Videogames Seeing Red

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The Wii has certainly left its cuddly white mark on the videogame industry by outselling both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by a healthy margin, making the two more powerful systems look anemic in comparison.

Despite its astronomical sales, the Wii is known more for its waggly controls and its droves of mom-friendly shovelware than it is for an abundance of stylish or mature-themed titles. The Wii could simply not been viewed as the machine for the hardcore. Until now…

Mixing the dystopian über-violence-cum-entertainment vibe of the “running man” with a graphic-novel-in-motion aesthetic (where the only color you’ll see is that of the gallons of crimson spilled by the game’s many eviscerations), Sega’s MadWorld gives the Wii its most visually aggressive, hard-edged title to date.

Taking on the role of Jack, a brutish mechanic with a chainsaw arm, you compete in twisted game show called Death Watch, run by a group of terrorists known as The Organizers who have taken over your fair city. Getting rid of the many enemies chasing you down in a variety of ways is the name of the game here—from ripping them in twain and hurling them into walls of spikes to straight-up decapitation to smacking them into a giant dartboard with a baseball bat. This ultra-violence in turn entertains the onlookers, who are betting on your success. The more you please the bloodthirsty viewers, the more options open up to you.

“There are no games like it on the Wii right now,” says Executive Producer Atsushi Inaba of developer PlatinumGames, “so we thought it would be exciting to make it for the Wii for that very reason. We think we were able to make a game that stands out on any platform but the fact that it’s a Wii game makes it that much more surprising.”

While the violence is over-the-top and satisfyingly visceral, it’s MadWorld’s art style that really set’s the game apart. Looking like an interactive version of Frank Miller’s Sin City (or even the video for KMFDM’s industrial dance classic “A Drug Against War”), MadWorld really sets the paradox bar high for both minimalist color palette and outright visual mayhem.

“We had no intention of going with a realistic art style,” says Inaba. “That wasn’t the kind of game we wanted to make. In order to portray violence that was too over-the-top to be real, we went with a Western comic-book motif. In addition, we included the black-and-white element that’s not seen in games.”

While it may seem that a purely black-and-white game would lack depth and be difficult to play, Inaba explains why PlatinumGames went this route: “Visual impact is the main reason. Fun gameplay alone isn’t enough to draw people in—the art style is important, too. Initially, our thought was that it might make the game a little more difficult to play… but as we worked on the game, we took steps to make sure the game was still easy to play, such as adjusting the way we show the backgrounds.”

With balls-to-the-wall gameplay, a unique aesthetic, and a hip-hop soundtrack to boot, MadWorld is sure to burn a brand on the brains of Wii owners thirsty for something meatier than carnival games or yoga in 2009.

A History of Violence
While there may be a dearth of original “hardcore” titles for the Wii, Nintendo is no stranger to stylish violence on their systems. Here we take a look at some past releases aimed at quenching Nintendophiles’ more base urges.

Mortal Kombat
(Midway, 1993)
When the first Mortal Kombat appeared on the Super Nintendo, the company decided that the blood and fatalities would be too much for their fans and had it removed. They were sadly mistaken—the uncensored Sega Genesis version was widely considered superior when both were released in 1993. Nintendo wouldn’t make the same mistake twice; they allowed Mortal Kombat II’s digitized gore to go untouched a year later.

No More Heroes
(Ubisoft, 2008)
Cel-shaded graphics, an outlandish story, and plenty of ass-kicking via lazer swords and wrestling moves makes No More Heroes one of the more unique titles the Wii has to offer.

Killer 7
(Capcom, 2005)
As if taking on the role of a crippled, schizophrenic assassin were not wild enough, this Gamecube cult fave has your multiple personalities, including a Mexican wrestler or British albino, take on a group of mutant terrorists only to discover that you yourself are a god. WTF?

Resident Evil 4
(Capcom, 2005)
A risky departure from what came before it, Resident Evil 4 proved to be the most impressive Gamecube title ever in both style and substance. You battle crazed Europeans infected with some gross virus that makes heads explode. Get vaccinated before traveling overseas, kids.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day
(Rareware, 2001)
Inspired by South Park’s potty-mouthed tykes, Conker took the average cutesy squirrel and basically turned him into Andrew Dice Clay for the Nintendo 64 audience. He drinks beer, swears, pisses on things, chases tail, and fights a living mound of shit. Yet despite all the toilet humor, Conker was actually one of the best N64 games ever made. Go figure.

Manhunt 2
(Rockstar, 2007)
Undoubtedly the most controversial game to ever grace/shame the Wii, Manhunt 2 has you ruthlessly murder your would-be captors in a variety of gruesome ways, setting the bar pretty high for what is tolerable on Nintendo’s latest system. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that great a game.