Review By Steve Farrelly @ 12:32pm 24/03/09
Welcoming you to exotic Asian Town!
Grind up human hamburger in the Spring Roller! Is that pork in those Mystery Buns, or the OTHER other white meat? Get it raw at the Sushi-Go-Round, or keep it hot with the Walking Fire-Cracker.
That's the inviting words of Jefferson Island's tourism board from the sound of it, and if you're bored of visiting the country, family members, or the beach for your holiday time, you could always consider the recently detached Jefferson Island, under new management.
MadWorld, from Atsushi Inaba and Platinum Games, the guys behind such original, artful concepts as Viewtiful Joe, Okami and the forthcoming Bayoneta (among others), is one of the most unique gaming properties I've ever bared witness to; not only on Wii, but in videogaming as a whole.
It's also incredibly fun and funny. I've never laughed out loud at a videogame this much or this consistently before, and it's a testament to the forethought and constancy of the humour throughout (which could have easily railed itself in early on and become repetitive), because this isn't a small game by any measure, either.
But let's start at the beginning shall we.
So Jefferson Island has been cut off from the rest of the world. All bridges to the island have been destroyed, and all communications to and from have been blocked. A terrorist organisation has also said anyone attempting to approach the island will incur a serious wrath, and considering said organisation has somehow managed to separate an entire island from the rest of the world, it's a good idea to listen to them.
Enter Jack Cayman. A hard-edged ex-marine who is infiltrating the cut off city, undercover. It appears the attack took place as part of a two thousand year old ritual called Death Watch, a sick and sadistic game (or game show for modern audiences), that pits humans against each other in bloody battle for ratings, cash prizes and ultimate fame.
Jack manages to roll up and score himself a sponsor in an individual named only Agent XIII by taking out the next most prospective contestant for him. But it's an uphill battle, because he's coming in at the heady rank of 256 and to earn the big bucks and make it to the big time, he's going to need to prove his worth.
The story for MadWorld is, without question, utterly ridiculous (and that is completely okay with us). In keeping with all the over-the-top you're about to face, dealing with an unbelievable, oftentimes silly story is perfectly fitting. And things really are over-the-top.
In fact it's all about utilising your environment, and despite a seeming lack of depth, anyone keen to up the points scoring will begin to see just what MadWorld has to offer. This isn't the sort of game that rewards button-mashing, and doing so will make it less fun, because the true gem of genius here is in how creative you can be in the murder department.
Combos come in the form of say impaling a victim's face with a signpost, making them wear a jackerlantern on their head then hurling them into several other enemies who are standing in front of a 'Rose Bush' (a wall of uber-sharp spikes), so not only do you earn points for killing one person in a creative way, but bonuses for all the others you managed to knock onto the Rose Bush as well. And it's thinking about ways to off enemies based on your environment you'll earn the all-important points you should be striving for.
The commentary throughout the game is hilarious. Period. Supplied by the uber-talented John DiMaggio (voice of Futurama's Bender) and Greg Proops (Flight of Conchords S2, Who's Line Is It Anyway?), you're in for a sort of Celebrity Deathmatch tone of commentary, only with no holds barred. They swear, they say inappropriate things, amoral things, dirty things – and it's absolutely spot-on. Jack himself is superbly voiced by the voice of Cowboy Bebop's Spike, Steven Blum, while the rest of the cast will sound more than familiar to gaming and anime enthusiasts alike.
The scripting is tight and consistent with what's going on, and the aforementioned creative combos more often than not reveal some spot-on remarks relevant to the way you went about stuff. It took a while before I noticed any annoying repetition, and it's so minimal (and still funny) it's completely forgivable. These guys are literally talking the entire way through the game, so it's a pretty mean feat to have had so much audio streaming in real-time with relevance for the majority of the game.
The soundtrack throughout is all hip-hop based, which is pretty much right up my alley, but the awesome thing is each and every track has been written and recorded exclusively for the game – so you won't find these anywhere else in the world unless you can get your hands on a copy of the official soundtrack. Artists such as Sick YG, Doujah Raze, Optimus and Ox have all crafted exclusive music for the game, and it perfectly suits everything else that's going on.
And there's a lot going on. Not only is MadWorld easily the best looking Wii title, it also trumps most of everything else being released on every other platform. The stylised visuals are only one part of the whole package, with some of the best art-direction I've ever come across in a game, stunning animations, and small elements such as every single body you dispose of remaining in the environment and the literal ability to continually slaughter enemies in one area just to paint the black and white world of MadWorld red. You have to see this game in motion to really appreciate the artistic point, but it's an absolute marvel and stands out above so many other games, it's worth buying a Wii for alone.
On top of the game's crazy narrative, you can also play multiplayer through the awesome "Blood Bath" mini-games you get to try out (and their equally awesome introductions) with one other person in Vs. Mode – and I can see this becoming a party favourite once they're all unlocked.