All of this high-contrast gratuitous gore would get stale without the classy visuals, which work spectacularly well. Equally important, however, is the excellent sound design. First of all you have a great cast of voice actors. Jack is portrayed by the highly prolific Steven “Spike Spiegel” Blum of Cowboy Bebop fame, which adds some cult legitimacy. The ubiquitous Jim Ward and fan-favorite Dwight Shultz voice a couple of the villains, and then of course you have John Dimaggio and Greg Proops as the ever-present announcers. Because Death Watch is televised live, the two color commentators are always talking about what you are doing at any given moment, in a darkly humorous and vulgar fashion. These comments tend to repeat too much, but the things these guys say are outrageous, and having both a Who’s Line guy and the voice of Bender and Marcus Fenix performing them is priceless. The commentary alone adds a whole layer of attitude to MadWorld that defines the game as unabashedly offensive.
The music of MadWorld is a collection of original hip-hop pieces written and performed by professional artists. I’m not much of a hip-hop fan and even I appreciated how well the music complimented the art and gameplay, I might go so far to say that it’s worthy of an official soundtrack release.
Most every element of MadWorld comes together into a meaty, old-school brawler that crosses as many lines as it conceivably can. The game is quite short—about 4 to 5 hours long—but in that short time I had more fun with a game than I’ve had in years. Laughing at the crude jokes, staring gape-mouthed at an act of brutality Jack had just executed, and reveling in the gratuity of it all was such an unabashedly fun experience. MadWorld has all the makings of a guilty pleasure game, but the art and execution lift it several notches above forgettable gore-fests like Manhunt.
It’s also interesting that over a decade later, Sega still does what Nintendon’t. They understood what the devious developers at Platinum had in mind: take the inherent limitations of the Wii, use them to their advantage, and craft a game that flies straight in the face of Wii Fit, Wii Music and the like. MadWorld is an enormous middle finger to the Wii’s family image, crude, stylish and artistically striking, and damn does it feel good.
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I had considerable doubt that MadWorld would be more than an exploitation game, but it’s been done so smartly that I can’t help but love it. Its few technical flaws aside, MadWorld is worth owning for the artistic angle alone, and the gameplay itself is tight, addictive and satisfyingly primal. Every hardcore Wii owner should have MadWorld in their collection.
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