Giant Bomb Review


MadWorld Review

  • Wii

While the bloody combat in MadWorld makes a terrific first impression, this is a perfect example of a game that puts style over substance.

It's easier to tell what's going on when it's all in motion.
It's easier to tell what's going on when it's all in motion.
MadWorld is a terrific idea. From a distance, it looks like an amazing, unique project, full of creativity. But the closer you get to it, and the more time you spend working your way through its levels, MadWorld loses a lot of its charm, quickly becoming a slow-paced brawler that shows you all of its best tricks in the first ten minutes. Everything else, from the game's unique art style to its rampant use of blood and cursing, feels like a sleight-of-hand trick designed to make you think the game is more than it really is. If you can keep up the suspension of disbelief, MadWorld is probably pretty amazing. But after hearing the announcers repeat the same handful of phrases again and again for the first hour, and seeing the same death animations applied to multiple levels and multiple opponents, all I could see was the basic, repetitive fighting underneath MadWorld's thick layer of style.

The game takes place inside some sort of futuristic terrorist-run killing game show known as DeathWatch, and it's sort of like The Running Man or Smash TV. The organizers of the game have cut off access to a large island in a big city and given everyone some sort of virus. The virus vaccine is given to people who agree to join the game by killing one of their fellow citizens. You play as a tough guy named Jack, who, at first, appears to be nothing more than a contestant. But as you play, you'll discover his true motives for being on the island and in the game. The story is loosely told between levels, and it's just enough to provide a point to all this madness.

MadWorld is level-based, and most of the levels are relatively open. You can run around anywhere and beat up standard enemies to your heart's content. But the levels progress via your points total. So as you earn points for taking out enemies, you'll earn additional weapons, health recovery items, minigames that can be played for more points, and eventually, the boss battle. The control in MadWorld is effective, using Nunchuk shaking to avoid incoming attacks and Wii Remote shaking to pull off different attacks or toss enemies onto various death-dealing contraptions.

You'll earn more points for eliminating enemies with combos, but there's more to the combat than just using your fists. The combos let you take tires or other similarly hoop-like items and ring a guy to immobilize him. Then, you might want to jab one or more street signs through his neck. And to finish him off, you might want to throw him in a burning garbage barrel, or toss him up against a spiked wall, or maybe lay him down on a catapult that's helpfully pointed at a statue's large, sharp sword. Or maybe you just want to unleash your retractable chainsaw and cut him in half. While the later levels use higher point totals to coerce you into playing along with the combo system, it's usually pretty easy to just grind out the points with less-elaborate kills. While there's always a time limitl, you usually have plenty of time to get things done.

The problem is that there really isn't all that much to do. Even though you change environments, the basics of the action remain the same. In the city levels you'll find tires, street signs, and trains with spikes on the side. In the castle you'll find big gears, lamp posts, and meat hooks. In the "Asian Town" set you'll find spiky trees and lanterns, and so on. The action doesn't really change too much from level to level. The boss fights do offer some differences, but it's not enough. While you can slug it out with each boss and hope for the best, you're better off trying to trigger a Quick Time Event, which are easy to pull off and do significant damage. The catch is that each boss only has one QTE, so you might be performing each one three or four times over the course of a battle.

The art style really makes the blood stand out.
The art style really makes the blood stand out.
Of course, it helps that those interactive cutscenes look great. The entire game has a terrific sense of style to it, presenting most of its action in black and white, only making exceptions for red blood and yellow action words to give jumps, hard landings, and cutscenes a little more flair. The blood splatters around quite well, staining the otherwise-stark landscape in a dramatic fashion.

The game's audio gets to be a bit much. In addition to the standard sounds of fighting and the splats of bodies coming apart, the game's soundtrack is an aggressive, rap-fueled collection of music, most of it featuring vocals. On top of that, the game has a two-man commentary team who chatter constantly while you're playing. When you first dive in, it's pretty intense, and a lot of the commentary is really funny. But it's one of those things that's only great from a distance. If you spend time focusing on the music, you'll realize that most of the songs only have one repeating verse... and that they really aren't very good. The commentary sounds great at first, with a lot of natural back and forth between the two announcers, but if you single that out and really listen to it, you'll quickly realize that they're constantly repeating themselves. Weirdly enough, the audio mix sounds like it was mixed so that no one element stands out, like they knew that if you paid any actual attention to any one aspect of it, you'd notice that it was kind of crummy.

