Sunday, March 15, 2009

MadWorld review

Sega and Platinum Games release their first title together, and it's a stylized, bloody, Wii exclusive. Does Platinum Games' first release play as well as it looks, or is this a failed attempt at reaching out to the hardcore crowd on the Wii? (or at least what's left of it)

When a game is hyped for its visuals and gore, the story of the game apparently has to take a backseat. Not that it bothers me, as I've purchased other games like Hotel Dusk: Room 215, No More Heroes, and Prince of Persia, based on style alone; and those turned out to be some of my favorite games. None the less, the story of MadWorld starts out pretty simple, but develops into something else as you reach the game's conclusion.

Varrigan City has been exposed to a deadly gas, put out by an organization as a way of killing off the poor and entertaining the rich. However, people can receive an antidote to the deadly gas by ... killing other people, as part of a new televised game show, Death Watch. You plays as Jack Cayman, a mysterious man who enters the contest, but his intentions are unknown. At first, the story felt pretty generic, but the cut-scenes unravel a mystery that I wasn't quite expecting, so there was certainly something to keep me motivated to play, and in the end I guess that is what counts.

MadWorld at it's core, is a "beat'em up" akin to Final Fight or Double Dragon; you have you levels, each divided into closed off sections that won't open until you kill everyone on screen, a classic formula, and one unbroken by any sort of platforming or exploring. The game's first level is essentially a tutorial, you have freedom to do what you want, but you can't progress unless you do what the game tells you, which is kind of annoying when you just want to replay that stage later and are still forced to follow the guidelines. After that though, the world is yours.

As with beat'em ups, the object is not only to kill everyone on screen, but also to get the best score. Sure, you could just punch a guy to his death, but why not up your score by tossing a tire on the guy, shoving a lamp post through his face, setting him on fire, and placing him upon a spike? That's pretty much how ridiculous you can get when it comes to killing your enemies, but it doesn't even stop there. Many environments have specific things for you to get more points with; for instance in one level there's a fountain and five spikes; place an enemy upon each spike, and you'll get a bonus for making a blood fountain. However, some levels change up the pace, like this cool motorcycle level, which is a nice distraction from the other levels; and there's anther level that is just a sumo match, I like those side levels.

Other bonuses come from Bloodbath Challenges, which play out like mini-games, and allow you to do things like golf with heads, throw enemies onto a giant dart board, and see how many enemies you can shred through a giant turbine. And after playing each Bloodbath Challenge in the single player mode, a 2-person multiplayer version is unlocked. However, the multiplayer is not online, and there is no co-op mode, leaderboards, or any online features. And if an online-less game sounded short, you'll be sad to hear that the single player mode doesn't last very long, but most people should find fun replaying the levels, not to mention with a new difficulty and new weapons after you beat the game.

Control-wise, the game is pretty easy to get used to. It's a Wii remote and Nunchuck combo; with the Nunchuck's along used to move, C button to center the camera and lock-on to enemies, and Z to jump, with motion to back flip. The Wii remote's A button is used for standard attack, while B brings out your chainsaw, the D-pad changes weapons (when available), a motion allows you to thrust or throw an uppercut. At points in boss battles, you will be required to waggle, or move according to on screen directions, it doesn't feel tacked, thankfully, and adds to the interactivity of the intense fights.

If you thought games this generation lacked color, then MadWorld takes that to it's advantage, as the game stays strictly black and white (though there are some gray tones every so often) and hints it with bright red blood and yellow effects. It's a style unique in the world of gaming, but it certainly gives off a feel like it was inspired by Frank Miller's comic series, Sin City, which also is black and white with red and yellow touches. Some people may find the style hard to look at, but in motion it works quite well. Though, there is some confusion in parts with too much line, or the when lighting isn't quite right, but it's a rare occurrence.

Should mention, because the screenshots provided by Sega can't really express it, this game is bloody. You could compare it to the spraying blood of No More Heroes, but I think the blood just stand out better in MadWorld because of the game's unique style. At the same time, because of the game's style, it makes it hard to take the game's violence as seriously as you would Grand Theft Auto. In fact, the ridiculous nature of the game will probably make you laugh more than it will make you cringe. Also, the game is always presented in widescreen, no matter your television; just figured I should mention that.

While not the most notable aspect of the game, it certainly has it's pluses. The voice over during cut-scenes works well, even if there's a lack of lip-sync thanks to the comic book design given to the scenes. During gameplay, however, the sound kind of gets messy. This is due to the fact that you have the sound effects of the actual gameplay, which varies from guys screaming, to blood gushes, etc., and then you have the background hip-hop music, and to top that off you have commentary from Greg Proops (Who's Line is it Anyway?) and John DiMaggio (Bender in Futurama, Marcus Fenix in Gears of War). Though I will give the game some credit, the tunes are nice to fight to, and the commentary is actually pretty funny due to great casting as well as great writing. I just wish they weren't always on top of each other.

Final Thoughts
MadWorld is certainly a great first step for Sega and, more specifically, Platinum Games, and will leave a lot to be expected from their next titles: Bayonetta and Infinite Line. Not only is MadWorld one of the Wii's first great beat'em ups (may be its only one actually), but it certainly will be one of the more memorable ones of the genre thanks to it's style and gameplay. But if beat'em ups aren't your thing (or violence for that matter) then it's probably hard to recommended the game to you, even if the violence is more comical than anything. Personally, if I was looking for a similar game to MadWorld, it would probably be No More Heroes, and in a way, I'd probably recommend that to anyone first.

Overall Score: 8.8/10

Not cool, Jack! That's our mascot!!

No comments: