01/10/2008 at 18:03
As a purveyor of wholesome, family friendly fun, the Wii has proven an unbridled success in selling to the casual gamer and in turn converting the non-gamer. In doing this, Nintendo have arguably sidelined the hardcore gamer with only a handful of Wii titles currently fulfilling the remit that the label of hardcore suggests. Enter MadWorld, an ultra-violent Wii exclusive title from the team behind the criminally underrated Okami, already stirring up its own little hornet's nest of tabloid-fuelled controversy.
Under the new PlatinumGames banner, the team formerly known as Clover Studios and more recently Seeds have joined forces with Sega as part of a concerted effort by the publisher to bolster a portfolio of new IP. As a result Sega will be publishing the developer's next four games and MadWorld is unquestionably the most striking of these. Rocking a comic book inspired aesthetic with Frank Miller's Sin City the closest visual reference, the game is drawn in jaw-dropping black-and-white with the game's copious fountains of the red stuff just that - brilliant scarlet against MadWorld's esoteric monochrome. Clearly, this is the anti-Okami, the very antithesis of that game's vibrant world bursting with technicolour vitality. It's stark, bleak but also incredibly appealing due to its clear, well-defined visual style.
You don't know Jack
Starring a grizzly, intimidating hulk known simply as Jack, MadWorld is a darkly comical orgy of violence where the claustrophobic, corridor-like streets are emblazoned with disturbing slogans such as 'We Love Murder' and 'We Kill Because We Care.' This is all part and parcel of the game's devilishly black humour placed within the backdrop of a deadly game show called DeathWatch in which Jack is a none too reluctant participant. Sporting a not very subtle mechanical right arm complete with retractable chainsaw, Jack is able to inflict some serious physical trauma upon hapless foes. Whether it's the act of cleaving an enemy in two or plunging a fist into a ribcage in an impromptu heart retrieval, nothing's too objectionable in MadWorld. Even thrusting a road sign into an unfortunate enemy's face raises a wry smile - the sign doesn't read 'caution' for nothing ya' know. Make no mistake; this is extreme stuff - darkly funny stuff, yet unashamedly extreme nonetheless. And amidst the deep black and crisp white, the arterial spray stands out as vivid plumes of shocking crimson, spilling in pools or adhering to the rasping teeth of Jack's chainsaw and to Jack himself. Severed heads and limbs, separated spinal cords - all colours of the slice and dice rainbow are duly covered. You can even squash a torn out heart in your fist with a satisfying 'squelch' sound, like an over-ripe tomato. Nasty. Or would sir prefer to grab his rival by the scruff of the neck and toss him onto a wall of spikes? Very good, sir.
Beating your opponents to a quivering claret-pulp is executed via the Wii-remote, so prepare to get hands-on in doling out the unrepentant savagery. Like Manhunt 2 before it, MadWorld will offer the ability to play out your murderous deeds with a mere gesticulation of the Wii-mote. Hopefully, unlike Manhunt 2 however, MadWorld will escape the clutches of the censors unscathed as the game veers on precisely the right side of silly due to the knowingly ridiculous nature of the vicious actions that you can perform. Ramming a signpost through the eye of an enemy is a case in point, as the hapless recipient will confusedly stumble aimlessly for a few seconds before collapsing in a heap or falling into a river. It's all in good jest, with its tongue stuck firmly in-cheek.
Give violence a chance
So, MadWorld then is actually completely barking and even at this early stage is shaping up into a bloody brilliant addition to the Wii's growing library of quirky adult-themed games such as the equally excellent No More Heroes. Platinum's approach to videogame brutality is refreshing and the eye-catching, distinctive approach that the game has adopted is both bold and exciting. Still, there will undoubtedly be fears that the game may follow the same unfortunate and wholly undeserved fate of Clover Studios' majestic Okami, which failed to set the cash registers ablaze upon its original release. We just pray that MadWorld manages to capture the western audience's imagination and ignite some genuine interest. It's incredibly rare that something this audacious and original comes along amongst the glut of sequels and annual updates, so we can only hope that Wii gamers do the right thing by first of all buying the Wii port of Okami and then do themselves a favour by giving MadWorld a fighting chance.
Clover are no stranger to mixing madcap carnage with eccentric absurdity - just check out God Hand if you don't believe us. With a brand new studio and a brand new name, PlatinumGames should be off to a flying start with MadWorld, a game that by all indications is atypical enough to deserve the attention of every Wii owner over the age of 18. Ripping antagonists in half, lopping off their heads, ramming signposts through their eyes, impaling ragged bodies onto jagged spikes - seriously, what's not to like?