Deadpool: The Game Review (PC)

If developer High Moon Studios is good at anything, it’s getting licensed games right. Their Transformers titles have been ultra-fun, ultra-faithful adaptations so reverential they’re officially recognised as canon. When they announced they would be turning their attention to Deadpool, fourth-wall breaking “merc with a mouth” from Marvel Comics, a lot of comic book fans were overjoyed. A perfect videogame character getting a videogame from a developer who puts a lot of effort into fan-service – what could possibly go wrong? Dramatic sting, paragraph break, change font colour.

If you don’t know Deadpool, he’s a sarcastic, insane, mutated mercenary who’s usually connected to the X-Men. He’s appeared on film played by Ryan Reynolds in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and although it got his story mostly right unfortunately it featured Ryan Reynolds as a comic book character so it wasn’t very good. Part of the same “Weapon X” program that gave Wolverine his adamantium claws Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, was purposefully mutated to give him the powers of other mutants. For example, Wolverine’s healing ability and Nightcrawler’s teleport, both of which make excellent videogame mechanics. He’s also great with swords or guns, so that’s all the game you need right there.

Our Hero

As for actual story? It barely matters, which is good because it’s barely there. After “persuading” High Moon Studios to make a game based on him and Nolan North to do his voice (because apparently they sound similar), Deadpool takes an assassination contract which leads to him confronting similarly mutated Marvel villain Mr Sinister, then trying to stop his plans and his vast array of clone soldiers. X-Men show up, do nothing. That’s it. Don’t expect Charles Dickens, or even Daniel Way. However, do expect humour. Lots of it. Deadpool breaks the fourth wall and talks/taunts/hints the player at every opportunity, usually to greatly amusing degrees. It’s a little bit excessive but so frequently ridiculous that you often can’t help at least smiling, and occasionally laughing out loud.

It also pokes fun at videogame tropes, which is one of Deadpool’s first mistakes. Not the idea, the execution. If you’re going to parody silly clichéd gaming notions, like sewer levels, repeating enemies or pointless collectables, then you do so – you don’t make us sit through an entire game made out of them. What you instead do is start off with these ideas, have Deadpool make fun of them, and then toss them away for something better. What Deadpool: The Game does is start off with these ideas, have Deadpool make fun of them... then continue using them until we’re so roundly sick of them that we’ve forgotten the funny side.

So we get sewer levels, platforming sections, tombs, crumbling castles, collectable “Deadpool Points” that are used to buy upgrades (fine, but why do we have to run around and collect them though?), cut-and-paste enemies, repeating environments, and tedious stealth sections. Deadpool will offer a few quips, a few derogatory remarks if we fail them, and then continue on. Making fun of weaknesses but not doing anything about them doesn’t remove the weaknesses High Moon, it just highlights them. Now and again though Deadpool threatens to actually become imaginative, like the odd “we’ve run out of funding” moment where Deadpool’s forced into a 2D platformer or Zelda clone, or a cutscene made from cardboard cut-outs. These moments are fun but few and far between however, and the rest of the very linear levels quickly overstay their welcome. Particularly the frustrating stealth sections – you tried and failed to do stealth in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron too High Moon, please stop trying. Seriously, sometimes the only reason I’d get noticed in these (which is an insta-fail at one time) was because Deadpool did a forced ridiculous stealth-kill that got every guard’s attention.

That’s gonna hurt

Combat is the main focus of the game of course, and it’s... not bad. It’s nowhere near a Devil May Cry or God of War in terms of smoothness and polish, but it remains fun for most of the game, and that’s the most important thing. It’s a combination of melee and ranged combat, with the focus predominantly on melee – whereas Deadpool’s guns should really only be used to thin out enemy hordes or take out some guy who is particularly irritating you, like one of those flying lightning-firing bastards. You start off with just swords and pistols and through collecting Deadpool Points (sigh) you can upgrade to Ninja Sais, Hammers, Shotguns, Uzis, and Laser Rifles, and then further upgrade to allow better combos and up the damage of each. Full-damage shotguns will take down a boss character with just a few shots, so use them sparingly if you want to keep having a good time.

