Reviews

Deadpool – Review

deadpool-box-art-xbox-360

Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Developer: High Moon Studios
Publisher: Activision
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: No
PEGI: 18+

Though he’s far from the most known of Marvel’s massive roster of characters, on paper Deadpool is the perfect fodder for a videogame, sporting dual pistols and dual swords for epic combat along with a regenerative powers.  With High Moon Studios at the metaphorical helm of the project, I had high-hopes for Deadpool, mostly because of his greatest power of all…the ability to smash the fourth wall.

You see, Deadpool is insane. When he was once but a little merc trying to make a living he discovered he had cancer, and desperate to save himself he enrolled in the Weapon X program which grafted Wolverine’s DNA into his own, granting him regenerative powers, making him night impossible to kill! The bad news was that it didn’t cure his cancer, instead it led to it being supercharged, the cells of the disease constantly replenishing while the rest of his body did the same, leading to an eternal war within. His face was horribly disfigured as a result, shattering his grip on reality in the process so that he now has split-personalities that constantly argue within his mind. He suffers from frequent delusions and hallucinations, has the attention span of a 4-year old that’s been raiding the sweetie jar and has an imagination so utterly bizarre and vivid that it should probably be banned. As his nickname also suggests, the Merc with a Mouth also ain’t afraid to insult people and say whatever is on his mind, which usually involves chimichangas, sexy girls or guns. Or all three. And yet, in a weird way he’s not actually truly insane, because unlike all of the other heroes and villains running around the place, Deadpool is perfectly aware that he’s a comic-book character, and often stops mid-story to talk to the reader directly, blowing the shit out of the 4th wall. So is he actually insane, or is he the only one that is perfectly sane and only acts so barmy because he knows he can get away with it? What’s even odder is he has an intimate knowledge of events outside of the comic book world. How? No idea. Just go with it.

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As for this game, he’s also perfectly aware that he’s a comic-book character starring in a videogame, because it’s his videogame, that he’s making, as you play. You got that? As the game starts we’re introduced to the Merc with a Mouth himself as he’s busy blackmailing High Moon Studios into making a videogame all about how awesome he is. A few explosions later and Deadpool has his game, but he’s none too happy with the script, deciding to rip it up in favor of making stuff up as he goes along, and so begins a story which, frankly, doesn’t exactly make much sense. There’s something about a bad guy called Sinister and an army of clones, and Cable and some of the X-Men turn up along the way. And something about Deadpool being important to the fate of the world or something It’s pretty vague stuff.  And that’s okay, because what you’re really here for is Deadpool and his unique brand of childish, irrational, sexist, crude humor. Bitch slapping a unconcious Wolverine while screaming random obscenities? Check. Blasting around in a giant Sentinel’s boot ? Check. The entire game suddenly turning into a top-down dungeon crawler because the money ran out? Check. Deadpool’s fourth-wall smashing antics give High-Moon plenty of room to play around when it comes to the humor, and while it’s true that those with more, uh, sophisticated tastes may want to steer clear I have no problem admitting that there was rarely a joke or stupid moment that failed to have me laughing or at the very least smiling. This is a genuinely hilarious game.

Notice that I used the word rarely, though, because there was a few times when the humour failed. Sometimes it was just simply a joke that didn’t work, but mostly it was when  Deadpool stopped to poke fun at videogame clichés before the game went on to enact the very same clichés. I’m sorry, High Moon, but making fun of videogame clichés and then doing them anyway just isn’t funny. Quite the opposite. In fact, it just drew attention to the fact that this game is actually pretty lazy in several ways, like you felt you could get away with not even trying because you poked some fun at it. There was a point very early in the game when Deadpool, having been forced to traipse through bland sewers for a while, turned to the camera and make a snide remark about High Moon using generic sewers. It made me smile, and naturally I assumed at that point the generic sewer system would be ditched in favor of something more creative, the point having been made, but no, instead I was forced to continue sloshing through the most boring, grey sewer tunnels I’ve seen. It’s not just sewers, either, Deadpool (the game, not the character) is filled from start to finish with really boring level design. You’ll venture from boring sewers to boring office buildings by going through many boring corridors. It’s level design at its most basic, functional in every sense but utterly dull nonetheless, bar the occasional flash of something more interesting.

Another genius plan comes to fruition.

Another genius plan comes to fruition.

It’s not helping that the game’s visual presentation is…uh, very much representative of the discounted RRP. The level of detail on character models is particularly lacking, as is the texture work, and the games graphics on the whole just feel flat and lifeless, which is the exact opposite of what you want from a comic-book game, although the animation work for Deadpool himself is really quite well done. However, considering this is a budget title the graphics can be forgiven, and it somewhat balances out the scales that the quality of the audio is actually pretty good. The music is mostly made of up of generic rock, but it suits the style of game well enough and  the voice acting is actually rather good with Nolan North (of Uncharted fame) playing the role of Deadpool perfectly, capturing the insane lovability of the character with ease. He did such a good job that after finishing the game I picked up a Deadpool comic and found myself  hearing Nolan North’s voice in my head every time Deadpool had a line of dialogue.

Right, so on the comedy front the game certainly nails it, as it also does with the character of Deadpool, but on the actual game part of the equation it  falls flat on its face. Deadpool takes on the form of a pretty standard third-person hack and slasher with some light gunplay thrown in for good measure. Basic combos are formed from a mixture of light and heavy attacks while the right trigger lets you inject some firepower into proceedings. Whip out Deadpools guns at the correct time and you can even pull off a fancy Guntaka move. Meanwhile there’s also some special Momentum attacks which can be activated from time to time. As you kill, kill and kill again you earn points which can be spent on the usual raft of upgrades. Deadpool can purchase new guns and melee weapons such as hammers and laser blasters, to augment his combat capabilities,  as well as unlock a couple of new combos upgrade his health and damage output in various different ways. It’s pretty standard progression stuff with little to really talk about.

