The Black Baron. In MadWorld, this purveyor of carnal pleasures provokes your violent tendencies time and again. After his recurring obscene tirades, a sultry gal clad in leather gear offers a visual example of the violent challenge ahead by lopping his head off with a golf club, or impaling him on a bed of spikes. She then strikes a sexy pose and slinks away, only to return when the resilient Baron has somehow recovered and again arrives with even more foul-mouthed taunts. This scenario is the essence of MadWorld: brutal, irreverent, and often hysterical. It's an overload of the senses that wallows in both its tastelessness and its striking black-and-white visual design. More importantly, this third-person action game is fun to play, though a number of gameplay frustrations hold it back from greatness. Nevertheless, MadWorld provides an adrenaline rush, with all the sensory delights and distresses that such excesses entail.
No amount of laundry detergent will be getting these stains out.
You're Jack--just Jack. You're the newest participant in Varrigan City's killing games, affectionately termed Death Watch. At the outset, MadWorld's ultraviolent game-show narrative may remind you of a grosser, grittier Smash TV, but during its short length, the story makes some curious twists. Jack is a fascinating antihero, easy to root for yet not exactly likable, and a cutscene in which he cuffs a smirking narcissist across the room is as shocking as any of the game's outrageous scenes of dismemberment. The grittiness of the story is further enhanced by MadWorld's graphic-novel looks. Aside from the copious spurts of red blood (or blue alien goo), almost everything is rendered in black and white, and for a while, it's hard not to be awed by this unusual presentation. Nevertheless, that style comes at the occasional expense of visual clarity and comfort; in time, it becomes increasingly difficult to see important items such as health drops within the busy environments. The game is at its best when played in short chunks, if only because you'll need visual and emotional relief from time to time.
Fortunately, developer PlatinumGames understands that overkill is best experienced in small bites, and accordingly a time limit has been placed on levels, which are filled with an array of horrific, murderous devices. The ShockTV viewers are a voracious bunch, and you'll earn a score based not just on how many foes you kill, but also on how violently you do it. You can impale a thug on a wall of spikes, but you'll garner more points by shoving a barrel onto his head, skewering him with a traffic sign, smacking him around a few times, and then chucking him onto the spikes. Every level is jam-packed with implements of destruction, and though you've always got a mighty chainsaw available to you, you'll use other weapons over the course of the game. A barbed club comes in handy for smashing foes around or launching them into the stratosphere; daggers afford you a spinning attack that rewards you with nice, grisly sprays of blood.
It's a constant onslaught of comic-book sadism, and accomplishing specific tasks (affixing zombies onto a fountain of blood; catching all of the alien grays) unlocks more tools of mayhem. To temper all of this killing, MadWorld also provides a constant torrent of humor, not the least of which comes from the hysterically perverse commentary provided by Greg Proops and John DiMaggio. Little of this dialogue is fit to print, and much of it is repeated ad nauseam, but it's witty and profane, so you may become red-faced both from laughter and the occasional blush. A terrific, pulsing hip-hop soundtrack complements both the chatter and the gameplay, and the crunchy, squishy sound effects are almost as gruesome as the sights. A game this violent is certainly inappropriate for kids to watch and play, so if you have sensitive ears nearby, you may want to don a pair of headphones while you shield their eyes.
You think this is violent? You don't know the half of it.