Sixteen years ago, Nintendo released a bloodless, neutered Mortal Kombat. Which makes the company’s latest feel like the culmination of a slow 180: MadWorld is a celebration of violence, disfiguration, and “gritty” moodiness resplendent with enough F-bombs to make grandma blush. Problem is, there’s nothing more juvenile than trying really hard to be shocking, which MadWorld wants more than anything. The game’s plot is essentially The Running Man borrowing liberally from Resident Evil 4: You play as Jack, a Tom Waits-sounding badass (who looks like Hellboy without the horns) competing in a deadly game show in a terrorist-besieged Varrigan City, while also trying to rescue the mayor’s daughter. Oh, and Jack has a chainsaw on his wrist.
That over-the-top, mix-and-match approach to plotting also carries over to the gameplay and stylized look of MadWorld. The game is presented entirely in black and white, save for the smatterings of blood you start spraying from the get-go. But once the look settles in, it all becomes repetitive. In true game-show style, you have 30 minutes to eviscerate your enemies in each area, with extra points awarded for the more nefarious murder methods. Amass enough points, and you essentially go on to do the same thing in a “Bloodbath Challenge” that introduces environmental elements of death, like a giant monster hand that makes crimson paste of your enemies. It all looks very impressive in black and white, but eventually the novelty becomes a blasé “Oh, I guess I took his heart out? Neat.” But because many of the levels are about four city blocks in size—forcing you to troll around the same handful of spots for slaughter until you unlock the boss—Madworld doesn’t quite work as an action game. It only smacks you in the face with its formula.
Beyond the game: Greg Proops (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and John Di Maggio (Futurama’s Bender) serve as the game show’s commentators, but their blowjob jokes aren’t funny the first time, much less the eighth time.
Worth playing for: The satisfaction when a mere flick of the wrist sends a baddie sailing through the air.
Frustration sets in when: You realize there’s no need for strategy whatsoever. You can die taking one approach on enemies, but still get results with the same tactic in the next life.
Final judgment: Violence junkies who don’t care how they get their fix, look no further.