And really, that same statement could be applied to the entirety of MadWorld. It makes an amazing first impression, and it has a consistently great sense of style. But once I started digging deeper, I hit bottom fast, and the spell was broken. If you're the type of person who can appreciate style-over-substance games, you'll probably love it. But once I figured out what was really going on in MadWorld, it felt pretty thin.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+

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Posted By SolracFB

Great  review Jeff. If only it came a little bit earlier I would have rented it instead of buying it. This game makes a GREAT weekend rental, but a lousy buy. I sadly went with IGN on this one, and as I find happening more and more often, I ended up disappointed. I am finding I agree with Giant Bomb reviews, and that I can trust them as guidance more and more. I understand that you are a small team, but please try to put up your reviews earlier, so no more mistakes are made because of the likes of IGN. Also great podcast BTW. 

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Posted By Media_Master

This reminds me to wonder, where is Viewtiful Joe?

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Posted By Junior_AIN

I kinda saw that coming, they were giving too much deal to the visuals. They remembered the violence and forgot about the rest.

Great review!

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Posted By Amon

I have learned from previous experiences that I tend to like 4-7 out of 10 games more then 8-10 out of 10 games. Just like how One Piece Unlimited Adventure only got 67 percentage from metacritc contra an overly hyped up game like Twilight Princess which got 92 percentage in the same site.

Conclusion: MadWorld is a must-have for me. And, thanks for the review. Now I'm more eager to get this game then before, being full aware that my own creative mind will have a lot to say if I'll end up enjoying this game. ;P

Also, I wear glasses so I'll must likely won't have any trouble making sense of the environments and I have good 3D space memory (where the enemies are when the camera doesn't show them and predicting where they'll more likely to come out and how they'll attack, making me as a sidenote an excellent PSO eps 1&2 gamer) , so all the flaws that has mentioned by both the reviewer won't affect me too much or be such a pita.

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Posted By radicalrobot

I love this game. 5/5 for me. I didn't really find it repetitive at all. The mixture of exploring a level to find all the different environmental kills, building up combos to get huge points, unlocking new weapons, miniboss fights, environmental areas and minigames at different point intervals until the big boss fight kept things going fast and fresh. Plus some levels had the extra side missions like find 3 orbs, stab a miniboss with 5 signposts, etc. Then it threw in some motorcycle levels as well to mix things up. The game is really short, so it didn't have time to get old for me.

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Posted By Nick8708

I watched one of the longer videos of this game on Giant Bomb.  About ten minutes in, I decided I really didn't like the art style.  I think it'd be more visually pleasing if it made greater use of grayscale coloration rather than just stark black and white.  The lack of shading due to no shades of gray makes the game look like it doesn't have depth, making it difficult to pick out details in crowded environments and camera angles much like in the screen shot at the top of this article.  Perhaps while playing it and actually being in control of where the camera is positioned it's easier to keep a sense of the environment, but I can't speak to that from experience.

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Posted By Renegade

Complaining that a brawler is repetitive seems like complaining that you have to explore the world in an RPG game.

I'm not knocking the review, I think it is well written and gives excellent insight on the title, but I just don't understand how you could expect a brawler to go outside the boundaries of what it is actually supposed to be.

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Posted By H00NER

One point that has not been mentioned about the art style is that it is hard on the eyes. I played for about 30 minutes, and my eyes felt tired from trying to make sense of what was happening on the screen all the time.

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Posted By MeatSim

I hope this games price gets cut down to 20$ in couple of months because that's the most I'll pay for this game.

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Posted By Naughton

I severely WANTED to change up my kills, but the game is severely limited in that regard.

Objects found in all levels are one of only 2 types - impaling weapons(street signs, lanterns) and constricting weapons(tires, barrels, giant gears). Each weapon of the same type is exactly the same as the other ones of that type. They have the exact same canned animations regardless.

Also, while there are multiple environmental kills in each level, such as electric chairs and meat grinders,  they are all  triggered simply by throwing an enemy into them, then the camera will pan over to them for a few seconds while they die, which at first is hilarious, but there's only one animation for each of them, so after seeing it a few times, it only serves to break the flow of fights.

Basically, you're just replaying the first section of the city, over and over again. Everything's just re-skinned to look like something new.

If you enjoy MadWorld, that's great. Good for you. But don't try to say that other people don't enjoy it because they are "biased", or suggest that they(and not the extreme repitition found in MadWorld) are to blame for their boredom.

