the graphically challenged and waggle-centric nintendo wii is generally considered to be a far less hardcore gaming system than it’s bigger brothers, the xbox360 and ps3. thus, most of its games tend to focus on cutesy animal adventures, established children’s licenses, puzzle games, or a combination of all three. the majority of graphic violence and horror themed situations tend to be found in games on microsoft or sony’s consoles, leaving horror fans with wii’s little choice but to pick up a second console to play things like left 4 dead, dead space and resident evil 5. there are exceptions to this trend. resident evil: umbrella chronicles, house of the dead 2 & 3 return, obscure and a handful of others jump to mind. these are decent games, but unfortunately they pale in comparison to the quality horror titles that can be found on other consoles. however, there are two games that can be found only on the wii that offer the same level of quality, action, fun and gratuitous violence as anything on any other platform.
house of the dead: overkill
house of the dead has always been one of my favorite series, as there are few things more fun than shooting zombies with a plastic gun. a few of the arcade games have been ported to various consoles in the past, but overkill is the first one written specifically for a home console (the wii). and apparently that makes a lot of difference because this isn’t just the best (no offense to the brilliant voice actors in previous chapters) house of the dead game to date, it’s also (no offense to the dog from duck hunt) the best light gun shooter i’ve ever played.
when i first saw the trailer for this game (see below), i thought the grindhouse style was simply a way to market the game — it turns out i was wrong. the game itself is presented as a grindhouse-era b-movie, complete with bumpers, a rating notification and music that would feel right at home in any tarantino film. each level of the game is presented with a title card as a tiny b-movie unto itself. a sleezy, 1970s movie trailer voice-over narrates the game, setting the scene for your characters and summarizing the story thus far. the visuals of the game are probably the most impressive as the scratches, hairs and dirty feel of films from that age being projected on a grindhouse screen has been replicated perfectly.
zombie blood splatters on nearby walls, zombies continue to crawl towards you if shot in the legs, creepy clowns swing down from rafters, and heads of the undead explode into a beautiful cloud of red mist when hit with a shotgun. consecutively hitting what you aim at leads to an increased score multiplier, which adds a new feel to this type of game and pushes you towards accuracy as opposed to the ‘shoot as fast as you can’ mentality. points earned can be used to purchase bigger, more destructive weapons or upgrade those you already have. the game can be played alone, but two player co-op is definitely where it’s at. my only complaint would be that the writing of the cutscenes is occasionally annoying, as is one character’s habit of punctuating every phrase with the word ‘fuck’ (the game was recently declared the most profanity-laden game in history). the writing of the voice-over announcer, however, is always top-notch… my favorite line being “this game will make you cry blood… from your own eyeballs.” apart from small children and old people who just bought their wii to play bowling, this is a must-own title.
madworld is a completely new license created specifically for the wii. how they thought creating a game this violent for the wii was a great idea i will never understand, but i’m very glad they did. the story of this game is rather simple and familiar to anyone who’s played manhunt or seen the running man or death race — murder has become a televised sport, and you’re a contestant. you move through a camera-monitored city, guided by your ‘sponsor’ via an earpiece. you encounter various ninjas, thugs, behemoths, monstrosities and mutants which you are required to kill. the more elaborate, grotesque and audience-pleasing you make the death — the more points you get.
madworld is easiliy the most violent game i’ve ever seen. i imagine the aesthetic choice to present the game in black & white and make the world look somewhat comic-book-ish is the only reason this game isn’t rated AO (which would mean the game couldn’t be released). if you watch the video below, you can see an example taken from the game’s tutorial. you’re taught to entrap a guy in a tire, uproot a stop sign and skewer him with it through the throat and shoulder, and then carry him over to a wall of spikes and repeatedly impale him on it. the only color in the game is red, which you see a lot of while doing the latter two steps of this process. as we learned from schindler’s list, red against a black and white image creates a startling contrast – and while i’m sure it was done for censorship issues, the fact that the game world is in black and white except for blood makes it appear even more violent than i think it would have in full color. while there are a few movies that have featured scenes that have made me turn away, a video game has never done that. until now. at an early point in the game you have the option of impaling a guy cannibal holocaust style on a large spike situated in the ground. As the spike passed through his entire abdomen and emerged from his mouth, i turned away exclaiming “oh, man! that ain’t right!” truly, this is a great game.
the game features top-notch graphics and sound. greg proops (who’s line is it anyway? alumnus and podrace announcer from episode one) is one of two announcers that humorously narrate your progress, constantly criticize your choices and killing methods, and often wander off topic and have their own little discussions (e.g., announcer a: “heroin is much better when injected directly into your scrotum.” announcer b: “name me one thing that isn’t much better when injected directly into your scrotum?”). the wii’s waggle controls add an interactive element i’ve never seen in a game that featured this level of violence — when you stab, choke or impale someone… it feels like you’re stabbing, choking or impaling someone. this is, of course, the exact kind of thing that politicians will likely get their panties in a wad about if they ever take notice of this game… but assuming you can differentiate images on the wii from reality, spearing a guy through the back by making a spearing motion with your arms can be great fun. i have yet to finish madworld, but i hear it is somewhat short. i don’t see this being a huge drawback because, similar to left 4 dead, part of the fun is in replaying levels and trying to improve on your prior performance. for my money, this is the best game currently out for the wii and i wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who can tolerate ridiculous amounts of over-the-top/tounge-in-cheek violence.