This week, Zero Punctuation reviews MadWorld.
Why will no one believe me when I say the Wii is a lump of owl pellets? I'm starting to feel like Charlton Heston at the end of Soylent Green, running around yelling, "The Wii is made of poo, stop making games for it!", while developers lie around in 360-degree cinemas watching videos of nature's splendor (increasingly obscure movie reference). It'd be wonderfully convenient to just abandon one console as a dedicated casual gaming kiddie platform and let the others concentrate on the blood and titties, but games of a traditionally hardcore bent continue to be produced for it.
Does it really not strike anyone else as a bit of a cultural step backwards that the release of a violent game is considered a big deal, just because it's on the Wii? Mature games stopped being novel around the Maastricht Treaty. Not that the word "mature" can be applied to MadWorld without severe qualification: The game involves a televised battle royale between a bunch of 'roided up rodeo clowns being infiltrated by the motorbike riding, cigar chomping, chainsaw wielding, tiny penis compensating hero Jack; whose task is to win over the television watching public, by carving the entire contestant population into sauerkraut. MadWorld is mature in the sense that it's one of those curious cases of a game that approaches gore with the same childlike glee with which a schoolboy approaches trapped insects - then paradoxically forbids children to play it. It could also be considered mature in the sense that it is presented in an idiosyncratic cell-shaded black and white visual style. But one suspects that this came out of artistic statement second and compensating for Wii graphics limitations first.
As is presumably intended, the presentation reminds me very much of Japanese comic books, because I can never tell what the fuck's supposed to be going on in those either. There really needs to be a name for this sub-genre, so I'm going to make one up: Spectacle Fighters. Games in which most of the standard baddies are about as effectual as a panda's love spuds and the emphasis is less on them being challenges to get past and more on them being squirty punching bags to be dispatched in the most spectacular ways. Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, God Hand, and, arguably Manhunt are the foamy-mouthed horses that already populate this rowdy stable.
MadWorld consists of a succession of largely non-linear urban playgrounds featuring a number of unfenced death traps that somehow went unnoticed by the civilian populace, and you only get to move on once you've scored enough points. The more punishment you bestow on a dude, the more points you get for his death. Fertile ground for all sorts of child-warping violence - but they don't really make the most of it. The tutorial shows you how to plonk a tire on someone, jam a sign through their eye and hang them up on a big spiky coat rack, and give or take a few other traps that pretty much all you'll ever do. Walking around carrying dazed dipshits, looking for something fun to throw them at, is a slow and flow breaking process. Seeing one guy disappear into red particle clouds on a rotating blade arrangement: seen them all. And the novelty is quickly licked away to reveal the harsh grindy center.
On top of that, the point system often seems to be completely arbitrary, or at least very little to do with the actual impressiveness of a kill. Yawn-a-rific blowing people up with explodey barrels seems to award far more points than, say, holding them against the side of a speeding train until their back resembles a well-tossed salad. Turns out we're really only in this for the boss fights - all of which are at least creative in theme, if not gameplay, because I beat every single one of them by following the ancient eastern philosophy of dodge-then-chainsaw-up-the-strap.
But they're let down by the controls. "Oooh! Yahtzee hates the controls in a Wii game? What a bold defiance of established trends. (Sarcastic applause)." Fuck you buddy, I'll stop ragging on the Wii motion sensor when a heavenly choir descends to earth to fix the fucking thing! You see, MadWorld 's stable mates, Devil May Cry and God Hand in particular, called for a certain amount of finesse. A split second between button presses could mean the difference between glory and sucking on scythe blades. And there is no finesse to Wiimote flailing, not when you can scarf down a bowl of Fistios by the time the console even registers the fucking movement. I'm also convinced that the targeting system is programmed to completely not work whenever the game feels like being a dick, which is all the time.
On the other hand, the dialogue and voice acting's good, with the omnipresent, fast-talking, television commentators often being a joy to listen to. But to hop instantly back onto the first hand, they're set up to spout a line for every particular in-game event. And it seems someone forgot that some events, like, say, killing a guy with a stick, might occur more than once. I like the idea of in-game commentary, but the fuckers repeat themselves more often than an amnesiac in an ear hospital.
And the levels seem to get shorter and less interesting as time goes on, up until a piss poor final boss fight and dull ending. If you can imagine a big red balloon with the air slowly being let out with a descending, "Pffffffffffffffffffft", before shriveling down to nothing with a final pathetic high pitched squit; That's basically MadWorld. Also someone's written a load of swearwords on the balloon with a dry erase marker.
At the end of the day MadWorld is a six to eight hour game with enough ideas to fill a three hour game. It's rather cynically aware that a spot of the old ultraviolence is a rarity on the Wii and seems to be taking refuge in that. I'm not against violence. I'm against censorship because withholding Cock-Hemorrhage 4 from your kids only makes them more interested. If you stop making a big deal of it they'd probably swiftly recognize it for the giggling vacuum that it is.
Once you've seen enough samey splatter to get desensitized, MadWorld fails to stand up by itself. But it is fun for a while and the biggest problem I have is the fact that it's on the Wii. Come on developers, I know all that sweet Nintendo money is attractive for buying food and shit. But surely you're not that attached to your kids. And if you are there's always Pedigree Chum.
He's a mad, mad, mad, mad game critic: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
This game is presumably unrelated to the Tears for Fears song of pretentious Gears of War trailer fame
Surely a chainsaw arm would make it difficult to do your flies up