As for the swordplay/hammerplay, it consists of pushing the buttons for Light Attack, Heavy Attack, and Counter/Teleport until enemies are dead. There are apparently combos in the game, but considering just hammering the two attacks buttons will activate any and all of them it’s not really something you need to consciously be aware of. Additionally as you attack a ‘momentum’ metre fills up which when full allows you to unleash a variety of special attacks (depending on whether you’ve bought them or not). Jump attacks are present but pointless since they don’t do much damage and take far too long to recover from. While button-mashy and slightly devoid of skill (only the Counter button requires any degree of timing) the ridiculousness of the combat and Deadpool’s frequent quips keep the gameplay on the right side of enjoyable. Just.

Any more of it though and I’d be thoroughly sick of it. At 8 hours and little real exploration or replay value Deadpool really doesn’t overstay its welcome. Normally I’d deride games of that length without a multiplayer, but it doesn’t need one and I was literally just starting to get bored of the combat in the final half-hour (where literally hundreds of clones are being thrown at you). Still, there’s no New Game Plus, Challenges consist of arenas where waves of enemies come at you, and the ‘Extras’ menu only has character bios in it. In other words you’re getting 8-9 hours of gameplay here, and I can’t think of a single compelling reason to go back to it.

Is it a great 8-9 hours of gameplay though? Uh, no. It’s good enough, it’s undeniably fun and it gets the tone of Deadpool exactly right, but beyond the jokes and funny cutscenes 90% of the game is utterly unmemorable. It’s also buggy (I got stuck once and had to reload the checkpoint), enemy AI is non-existent (they occasionally get stuck in the landscape) and apart from specific highlighted objects nothing in the environments can be destroyed or interacted with. Furthermore the camera is utterly awful, zooming in far too close when near walls or objects, not keeping up with Deadpool when he teleports (which you’ll do often), and just generally should be pulled back a lot more so you can see what you’re doing. It’s a camera that was built for a third-person shooter (Transformers perhaps?), not a hack-n-slash combat with platforming elements action/adventure. Face a mini-boss character like the tubby Earthquakers and you’ll soon give up using swords since every time you dodge their attacks you lose sight of them, whereupon you get hit by their second attack that you didn’t see because the camera was focused on Deadpool’s head.

Yes, Wolverine’s in the game too. For about ten seconds. Just enough time for Deadpool to make fun of his height

It is most definitely Deadpool’s refreshing refusal to take anything in the game seriously that keeps it just about recommendable though, and just on the right side of fun. It is, however, interesting to note that despite High Moon, Nolan North, Marvel Comics and most of gaming and comicdom joining in on the fun (there’s even a fan who won a contest turning up as a surprise boss character) there is one major entity who does not appear in any shape or form – Activision. Arguably the publisher most in need of self-deprecation, offered the perfect platform to do it, and all we get is subtle jabs about the game’s budget frequently running out and how an abandoned office in a post-apocalyptic wasteland might make a better home for High Moon. Which probably explains why we’ve not even seen any gameplay videos or screenshots for Deadpool - it’s funny and Activision do not understand this human concept we call “humour”.

Anyway, if you want a hacky-slashy title that mocks videogame and comic conventions and never takes itself seriously then Deadpool is for you. That type of game is all too rare and no matter how much I criticise the game’s individual deficiencies I felt amused all the way through (except the stealth sections, and possibly that final tedious battle). That said the camera’s awful, levels are uninspired, many clichés are mocked but used anyway, bugs abound, and beyond the 8 hours it’ll take you to finish there isn’t much to stop you trading it in. Get it at a discount, keep your standards low, and don’t mind the casual chauvinism. There’s a dog riding a giant robot boot, what more do you want from a game?

Top Game Moment: When Deadpool opens a door and finds that the area’s turned into a 2D Wolfenstein 3D-esque level, then calls High Moon’s boss to complain.

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By danfreeman (SI Elite) on Jul 04, 2013
From what i`ve seen from walkthroughs the game is absolutely hilarious and let`s be honest you`re not buying the game to play a videogame,you do it to see Deadpool and he definitely delivers.I will only buy it when i see it at a discount because europeans pay 50 euros while americans pay 40$,i don`t know what`s up with the price but there is no way in hell i`ll allow myself to get screwed like that.
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Jul 04, 2013
It'll be discounted in no time at all. It IS most definitely funny and knows its audience, but once you've finished it you won't go back.
By HenoKutus (SI Elite) on Jul 06, 2013
Awesome game!
By jacportal2013 (SI Newbie) on Aug 23, 2013
I love this game