Written : Tuesday, July 02, 2013
By: Richard Walker
Manic, unpredictable, insane. That's Deadpool in a nutshell. Both the character and his video game revel in abject silliness, and just like the comic book, anything completely random can happen at any given moment in Deadpool: the game. It's for this very reason that you'll either love Deadpool or hate it. But if you're a fan of the comic books, you'll no doubt find a lot to love about High Moon's unhinged and delirious hack 'n' slasher.
First of all, Deadpool ain't DmC. Given The Merc with a Mouth's guns and melee weapon wielding, we figured it might stand to reason that Deadpool would play something like Dante's opus, but alas, it plays a lot differently and not in a good way. Nonetheless, the controls are actually rather tight, and while the gunplay feels like an entirely separate component to the hacking and slashing bits, it still works perfectly well. The problem comes when you're having to retreat into cover when you've been torn to shreds by enemy gunfire, forced to hide while Deadpool's healing factor kicks in.
During these moments, you don't really feel like much of a superhero, and the time it takes for DP's health to regenerate can feel a little too long when you've got bad guys closing in on you from all sides. So while the shooty bits aren't quite all they're cracked up to be, Deadpool's katana, sai and hammer wielding skills have far more to offer, with a range of combos and momentum moves at your disposal for laying in to Mr. Sinister's army of clones.
"Hands off my banana, bub."
Another thing: Deadpool is a pretty damn short game. It's probably just as well that it is, because after about seven or so hours with DP, you've just about had your fill. The game freewheels from one insane idea to the next, as Deadpool breaks the fourth wall – just like he frequently does in the comics – playing through High Moon's game, calling them up and telling them to give him more budget when he's stuck in an 8-bit top-down dungeon crawler, for instance. Zany doesn't even cover it.
There's definitely no shortage of variety in the number of set pieces and weird tangents that the game shoots off on, but it feels like this is all in an effort to break up the relative monotony of carving and shooting your way through endless waves of clones. If the core gameplay were more interesting, this kind of stuff wouldn't be necessary, although we understand that it's part and parcel of Deadpool's character and his story that strange, offbeat stuff happens throughout the game on a regular basis.
Deadpool's story sees him playing through High Moon's video game script, teaming up with X-Men stalwarts, Wolverine, Psylocke, Rogue and Cable along the way. You're helping Cable to prevent some sort of terrible event from occurring in the future by tackling Mr. Sinister and his army of defective clone mutants, which include pale imitations of Gambit and Marrow. You'll also face mini-boss encounters against Sinsister's Marauders, like Arclight, Blockbuster and Vertigo. As a story, it's hardly the most exciting or absorbing you'll experience, but you're swept up in the sheer manic, hyperactive energy of the whole thing that you don't really get a moment to question exactly what's going on or why.
And there's something that feels somewhat dated about Deadpool, with some fairly annoying platforming sections and collectible DP tokens to pick up like coins. It could be a conscious decision to make Deadpool feel more 'gamey' in keeping with the wilfully daft homages to various games and their conventions, or it could be that High Moon wanted collecting tokens and other pick ups in there for reasons we can't quite comprehend. Whatever the case, collecting DP tokens seldom feels like a chore, and at times they do provide a breadcrumb trail to keep you on track.
Shooting your guns backwards: cool but stupid.
Getting lost is not something that's likely to happen in Deadpool however, as the game is incredibly linear, albeit with one or two very rare instances in which you can choose your path. Most hack and slash titles like Deadpool are usually linear, but for some reason, this feels even more linear than its competitors. It might be those DP token trails.
Accumulate enough DP points by collecting these tokens or by stringing together combos, and you can head into the game's upgrade menu at any time to boost Deadpool's abilities, whether it's bolstering the power of his guns or adding more moves to his arsenal. You can also purchase uzis, pulse rifles and a shotgun, as well as sais, hammers and some throwable explosives like mines, frags, flash grenades or bear traps. It's this aspect of Deadpool that adds some much-needed depth, as you decide where to pool your points and spend them wisely. Invest in weapons and moves, and Deadpool gains lethal momentum abilities that can stun enemies or cause area-of-effect damage, once you've built up the accompanying meter.
