The events of the game are set into motion when a terrorist attack hits the water bound Jefferson Island, destroying all contact to the outside world. The terrorist group, called The Organizers, then instates a sadistic competition for survival, which is then turned into a TV show, called "Death Watch". The prize for the last man on the island is a ticket out of the city and a cash sum of $100 million. Players control Jack Cayman, a bounty hunter and participant in the competition. The player's goal, as of now, is either to win the $100 million or stop The Organizers.
The game was developed by Platinum Games and published by Spike in Japan and Sega in all other regions. This was their first release after forming with their next releases being Bayonetta, Infinite Space and Vanquish.
The main gameplay mechanic is based around open world fighting. Jack's main weapon is a chainsaw, but he can utilize various objects in the environment to dispatch enemies, such as knives, garbage cans and baseball bats. He can also use parts of the environment, such as spiked walls, furnaces, grinders and metal presses. More stylish kills award the player more points and allow them to progress faster through the game. In addition to the main beat-em-up gameplay, Jack also participates in a variety of minigames, such as Man Darts, where players use a baseball bat to hit enemies into a massive dartboard. There are also driving segments in the game, where players use their motorcycle to traverse long expanses of terrain, killing people as they drive by. Each region has a boss that must be fought to finish the level. Score is a primary motivator in the game, and as a result, players can go back and play any level to increase their score or complete sub-missions.
Mad World requires the use of the nunchuk as well as the Wii Remote. Most attacks are done with either the A button, B button or a waggle of the Wii Remote. Button A performs a punch, B engages the forearm Chainsaw and a shake of the remote does a variety of context sensitive attacks. Holding the A button will grab an opponent, at which point, players can either throw them (waggle), interact with the surroundings (waggle), or headbutt them (waggle the nunchuk). The headbutt will stun opponents, allowing them to be dragged farther. Getting a held opponent near some fixture (spiked wall, rose bush, random spiked bus) will allow players to waggle the Wii Remote and kill them in a more creative fashion (and score more points). Boss battles and mid-level challenges have a variety of context sensitive waggle moves to perform different attacks.
The game involves the people of Jefferson Island being forced to compete in a $100 million show for the last man standing. If they refuse to participate in killing everyone around them, including family members and friends, then they will not be given the antidote to the deadly virus that the Organizers have infected the citizens with. The president only states that he and his operatives are aware of the situation in Jefferson Island. The Organizers shoot down the police helicopters as a show of force. The announcers are watching Jack adding humor and commentary as he goes about the city killing everyone in sight and saving innocent civilians.
- Central Station
- Red Line Highway
- Great Wall Street
- Bistro La Lusty Geisha
- Sumo Arena
- The Dungeon
- Access Hangar
- Maintenance Facility
- Robot Factory
- The Strip
- The Tower
- Ring of Madness
At the end of every level is a boss for Jack to fight. Every boss has a unique feature that has helped them climb higher in the ranks of Death Watch. In some levels, there is a mini-boss who is essentially a more powerful enemy.
- Big Bull Crocker: A giant man who wears a mechanical bull head as a helmet. He charges Jack with a massive chainsaw, but leaves himself vulnerable after every major attack.
- Yee Fung: A fat man in who wears armor modeled after a turtle shell. Rolls like a boulder, but can be blocked or tripped easily.
- Tengu: A masked ninja who is able to duplicate himself.
- Death Blade: The grim reaper on roller skates. Able to close distances almost instantly, his massive scythe can take Jack down in one or two hits.
- Big Long Driller: Maybe related to Big Bull Crocker. A giant man who wears a mechanical elephant mask as a helmet, who fights with a big, long drill. Able to burrow underground and break through walls with his weapon.
- Cyber Slicers: A pair of robots who are programmed for one thing. Kill Jack Cayman.
- Little Eddie: Not as little as his name suggests. Likes to smash things with his massive ball and chain. But, it may be this love of his that will be his downfall.
- Jude the Dude: The brokest back in the West. Equipped with spikey spurs, roller skates and two giant revolvers, he's the toughest target and the fastest draw there is.
- Herr Frederick von Twirlenkiller: Losing his arms didn't stop this guy. He had them replaced with tornado-generating turbines that can rip apart a city block in a matter of seconds.
- Rin-Rin: As it always is in nature, the most beautiful things are the deadliest. Rin-Rin's bladed fans flutter and twirl in every direction, keeping her opponents from seeing her deadly strikes from coming.
- Shogun: The leader of the ninjas. His double-bladed staff has felled armies of opponents. Now, his sights are set on Jack.
- Yokozuna: Every sumo wrestler strives to be the yokozuna. Already the world champion of one sport, he aims to be the champ of Death Watch next. And he will kill anyone who gets in his way.
- The Shamans: Not one, but a whole family of feral men in wolf skins. More beast than they are men, they attack with the coordination and teamwork as well as any real pack of wolves.
- Frank: Made from the discarded corpses of previous Death Watch champions, Frank has what it takes to go all the way. If only he didn't need to recharge to keep his vitality up so often.
- Elise: When bitten as a child by a bat, Elise had no idea that she would grow up to be a blood-sucking Death Watch contestant. Deadly face to face, but even deadlier in the shadows.
- Kojack: Little more than a Jack impersonator, mechanical arm with a hidden chainsaw and all. What separates him from the real deal is that he never gets off of his motorcycle.
- The Masters: A father and son team of magnet-manipulators. All things metal are at their mercy.
- Martin: The remote-controlled weapon of a maladjusted super genius. As angry and antisocial as the man who made him.
- The Black Baron: The reigning champ. If demonstrating countless minigames could not stop him, nothing possibly can.
The visuals of the game appear to be heavily influenced by Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novels, with a heavy emphasis on the colors black and white to give contrast, as well as using a deep red for blood. It also has a slightly cell-shaded look which (along with the art direction) allows for a low polygon count. There are also several themes to the levels, as there would be in a real city, such as a Chinatown level, and so on. The game also displays comic onomatopoeia's on the screen when enemies are hit.
Due to the game's ultra violent content, British group Mediawatch UK raised concerns that the game may "ruin the family-friendly image of the Wii." They tried to get the game blocked in the United Kingdom. Director of Mediawatch UK said that, "The game sounds very unsavory." A Nintendo representative in defense of the release of MadWorld said, "Wii appeals to a wide range of audiences from children and teenagers to adults and senior citizens, anyone from age five to ninety-five, and as such there is a wide range of content for all ages and tastes available." Eurogamer later commented in a preview of the game, "It's difficult to understand why there's so much controversy surrounding when the violence is so very Tom and Jerry . . . it really is hard to be offended . . . because it's so ridiculous." However, Sega confirmed that MadWorld would not be released in Germany. Although the game has raised controversy, it will not be censored in Europe or Australia, unlike how No More Heroes was, which has similar ratings.
Jack's voice, a gruff growl, was done by Steven Blum who has done voice work for video games in the past. The two voices for the announcers of the show, which comment on the player's every move are: John DiMaggio, voice actor of Gears of War protagonist Marcus Fenix, but most commonly known as voice actor for Bender in the Matt Groening cartoon Futurama; and Greg Proops, a common guest on the British-turned-American Improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? The soundtrack of the game consists of hip hop songs with rock/metal backgrounds.