative content, it's not just a great looking game but the creative detail in all the weapons, enemies, bosses and environments fuse perfectly together to create something visually special; if only the Wii could do HD.
In addition to its great looks is a great soundtrack that suits the style perfectly, coupled with loads of over the top sound effects - MadWorld isn't just a treat for your eyes but your ears also. You may of also heard that legends Greg Proops and John DiMaggio supply an f-bomb dropping US sports style commentary throughout the game; some critics found this annoying but personally I thought it suited the game well and wasn't annoying in the slightest.
MadWorld will probably only appeal to a small selection of current Wii owners, however those that understand what Platinum Games is all about will revel in the delight that is MadWorld. Sure, the developers have delivered an extremely graphically violent action game on Nintendo's "family" console but they've done it with overwhelming style. If you've been at all interested in what this game has to offer we recommend that you buy it, now.