There's something somewhat satisfying about Deadpool's combat, despite it feeling slightly lacking in comparison to similar games of its ilk. Countering enemies opens them up for juggling moves, while teleporting to evade attacks soon becomes second nature. Mixing up melee moves with Deadpool's 'gunkata' is also a neat touch, adding some gunplay spice to your combos. It's not quite as seamless as Devil May Cry in mixing up the gun and sword action, but it does a decent enough job. Just.
Deadpool isn't a bad game by any means then, and indeed it has a variety of redeeming qualities beyond its relatively bog standard gameplay mechanics and repetitive waves of enemies. Its boundless energy is hard to ignore and there are some genuinely funny moments to enjoy along the way. High Moon has clearly made an effort to keep the whole thing constantly fresh and engaging, and Nolan North's performance as The Merc with the Mouth is gloriously nuts.
”What you lookin' at?
A contender for easiest achievement in our Achievement Awards, Deadpool rewards you with one for just getting DP up off his ass and then another just for the hell of it. The rest of the list offers a nice spread of tasks of varying difficulty, making for a surprisingly strong selection of achievements that help extend the game's slender run time. You'll also find additional longevity in Deadpool's Challenge mode, which presents you with three waves of increasing difficulty to battle through across three tiers – bronze, silver and gold – like Horde. There are only two achievements attached to this part of the game though, so you'll find the most cheevo action in the campaign.
Wearing a pirate hat, beating a high score at the surreal and terrifying carnival, and other such achievement objectives ensure that you'll explore every part of Deadpool, and experiment with each of the funny choices and interactions that you can make throughout the campaign. Do you squeeze Cable's imaginary breasts or do you back away? How long can you slap Wolverine for before you get bored? Do you have the patience to endure a queue to buy a ticket for a fairground ride? Moments like these are not only smirksome, but will also bag you an achievement. It's good stuff.
High Moon has perfectly captured Deadpool's quirky fourth wall shattering essence in Deadpool, and although its gameplay can't really hold a candle to the likes of DmC or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, there's still something inherently likeable and entertaining about the game. If you weren't aware of Marvel's Merc with a Mouth before playing Deadpool, you certainly will be once you've experienced his game, that's for sure. “This is what awesome looks like!” screams the front of the box. Awesome is stretching it somewhat, but Deadpool still provides a few hours of uncomplicated enjoyment.
Unremarkable, largely forgettable music, Deadpool's strength lies in Nolan North's exuberant voice over work. You'll likely recognise most of the voice actors from the original X-Men animated series too, which is nice.
Deadpool is visually solid and looks perfectly fine. There's nothing in here that really takes your breath away though, and some of the game's textures are a little on the dull and murky side. Deadpool's costume getting shredded by gunfire is a nice touch.
Enjoyable while it lasts, Deadpool actually becomes increasingly enjoyable the more weapons and abilities you unlock. Our only gripes are the occasionally errant camera and a little too much repetition in the hack and slash action. Some bizarre, unexpected tangents keep you on your toes though.
All those Weapon-X attributes, and Deadpool still can't muster the staying power. You'll tear through the campaign in a couple of evenings, as there's about 6-8 hours of gameplay at the most. Challenge adds to the longevity and fans might consider a second playthrough on a higher difficulty, but overall, Deadpool is incredibly light on content or unlockable bonuses. How about some unlockable skins or something, High Moon?
You might get 30G for simply making Deadpool get up out of his chair at the beginning of the game, but from thereon out, you'll have to work hard for your achievements. There's actually a nice spread here and a good balance, with half easily unlocked in a single campaign playthrough, while the rest require a second visit. A good list that'll make you want to squeeze every last drop out of the game.
Not quite up to the standards of High Moon's Transformers: War For Cybertron, Deadpool is nevertheless a decent use of the Marvel license. That said, there's just something about the whole product that feels a little dated, and the lack of content doesn't help matters either. If Activision commissions a Deadpool sequel, High Moon has a hell of a lot of room for improvement here, which is one way of putting a positive spin on things. Deadpool is less a pineapple surprise then, and more a pineapple disappointment. The Merc with a Mouth is just that: all mouth and no trousers. That said, Deadpool is by no means a stink pickle.