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Posted By RagingLion

Interesting to see this take from Jeff on Madworld.  There's quite a large disparity between this review and the A- 1UP gave Madworld.  Maybe it's just one of those games that you'll either love or are indifferent to.

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Posted By JoshLarson

I'm really enjoying the game right now. Its a huge breath of fresh air on the Wii. Sure it is repetitive after a while but you are supposed to WANT to change up your kills. If you don't mix it up then you have no one to blame but yourself for your apparent boredom Jeff.

Heck, Halo 3 is repetitive but is still great fun. For me it all basically comes down to if you like brawler beat-em-ups then you will love MadWorld. Four out of five stars for me.

And the commentary must be heard to be believed. Keep the kids far away from this.

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Posted By siavm

Why even review this game here? This site is just geared toward 360. I rather read good reviews than this one. 

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Posted By Yelix

I understand all of your problems with it, but they don't really stick with me. This game is everything I expected it to be, nothing more. I would at least give it a 4.
In comparison to everything else on the Wii at the moment, it's like a 16.

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Posted By zityz

Im enjoying its odd over the top what the hell style of the game, and yes it does get repetitive but it's an action /brawler game so that's to be expected. I do agree with with some of jeffs thoughts.

So far I'm still enjoying it, I'm almost done the game, and its mindless fun. My major complaint though is the damn camera and the direction. The direction seams like its fixated on a 8 diagonal plane as apposed to being fluid, really stiff.

It's not No More Heros, that's for sure but if you have a Wii and it's collecting dust, I'd say at least give it a rent.

Also Jeff, yes the commentary Does get repetative, there are some funny parts during it but hearing "Ow you shot me" "what you think i was going to shoot myself fucktard" for the 10th time during a Bloodbath challange gets kinda Ugh. "Nice Rack on her though"

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Posted By Hairydutchman

I'm glad that I allready bought the game before this review because I love the game to death. At least worth 4 stars.

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Posted By ArbitraryWater

This is not a surprise after looking at the Quick Look. The game looks shallow and repetitive, which does not make up for how stylistic it looks.

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Posted By TMThomsen

From what I've seen/heard of the game, I totally agree with this review.

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Posted By Willy105

They should use this graphical style for a game that isn't aimed at a niche audience (the teen market). How about a game for everyone? Like the Wii is?

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Edited By Kohe321

Great review Jeff, three stars is what I expected you would give it based on the quick look. :)

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Posted By MasterSplinter

Thank you for not overrating this game.

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Posted By RHCPfan24

Interesting review. I may not buy this game so quickly, now.

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Posted By Death_Burnout
@iAmJohn Does feel like God Hand to me also.

As repetetive as it is, any game that gives me creative freedom to mess dudes up is a friend of mine.
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Edited By killdave

This game is awesome !!!!

*16 minutes later*

This game sucks !!!!

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Edited By Erik

3 stars? Lower than I expected. Be4 I saw the Quick Look ^^

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Posted By Naughton

@iAmJohn: If I'd only played the game for 15 minutes, I'd think a lot more highly of it, too. The problem is, 15 minutes into the game, everything still feels fresh and fun. A couple hours in? Not so much.

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Edited By iAmJohn

Reading this, I feel like you're unnecessarily dissecting a game that works specifically because all of its parts come together to form this totally insane experience.  From what I've played of it (which, admittedly, is fifteen minutes of it at Comic Con), the game is awesome in the same way that God Hand is (which MadWorld feels like a semi-sequel for, to me) - it's incredibly goofy and ridiculous but has a really crazy and customizable fighting system and learning how to utilize it (read: figure out the environments and the best way to use the weapons) so you can scorewhore is what makes it incredibly fun.  I guess I can see where you're coming from, I just think you're missing the point.

In before "GIANT BOMB HATES THE WII WHAT A BUNCH OF BIAS FAGGOTS," which if the House of the Dead: OVERKILL quick look is any indication, will show up pretty soon.
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Posted By Kiemoe

Cool. Thanks, Jeff. I know that when I watched the quick look I was surprised by how bored I felt. It was pretty much all of the same. A pretty big shame.

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Posted By LiveOrDie1212

hmm...3 stars, higher than what i expected

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Posted By RedSox8933

yeah i was expecting this.

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Posted By mech4399

Dude, Yes!