Have you played MadWorld yet? You know, the superviolent, superstylized action game that fulfills the Wii's annual "over-the-top game where the Wiimote is used as some sort of dismemberment device" quota?
If you have, you've probably noticed, for better or for worse, the audio commentary by one Greg "Oh, and there goes Quadranero's power coupling" Proops and one John "More like ten sh*tloads" DiMaggio. 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.
You see, MadWorld tells two stories -- in one, the player is a force of uncompromising bloodthirstiness who yearns, above all else, to paint the entire black-and-white world crimson with the bodies of his decapitated, dismembered, and humiliated foes. In the other, the player is portraying some dude named Jack who is out to kill a bunch of "bad guys" and somehow make the world a slightly better place through his over-the-top violence.
One of these narratives is told by the actual game mechanics; the other is poorly force-fed to the player through cut scenes. The game itself is a completely unapologetic celebration of violence as mindless catharsis, while the cut scene-driven storyline awkwardly desires to be something more. Only one noninteractive aspect of the game design successfully supports the mood and themes of the gameplay itself, and that's the commentary by Proops and DiMaggio.
How is it that MadWorld's random wang and fart jokes ended up more insightful, relevant, and well-integrated than its "real" storyline? Hit the jump to find out.
Though MadWorld's scripted story -- developed in part by Yasumi Matsuno, the guy behind Ogre Battle, Vagrant Story, and FFXII -- doesn't claim to possess any real depth, it does, in the end, imply that Jack's kill-crazy rampage has meant something. "I don't help people," Jack frequently grunts, "I kill them." But considering that by the end of the game the leader of DeathWatch has been killed and the island presumably freed, the story tells us that while Jack may not be a particularly nice dude, the world he lives in is at least moderately better for his having chainsawed and impaled and decapitated and exploded thousands and thousands of people.
Which, considering the misanthropic glee with which the game throws Bloodbath Challenges like "Man Darts" at you, strikes me as total bullshit. The player isn't whacking human beings into an enormous dartboard with a giant spiked bat because he wants to make the world a better place, or defeat evil. The player is here to have fun. While one could reasonably argue that using an enemy's head as a golf ball shouldn't be fun, MadWorld presents such an activity as exactly that.
Here are a shitload of weapons and enviromental hazards, the game says: we're going to throw in a bunch of really dumb enemies who can't defend themselves and your goal is to kill as many of them as possible in the most over-the-top ways you can manage. The written story tries to convince us that all this comic-book style violence actually exists to some moral justified end, while the gameplay -- you know, the important part -- shouts at the top of its lungs that the game is not meant to be taken seriously
If there were nothing but the gameplay and the too-serious story cut scenes, MadWorld would be significantly more difficult to enjoy given how the two drastically conflict with one another. It is only the announcer commentary that actually saves some degree of MadWorld's narrative by doing what the "real" story will not: namely, admitting that the game is nothing more than sick, stupid fun.
Though player opinion will vary as to whether or not Proops and DiMaggio's schtick is actually funny (in our review, you may notice that Jonathan wanted to turn the commentary off while I felt guilty for laughing so hard at it), one cannot deny that the often-improvised dialogue is utterly free of pretension.
"Those guys remind me of my ex-wife... Throw em' a beating and they keep coming back for more!"
"Gee, I wonder why she's your EX-wife..."
"That comment was slathered with sarcasm!"
"You might want to put the kids to bed for this one, folks."
"Are you implying that children should have been watching anything that's happened up until now?"
"Sure. We don't wanna raise a nation of pussies."
"You know, those Happy Pills are amazing when you grind them up and inject them into the folds of your scrotum."
"I'll give you a dollar if you can tell me one thing that isn't better when ground up and injected into the folds of your scrotum."
"No means yes, and yes means anal!"
No one would ever accuse the announcer commentary of possessing excessive taste, but one could easily say the same thing about the game, and that's what makes the two go so well together. Everything that could be said of the game -- it's silly, it's exploitative, it's immature -- can also apply to almost every word that comes out of the announcers' mouths. There is zero thematic conflict between the audio commentary and the gameplay.
Furthermore, if the written story attempts to halfheartedly suggest that violence is bad or that we as a culture are too violence-obsessed given the role the DeathWatch show plays in the narrative, then the color commentary -- however unintentionally -- delivers that same message with a much greater degree of efficiency. The main narrative pretentiously assumes it is somehow morally superior to the gameplay by suggesting there is more to Jack's actions than sheer bloodlust, but the commentary cannot extricate itself from the visceral insanity of the gameplay.
If you want to create a game that argues against violence as entertainment, then a MadWorld without an overarching storyline does that way better than the version that actually exists. The game violence and the commentator jokes are crass and obvious and stupid almost to the point of ironic self-parody. A MadWorld made up purely of the gameplay and commentary would be a frighteningly consistent exploration of the lowest common denominator, why it's so alluring to certain audiences, and how ultimately stupid and meaningless that violence and the adoration of violence is. More conservative players might initially be somewhat repulsed by the persitent and unapologetic "violence, fuck yeah" attitude, but the game would never stop and attempt to tell the audience what to feel.
Those that would wish to interpret it as a purely nonserious piece of entertainment would be just as welcome to their opinion as those wishing to look at it as a disturbing, self-deprecating critique of a violence-obsessed culture. Every audience member could take from it what they wished. You know, how real art is supposed to work.