Deadpool's combat animations are pretty cool.

Deadpool’s combat animations are pretty cool.

On paper, then, combat seems to have all of the ingredients for a solid Devil May Cry style experience, but in execution it’s anything but. There’s really not any depth to the combat system with a limited amount of combos to utilise and just a few enemy types recycled constantly throughout the game, and so hacking apart enemies begins to feel repetitive very, very quickly, which is disappointing in a game that only lasts six hours as it is. Nor is the combat smooth, instead it feels a little clumsy, never flowing as nicely as it should, although the  animation work for Deadpool’s attacks is great. Likewise gunplay is pretty clumsy thanks to loose aiming and a lock-on system that’s inconsistent at best. Guns don’t really pack much of a wallop, either both in terms of feel and actual effectiveness, making them unsatisfying to handle.

There’s also a button for countering the clearly telegraphed attacks of your foes, which you’e going to need as the game loves to throw large, overwhelming crowds at you to make up for the fact that individually enemies aren’t all that dangerous. Strangely, though, Deadpool’s short-range teleport ability is also mapped to the very same button, causing some serious problems in the middle of a fight when you might find yourself teleporting away when you meant to counter, or vice versa. It’s most annoying when you’re being swarmed by a horde of an enemies and are trying to teleport away before the last of your health waves you goodbye, but find yourself countering attacks instead.

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It’s not that combat is actually bad as such, it’s just that it’s completely mundane. It’s serviceable. It does the job, but nothing more. There’s some to be had from hacking up goons like there’s no tomorrow, but it’s pretty short-lived and before long you’ll probably find yourself cruising through every fight on auto-pilot, button mashing the hell out of the controller. Above all else is just feels…well, lazy. It has been done before, and done far, far better than this, which is a real shame because if High Moon had managed to combine a slick combat system with their stellar portrayal of Deadpool then we could have had a truly fantastic game on our hands.

There is, in fact, a sense of laziness that runs throughout the entirety of the game. It almost feels like so much time and effort was put into getting the character of Deadpool just right that High Moon forgot there was still the rest of the gamer to piece together, and so they decided to let Deadpool’s constant mocking of videogame design clichés carry them by simply doing every one of the aforementioned clichés and claiming it’s funny. The height of laziness comes in the form of the games final battle. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything by talking about it. In the final level you’re forced to fight waves and waves and waves and waves of enemies that just drag on and on and on. In between waves Deadpool begins to grow more desperate, shouting loudly about how there can’t possibly be any more waves…right before another wave arrives. And then, to add insult to injury, High Moon make you fight all three of the game’s poor bosses at the same time! But that’s alright, say High Moon, because Deadpool makes fun of it. No, High Moon, it’s not alright, it’s fucking annoying. Ah, but then they go and throw some more enemies at you, just for good measure.

Having said that they do at least attempt to inject some variety into the game with stuff like   sliding down tunnels, gunning down goons from a helicopter and even a very brief section where the the game turns into a 2D platformer. It breaks up the monotony of combat somewhat, but none of these brief detours are done very well, which is a real shame. There’s also some platforming to tackle but the mechanics are pretty loose, . A longer range version of Deadpool’s teleport is also introduced late in the game for platforming, but oddly is barely used and promptly forgotten about.

Um...this is exactly what it looks like.

Um…this is exactly what it looks like.

The good news is that High Moon and Activision both seem willing to admit that Deadpool is a budget game, because  they’ve released it with budget price tag. You can pick it up on PC on Steam for £30 and on console for around the same price, but whether or not that manages to justify the short play time of 6 hours or not depends entirely on your own idea of what value for money is. I’ve said before that the price of a game in relation to its length is something that doesn’t really factor into my final verdict of a game, but sometimes it’s still worth talking about, and in this case I’d recommend waiting to purchase Deadpool because it’s undoubtedly going to drop in price quickly. After your first playthrough of the game there’s no reason to go back and play again. The combat doesn’t have enough complexity to encourage you to play again, there’s nothing to unlock and all the jokes will be the same.

There is a Challenge Mode that extends the game’s lifespan, but all it does it pit you against waves of enemies, and considering how the combat system isn’t very strong it’s hard to imagine many people spending a lot of time here.

For Deadpool fans this is  definitely a game you should seriously consider picking up because it nails the character perfectly, capturing the insanity and humour of the Merc with a Mouth in a way not seen since his better comic runs. But what if you’re not a Deadpool fan? Well, the game is hilarious, but crass, so it’s not for those that can’t switch off and enjoy some toilet humor, slapstick and absurdity. On the actual gameplay side of things the ball has been dropped, resulting in a completely average hack and slash title, so the real question is are you willing to put up with mediocre gameplay for the comedy? My recommendation is wait for a price drop and then enjoy the insanity, because it really is hard to play this game and not come away smiling, despite the problems.

The Good;
+ DEADPOOL IS AWESOME!
+ Funny as hell. If hell was funny.
+ Some creative moments that impress!

The Bad:
– Combat is lackluster.
– Humor sometimes falls flat.
– Some lazy design, especially levels.

The Verdict: 2.5/5 – Okay, bordering on being good.
If you’re a Deadpool fan feel free to bring that score up to 3.5, or possibly even a 4, simply because of how well this game portrays the character. It’s just a shame that as an actual game it leaves a lot to be desired.

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