MadWorld is divided into several levels representing different parts of Jefferson Island that have been converted into sets for the game show "DeathWatch". The player progresses through these levels in a linear fashion during the first playthrough, but can revisit any completed level to attempt to score more points or take on a harder challenge.
Most levels are open environments, allowing the player to explore them freely, although some sections of the level may require the player to earn a number of points before it will be accessible. A few levels feature motorcycle-based combat where the main character, Jack, is assaulted by foes as they race down a track or in a small arena. The player is challenged to beat the level's boss within a time limit, but in order to activate the boss fight, the player must accumulate enough points by defeating regular foes on the level. There will also be other challenges, bonuses, or mini-bosses that will become active after the player accumulates enough points. A common feature of each of these levels is the "Bloodbath Challenge", a time-limited minigame that rewards the player for completing a specific type of activity with additional points. For example, the player may need to attempt to swing a bat at foes to knock them into a giant dartboard to score points, or to ensure foes are trapped in front of a speeding train. Outside of these challenges, the player is awarded points for every defeat of a foe. The amount of points for beating foes increases by increasing the foe's power or using more unusual methods of winning. For example, while the player could throw an enemy on a wall, the player will earn significantly more points if they had previously forced a tire around the enemy.
The player controls Jack from a third-person perspective using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk attachment for attacks and movement, respectively. MadWorld does not make use of the Wii Remote's infrared sensor, as its developers found it unnecessary to pinpoint movements on the screen in order to attack. When certain special attacks are possible, the player is prompted to press a button or move the controllers in a specific fashion to complete the action. In boss fights, the player must trigger special finishing moves that engage their foe in a series of quick time events in order to weaken, dismember attached weapons or defeat the boss, called Power Struggles. These are also possible against certain normal enemies.
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