Over the years, gaming has seen its fair share of superhero titles, and they’ve come in all shapes, sizes and levels of quality. Although a select few have proven themselves as studs, and some have presented above-average content, many others have fallen victim to the licensed game curse that is brought on by short development timeframes and other related issues. However, despite their differences in quality, almost all of the genre’s efforts have had at least one thing in common. That would be a relatively serious tone, created by the mentality that one must save many from harm, while worrying about time limits and the reality of life and death.
This week, High Moon Studios decided to change things up by giving Deadpool his own interactive starring vehicle. Yes, the Merc with a Mouth now has his own video game, and it’s about as crazy as you’d expect when it comes to dialogue, humour and outrageousness. However, the unfortunate truth is that those things are the eight hour-long experience’s only true upsides, as the rest of its content is more middling and frustrating than it is fun and well designed.
Those who’ve followed Deadpool‘s life in pen and ink will know all about his antics. However, newcomers should note that the horribly disfigured mercenary for hire requires a not safe for work or children label. He’s no Joker, and is instead a character for adults and mature teens, who don’t mind boob, penis and fart jokes mixed in with their violent action.
The whole idea behind the self-absorbed anti-hero is that he knows who and what he is. That means that the fourth wall is regularly broken through self-awareness within the comics and other things that he has appeared in. The same is true of this most recent Activision superhero title, as the player is often referenced and told to do things via a humorous or stark tone. Sometimes it’ll be moving the mediocre camera around to follow the on-screen antics, or pressing buttons to see what they do.
What’s good about the self-awareness of the lead is that he lends himself well to an action-oriented video game, where almost anything goes, and High Moon has delivered on that front, bringing Wade Winston Wilson to digital life in a memorable way. Nolan North, who you probably know best as Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, does a great job of voicing the red-clad maniac, and is hilarious in a well-cast role. The crazy dialogue and listed performance make this a must play for fans, but they can’t make up for the bland content that is the rest of the in game content.
First up is the storyline, which is less than memorable. It all starts out well, though, because we’re introduced to Deadpool in his decaying apartment, where all of his junk can be interacted with. There, he’s seen speaking to the voices inside of his head about the video game proposition that he previously sent to High Moon Studios. Unfortunately for him, however, the Transformers: Fall of Cybertron developer denied the original request, though Mr. Wilson doesn’t know the definition of the word no. As such, a fittingly threatening counter offer is used to change the company’s mind, letting the character set forth on his quest to create his own interactive vehicle.
The storyline that spews out of the protagonist’s head is filled with moments of pure craziness, not to mention pure delusion, wherein a lot of the title’s charm can be found. Outside of those sections lays a rather basic and uninspired storyline, which starts with a murder for hire plot that targets a rich television exec, then leads into a quest to thwart the villain we know as Sinister. Sprinkled throughout said journey are cameos by the X-Men, a visit by a busty take on Death and lots of overtly sexual talk about Rogue, Psylocke and, well, almost every female that makes an appearance.
Although a trip is taken to the ghost town that is now the mutant world of Genosha, we never get any interesting settings or singular locations to explore. Instead, it’s all stuff that other games have done better. Running, hacking and jumping through cramped sewers, catacombs and buildings is acceptable at times, but this game relies upon them ad nauseam. Unsurprisingly, that lack of creativity led to boredom, which wasn’t aided by occasional outdoor trips or the included gameplay mechanics. Simply put, Deadpool isn’t that fun, and doesn’t deliver a lot from a gameplay standpoint. You’ve played its type many times before if you’ve been a fan of this genre for an extended period of time, and will become annoyed by having to battle the same boring baddies over and over again without much variety of any type. Heck, even the optional stealth assassination mechanics are basic and somewhat wonky.
To expand upon the gameplay, it’s important to note that Deadpool was obviously influenced by Capcom’s Devil May Cry games. It emulates them in more than one way, employing a combat system that mixes combo-filled hack n’ slash swordplay with quick (teleportation) evades and gunplay. However, what we’re presented with here is nowhere near as polished as its inspiration, and rarely ever rises above mediocrity, although it does offer a couple of neat special moves. Yes, new weapons (sais, grenades, hammers, mines, shotguns, assault rifles and more) can be purchased and upgraded, much like the protagonist’s health and abilities, but they don’t change things up enough. In fact, the sais are always there as a secondary weapon, used to break the defenses of the game’s three million block-loving enemies. Seriously, there were more foes whose blocks needed to be broken than any other type.
It’s a shame that the personality of the titular character didn’t have more of an influence on the cookie cutter action-platforming/hack n’ slash gameplay that High Moon crafted. Maybe a lower budget played a role since Deadpool isn’t one of the elite Marvel characters, but it’s still hard to excuse the presented blandness with that thought in mind. Truth be told, this plays like something from years gone by, and doesn’t show any signs of evolution or creativity outside of its lewd jokes and outlandish delusions. Unfortunately, it looks that way, too.
While Deadpool does get roughed up quite a bit, and features some half-decent animations relating to his actions, combat and suit, the general look and feel of his game is also boring. There are moments where the presentation is memorable, but none of that relates to the core game that rests at the heart of the project. In fact, dated textures, bland enemy types, visual repetition, frame rate stuttering and an occasionally wonky camera all end up marring the campaign and its several related challenge stages. Thankfully, the humour offsets those downsides at times, and Nolan North’s voice over work regularly shines.
In the end, Deadpool caters much more to the fan than it does to newcomers, or your everyday gamer. Although it’s action packed and reliant on slice-filled combos, the experience fails to elevate itself above mediocrity when it comes to gameplay. Instead, its fun factor comes from its raunchy and over-the-top dialogue and surreal, dream-like states, which will not appeal to everyone. Still, the character’s quirks are worth experiencing once, though they’re all you’ll likely end up remembering from this one.
This review is based on the PS3 version of the game, which we were provided with.