I really got to start doing more ‘reviews’ than first impressions. My MadWorld review should be ready this week, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how long it will be for Rune Factory: Frontier. Anyway, I was able to get about 4 hours into MadWorld this weekend and so far have come away quite impressed.
The most impressive thing about MadWorld is how great a time I had, going in with low expectations. My low expectations stemmed from how disappointed I was with ‘No More Heroes’. I thought this would be just another dumb beat em’ up with stale gameplay masked in a gore-fest, and excessive swearing. Instead I was met with some tight, fresh gameplay, an interesting control scheme. Not to mention great visuals, audio, and comparable story.
First, I’d like to give kudos to Platinum Games with providing a very simple introduction to MadWorld. I think it’s a lost art in video games to provide a humble start menu. There’s no robust options, or create-a-name, or create-a-character. Just hit the “A” button, and you’re in.
Story – A little Escape from New York, a bit The Running Man, with shades of Metal Gear Solid:
Before you begin playing, you’re introduced to the story behind MadWorld. So far, I’ve been blown away by the story elements provided in MadWorld. Kind of loving the fact that it has a story at all. The narrative reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid, only more simplistic. Jack, the protagonist is dropped into what I could only call a mish-mash of ‘Escape from New York’ and ‘The Running Man’. The comparisons to Metal Gear Solid begin with the hero, Jack. He’s quiet, a total badass and also has a past that’s starting to catch up to him. Yet he’s trying to do the right thing against insurmountable odds.
The story that runs alongside Jack is a lot more deep than I was expecting. Jack is dropped into Varrigan City which has been turned into a deadly game show called, Death Watch. It’s here you’ll see the similarities to the 80′s classic ‘The Running Man’. What I’m considering the main villain is the CEO of Death Watch, who has turned Varrigan City into a breeding ground for murdering (hence Escape from New York). Jack has been dropped in undercover to play Death Watch, to thwart the shenanigans. You start out with a sponsor, XIII, who provides hints early on. Things take an interesting twist towards the middle, but I won’t give anything else away. Just know you’ll be somewhat intrigued with the story.
Gameplay – Bloody, creative, and fresh, and a chainsaw:
Once the intro to the story is over, you’ll begin with the gameplay elements of MadWorld. I’ve played to the final level of the third world. So far, everything has been a delight to play through. The controls are the backbone of the gameplay experience, and nearly all of them are executed well. The ‘A’ button is your basic attack, which leads into certain combos. Once you pound on someone enough, you’ll be provided with a few options for finishing moves. You can press the ‘B’ button which generally has you finishing up a bad guy with your chainsaw. Or the ‘A’ button which has you slamming your opponent back and forth. Most of the finishers have a motion attached with them which adds a heightened sensation, dare I say.
If you press the ‘B” button outside of a finisher you’ll whip out your chainsaw. This is your means for quickly dispatching opponents. Your chainsaw is attached to motions as well. Swipe vertically to cut top to bottom, or horizontally to cut your foe right to left. Again, very rewarding. You’ll unlock various weapons as well, which will have different styles attached to them. It keeps things quite fresh, and trying to find more interesting ways to dispatch villains.
The last element of gameplay is the ‘grab’ mechanic. This is where things get really creative, and important. There’s two things you can grab, enemies, and objects. If you grab an enemy, you have the option to throw them, drag them around, or headbutt. Throwing an opponent can clear space for you if you’re being hounded. You can drag your enemy to various locations to utilize some of the level’s surroundings. You can slam them against the prickly ‘Rose Bush’, or toss them into a barrel. There’s level specific additions, so things stay mostly creative in terms of killing options. You pick up certain objects, most of which will go on or through your victim’s head. There’s of course health items as well.
I mentioned that your grab mechanic is important, because your progress through most of MadWorld is based on points. Your points are mostly calculated based on creativity, and depth of your kill. Stick four sign posts through your victim’s head, and slice them in half with a metal garbage bin and you get more points. Or get less points just chainsawing them in half. All the stages have progressed the same, in that you unlock items as you gain points, until you’ll unlock the Bloodbath Challenges, and the boss of the stage.
The Bloodbath Challenges are the mini-games of the stages, but unlike most mini-games these are a blast. The Bloodbath Challenge intros are conducted by the pimptastic host, Black Baron. The intros are quite funny, if a bit sadistic. The Bloodbath Challenges are great because they actually add to your point total, so they mean something to your progression. You’ll have a time limit to conduct various objectives. Throwing enemies under a giant metal press, or golf clubbing them through targets are just a couple of examples.
The boss fights are probably my favorite part of the game so far. For me there are two requirements for a great boss, creativity, and balance of difficulty. MadWorld has exceeded expectations in both of those elements. The bosses for the most part haven’t been all that creative in terms of personality, but make up that with looks and strategy. Each boss I’ve fought against has had different patterns I’ve had to learn, coupled with some puzzles you’ll have to figure out as well. The balance of difficulty has been solid as all my encounters have gotten progressively harder as I’ve moved on.
Visuals – It’s Sin City, only with more red:
After the gameplay, another element of MadWorld I was impressed with is the visuals. Going into the game, I wasn’t really sure what to think of the black, white, and red motif. It’s definitely ‘Sin City’ inspired, but holds its own in terms of style. The textures are smooth, and the levels are filled with tons of detail. Feels a lot like a well drawn comic book. The game is truly appreciated once it gets set into motion. All of the animations are tight, and more crisp. Even with the most amount of enemies I’ve seen on screen, there hasn’t been a hiccup in frame rate. The kill effects, specifically the blood are some of the most over the top you’ll see in a game. On par, or even better than the chainsaw and curb stomp kills in Gears of War.
Audio and Music – Too much commentating, with too few lines; music rocks though:
The visuals are a delight, and that can be said for half of the audio. Unfortunately, the commentating is a bit of a letdown. Just like all other parts of the levels, the commentating is specific to the part of the game your in. Even with this, it begins to get repetitive. I appreciate the mood they’re trying to set with the cheesy, grandiose nature of the commentary it just gets old the longer you’re in a level. The music however makes up for the commentating. Again, it’s all specific to the level you’re in. In fact, you could turn off the commentary and just get caught up in the music. It’s all adrenaline inducing, and so far has fit in well with the levels they’re attached to.
The Bad – Have to like a certain style; it’s a blast but more than likely a short one:
The negatives I’ve found with MadWorld, are specific to length, and choice of style. Judging by amount of levels per world, I’m a little more than halfway in with only 3:50 clocked so far. There’s a multiplayer segment of the game which I haven’t tried yet, but doubt it will be enough. If the game released at $39.99, or $29.99, I would be more lenient. Unfortunately, in this economy people are looking for more depth in their video game purchases.
If you like a more linear beat-em-up experience, MadWorld might not be for you. Each level is basically a playground for you to romp around through. You progress by points, so everything is unlocked by you taking on hordes of enemies and killing them creatively. This might be great for some, but for those who like to just progress and fight ‘through’ a stage it might turn you off.
So, who’s played through MadWorld already? I’d like to get your feedback, and let me know what you thought of the game. Is the comparison to MGS too much? Feel free to blast away.