“People, if you want to play this game and really enjoy it, expect your eyes to burn a little on Sundays, or when you’re driving by places of worship.”
That’s the warning given by John DiMaggio, the voice behind Bender from Futurama and co-commentator on MadWorld (along with Greg Proops from Whose Line is it Anyway?). All good Christians, look away now…
For lo, MadWorld is violent. VERY violent. HILARIOUSLY violent. FANTASTICALLY, BEAUTIFULLY violent. It takes violence, puts it on a stick, parades it through the town square and invites you to laugh at it, then chainsaws its legs off and feeds them to the pigs. And it’s brilliant.
The game is set in Varrigan City, which has been taken over by a gameshow called ‘DeathWatch Challenge’. Like The Running Man, the only rules of the game show are ‘kill or be killed’; your character, Jack, pitches up to the games as a contestant, but also has another agenda as an undercover agent. Thankfully though, the game doesn’t let itself get bogged down in concepts like plot or realism, and instead concentrates on constructing more and more ludicrous situations in which to mete out punishment.
The utterly absurd extremes to which the game goes in the name of cruelty to other human beings are its crowning achievements, and are probably best illustrated by the ‘Bloodbath Challenges’ that pepper the levels, the first of which sees you punting hapless assailants into the blades of a jet engine (with predictably visceral results). The challenges only get better as you go along, arguably reaching their pinnacle with the self-explanatory ‘Man Golf’, which I predict may actually replace real golf by 2025.
A typical fight might see you rip up a signpost and ram it through an opponent’s skull, followed by a few swift punches to the kidney and a barrel over the head, topped off by lobbing them under a train or into a meat grinder. Even that might only give you a score of ‘Routine Violence’ – an award of ‘Extreme Violence’ requires a seriously meticulous and prolonged assault on an unlucky bad guy.
The hilariously over-the-top fights are accompanied by some genuinely funny commentary from Greg Proops and John DiMaggio, in the guise of Howard ‘Buckshot’ Holmes and Kreese Kreeley – their ludicrous and often downright filthy comments suit the atmosphere perfectly. In the words of Anthony Burch on Destructoid:
Crass, unsophisticated, and frequently appealing to the lowest common denominator, their color commentary is rife with penis references, ex-wife jokes, and other forms of humor too risque for anyone above the age of seven and too unsophisticated for anyone over the age of sixteen.
And it’s goddamned brilliant.
I couldn’t agree more – Kreese and Howard’s pearls of wisdom are likely to stay with me for a long time. Example:
Howard: Pay attention, kids! Jack’s enjoying the benefits of eating his vegetables!
Kreese: Dude, you are so full of shit!
Howard: Guilty as charged! Everybody knows that vegetables are poison, and the only food real men eat are bull testicles and moonshine!
Yes, it’s stupid, yes it’s puerile, but it’s also (mostly) very funny, and the end credits are a tour de force for the talents of Proops and DiMaggio (see video below).
It’s not all good news though – despite there being a huge variety of insane ways to gleefully murder your opponents, eventually you’ll find yourself repeating the same actions again and again, and the novelty does tend to wane in the second half. At its heart, MadWorld is a simple-as-they-come beat ’em up, and Final Fight and its ilk aren’t exactly known for their diversity. Still, in the current trend for increasingly complex ‘hardcore’ games, it’s a refreshing change to play something so simple in concept, and the ultra-slick presentation doesn’t waver throughout. The super-stylised, Sin City-style black and white graphics are a real treat, and the bizarre character design really makes this game stand out as a stone-cold classic.
It’s a shame that MadWorld didn’t sell as well as it should have on its release, but I’m certain that it will go on to be regarded as a must-have for collectors – there really is nothing quite like it out there. If you have a Wii, show it some love by feeding it a copy of this brilliant game (it’s super-cheap on eBay right now).
Finally, here’s a video of the very funny, very puerile end-credits sequence, in which the commentators lay into the myriad people who worked on the game. In their words: “So many nerds, so little time…”
WARNING: there’s gratuitous swearing from the start, so probably best not to watch this one at work… Oh, and obviously don’t watch it if you don’t want to spoil the ending for yourself.
“They only had one guy as the blood effects designer? He must have been working 24/7!”
[As dictated by Lucius Merriweather]
PS. You can read the full script for MadWorld‘s commentators here.