pepsiman's MadWorld (Wii) review

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MadWorld: It Tries, But Not Enough for An A for Effort

Perhaps I came into MadWorld with the wrong expectations. Although it's the first game to be released by PlatinumGames, I had hope that it would be enjoyable given the developer's pedigree. After all, many of the prominent members worked for Capcom's Clover Studio, who happened to produce several games during the last generation I still remain fond of to this day. I thought that with that experience behind it, MadWorld couldn't go especially wrong, even if it was experimental to some extent. To its credit, it isn't a fiasco; the game itself is completely playable and there's a good time to be had underneath it all. It's just unfortunate how many issues you have to sift through in order to enjoy the humorously macabre underside.

MadWorld's premise revolves around a morbid game show run by terrorists. Using the environment to your advantage, the objective is to maim and kill your fellow competitors as gruesomely as you possibly can. The more elaborately you improvise during that task, the more points you get allocated to you. It all sounds like it has the potential to be great fun in theory. An interesting evocation of No More Heroes' own absurdity combined with a seemingly Dead Rising-esque variety in the killing methods, MadWorld's gameplay seemingly resembles a lot of different familiar elements without any blatant plagiarizations. It's enough to garner it at least some attention; if done right, it has the trappings to be quite a spectacle, both to watch and to play.

In practice, MadWorld's gameplay doesn't especially betray such philosophies. It does, however, not live up to the grandeur it sets up for itself. The gameplay sounds like it offers a lot free-formed killing and, indeed, save for some minigames and boss battles quick-time events, the way you take out the enemies is up to you. Want to go put a guy in a flaming barrel and then have the next one face the wrath of a train? Nobody will stop you from doing so. The problem is that there's not nearly enough variety to really hold your attention for long. The level aesthetics and interactive objects change regularly, but it's mostly done for superficiality's sake; you're still essentially doing the same sets of actions for the majority of the time. A street sign in one area might be a miniature windmall fan in another, for example, but you're still jabbing it through your opponents' heads in the exact same manner. It's gruesome, yes, but the repetition quickly saps your acts of any visceral sense whatsoever. Similar games absolutely thrive on providing consistent adrenaline as a motivational tool to keep playing from start to finish, but MadWorld is surprisingly lacking in that. It doesn't reach the point of being anticlimactic, but it is nonetheless disappointing you rarely get any thrill from the kills at all.

The repetition's prevalence can probably be most attributed the game's controls. When an extremely violent game like MadWorld lands on the Wii, I natureally expect to be using the remote at least some of the time to virtually commit my inhumane acts. If it's done in moderation, it accents the game in ways that normal control schemes cannot hope to achieve alone. MadWorld's gameplay, however, relies on the motion capabilities of the Wii to the point of excessiveness. You might hit a button or two to initiate the actions, but most of your time is going to spent waving the remote to achieve your desired effect. Combined with the limitations of how much you really can interact with your environment, it's easy to get the impression that the game would have probably benefitted from employing more conventional controls in at least some areas. Even if the repetition wouldn't completely disappear as a result, it would mitigate the potential of feeling as though you accomplish so little after expending so much energy. But as it is, you're putting more energy into each level than is necessary for the genre and, by the end of them, you get no real sense of fulfillment as a result.

These are probably the biggest issues which the game has, although having almost nonexistant camera control and a broken targeting system on top of that don't help. That said, it's perhaps a testament to the game itself that it still has enough good traits to not be completely derailed by the issues. As already mentioned briefly, there are different minigames you play during each of the levels which add some funny spins to the core gameplay. It's hard not to be entertained by concepts such as using zombies for golf and turning ninjas into Japanese-style fireworks, among others. Additionally, the color commentary you hear during your escapades is well-written and greatly delivered, as it's meant to sound like a parody of sports commentary. The soundtrack should also get its due credit; instead of stereotypically grim and melodramatic background music, MadWorld employs hip-hop and, surprisingly, it works well. There aren't any tracks which especially stand out, but none of it feels tacked on, which can be hard to avoid with that particular genre. It does its job and you can't really ask much more out of it as a result.

None of those things are bound to be discussed as much as the game's graphical style, though, the area at which the game excels the most. The first thing to be noticed is the fact that it relies on black and (off) white with only smatterings of other colors for blood and whatnot. Such a limited palette thankfully doesn't result in levels becoming blurry or having objects visually blend into each other. Everything is clearly rendered and easily found on the screen. Complimenting the coloration is gruff, but pleasing character and environmental designs. The black and white already do enough as it is to make MadWorlds's visuals stand out in comparison to other games, but the designs make the distinctiveness even more vivid. If nothing else, MadWorld will probably be best remembered for these aspects in particular because they are well-crafted. There are a few instances of low resolution textures and other such issues, but these thankfully appear outside of the actual gameplay. When you're actually at work, the only thing you have to worry about it are some semi-occasional frame rate drops that aren't extremely dramatic. Otherwise the graphics are uniquely pristine and a joy to view.

Underneath it all, MadWorld's ultimate problem is that it doesn't take its underlying concept and absolutely run with it to its very limits. After you get past the fact that you can kill enemies in really unconvential ways, the reality sets in that there just isn't nearly enough variety or depth to support the experience. Nothing is especially nuanced and what's there can be done with ease over and over again without any hitches whatosever. Throw in some borderline arbirtrary motion controls and the other previously-discussed problems and you have a game which, while not a train wreck, had the potential to be so, so much more. In short, MadWorld is a game whose enjoyment is completely dependent on how easily you can look past its problems. If you can, you've got an interesting and sometimes hilarious ride in store for you. But if not, you can easily neglect the game and not be missing out on a lot. It's an earnest attempt at something original on the Wii, yet more often than not, it falls flat on its face and to be kind, that's nothing short of unfortunate.

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