Deadpool! The Merc with a mouth! The regeneratin’ degenerate! The Crimson scourge of Lake Titicaca! Taking a crazy vigilante like that, and combining him with some fourth-wall breaking antics should be the perfect recipe for a video game. And in some ways, it totally is. Its just a pity that Deadpool never hits the high heights that he aspires to in his debut solo video game title.
In the hands of High Moon studios, this should have been a slam dunk for them. Over the years, they’ve created two fantastic Transformers games that provided plenty of fan service while still managing to be inviting to newcomers.
And that’s one thing that High Moon does get right in Deadpool. Thanks to writer Daniel Way who has helped transform the wise-cracking mercenary from Wolverine 2.0 to a full on memetic anti-hero, the script sizzles, as Deadpool hunts down perennial X-Men foe Mr Sinister in order to get some payback.
Because High Moon told him to, as Deadpool gratuitously name-drops the studio inside of his game. Deadpool isn’t afraid to poke fun at the player, a concept previously explored a couple of years ago when Matt Hazard broke the fourth wall. Unlike that game though, the jokes feel fresh and welcome. And much like that game, by the time the halfway mark hits the screen, they’ve clearly worn out their welcome.
At its core, Deadpool is an old school beat ‘em up, with equal parts gunplay mixed into the formula. And on both these gameplay aspects, it does a decent, if somewhat generic job. Slicing and dicing can be mixed up with new weapons, upgrades and special moves built up from your momentum, while switching to guns follows a very similar route.
But switching between the two in the heat of battle? It’s a chore, a clunky idea that is clumsily implemented and feels sloppy. Going into a gun-kata mode results in a camera setup that is annoying at best, as switching between the two styles results in all sorts of odd angles being thrown at the player.
High Moon had a fantastic opportunity here to create a system that would have been a perfect marriage between the two and unique to the quirky assassin. Instead, it’s a messy divorce of could-have been great ideas.
And while the combat is adequate, the rest of the material just isn’t. Generic foes will be thrown at you with a slight palette swap throughout the game, essentially waves of mutant and cloned meat that is designed to either battle you until you run out of ammo or patience, while the level design is absolutely boring for most of the game.
Most of the time, you’re either in a sewer or a set of ruins. And while there are fleeting glimpses of more exotic gameplay ideas thrown around, from homages to the Legend of Zelda through to some Super Mario action, it’s just never taken full advantage of.
I loved the scene where I was stuck in an out of control gigantic Sentinel boot and had to gun down enemies as I flew around them. I loved the fact that one stage had me jumping on top of my own thought bubbles in order to get past a few obstacles. That’s some clever gameplay engineering there. Engineering that should have been used far more frequently instead of just throwing more waves of nameless henchmen at me.
But at the very least, Deadpool himself is faithfully captured in this game. Nolan North does one hell of a job voicing the maniac mercenary and his inner voices. He captures the glee, the insanity and the schizophrenic personality of the character perfectly, and several other little touches from High Moon help drive that point all the way home.
Combined with the supporting cast that is pulled from various X-Men comics, and it’s clear that High Moon did pay a lot of attention to this facet of the game…while neglecting the rest of it. It’s also a rather short game overall.
Clocking in at just over five hours for the main campaign, it;s the kind of game that can easily be finished within a weekend. But by the time you get to the final stage, you’re going to be subjected to an action sequence that practically drags on for far too long, ruining any momentum that it builds up.
And that’s without mentioning the gratuitous humour of the character, while funny at some points when it’s done right, quickly devolves into the kind of comedy that is accompanied by bro-fisting and wearing a peak cap sideways. It’s one thing to do it while making light of the industry as a whole, but falling for the exact same joke just smacks of hypocrisy.
Deadpool plays it safe, attempting to be a better game than it is at several key moments before proceeding to fall flat on its face. It could have been a lighter take on superheroes in an age of gaming dominated by dark and gritty vigilantes, but it completely squanders any opportunity to be more than just a generic button-masher.