When news first broke
that popular Marvel character Deadpool would be starring in his very own game from High Moon Studios, the company behind well received Transformers
titles War for Cybertron
and Fall of Cybertron
, internet fans the world over exploded in a collective joygasm at the thought of the notoriously lewd and crude anti-hero mutant being given a platform to break down the fourth wall of gaming in the same way he does the world of comics. However, despite having obvious love for the central character and his destructively irreverent antics, did High Moon actually remember to make a decent game around the Merc with a Mouth?
In Deadpool (Xbox 360)
we are presented with a game that is a third-person, hack-n-slash action title at its core, with layers and layers of Deadpool humour slapped on. Like Dante and Bayonetta, Deadpool comes from the 'why use guns or swords when you can use both?' school of thought. He easily switches between pistols for long-range blasting or blades for short-range slicing, or you can mix things up by using "Gun-Kata" - a mix or sword and gun play - for some varied death-dishing. Killing multiple enemies builds up "Momentum" to unleash a superior power attack. In standard hack-n-slash form, kills give points and combos add multipliers to these points; points that can be spent on new weaponry, momentum attacks, and player and weapon upgrades. The choice of weaponry is actually pretty generic, barring the man-traps option for thrown weapons, and the upgrade options are of the vanilla "improve damage", "improve health" variety, so anyone looking for some unique, unlockable options, such as those found in Saint's Row
games (purple dildo, I’m looking at you), will be disappointed. And that's part of the problem. Apart from Deadpool himself, the game is completely and utterly generic. Nothing is broken, but nothing stands out. Everything is just dull and cookie cutter, from the "blah" weapons, to the forgettable enemies, to the bland environments, to the "meh" storyline. But that's almost the point. By placing Deadpool into an otherwise generic game, the focus can remain squarely on the larger-than-life protagonist. Unfortunately, High Moon Studios seems to have missed an opportunity to throw in a few more bonuses, such as unique weaponry or completely insane moves.
Deadpool does have one fairly unique move that will become a source of both sanctuary and agitation for most players. Because he's a real man, and real men don't block, Deadpool doesn't block; instead, he teleports. This allows him to disappear and reappear behind an enemy to stab or shoot them in the back and, because he's invulnerable when teleporting, it can also be used to avoid an enemy's incoming attack (which is helpfully telegraphed by a floating icon over their head) to keep the combo counter going. As the game progresses and the difficulty level racks up (which it does considerably) the player will become increasingly reliant on teleporting to keep Deadpool out of trouble. The only issue is that, because the teleport shifts Deadpool around the room, the camera struggles to keep up. This means you lose valuable seconds trying to reorient yourself whilst the enemies happily hack away at your health. More often than not, you'll find yourself teleporting as far away from the action as possible to grab those precious moments needed to restore health.
Like most of the game, the graphics are purely serviceable, but the core characters do stand out in cartoony, bright colours against the greys and browns of the backgrounds. These backgrounds include such generic fare as a skyscraper, a sewer, a prison and island ruins and are completely forgettable. Even the prospect of playing around in Genosha, the site of a mutant genocide and home to the rusting pieces of massive robot Sentinels, is underwhelming. Luckily, whilst we don’t have much to look at, we certainly have a lot to listen to. Deadpool not only provides moments of banter during cutscenes, but also running commentary during gameplay. All of these delightful outbursts are superbly delivered by legendary voice actor, Nolan North, who nails the energy, exuberance and insanity of the character. Fans of low-brow humour can rejoice as the words "subtle" and "refined" aren't in Deadpool's dictionary and the game is chock-full of boob and fart jokes. However, the game's funniest and cleverest moments are those when Deadpool cracks wise at the expense of the game itself, the player's poor skills, and gaming tropes in general. For example, he shoots himself in the head rather than listening to sidekick Cable's tedious speech that would otherwise act as an explanation of the villain's evil scheme, leaving us wondering what exactly is going on for the majority of the game, not that it matters. In true fourth-wall-breaking style, the prologue provides the game's setup in which Deadpool persuades Peter Della Penna, president of High Moon Studios, to produce a game about him. The rest of this
game is Deadpool playing through that
game, blowing the budget in the opening levels, commenting on its strengths (lots of Deadpool), weaknesses (not enough Deadpool), and going decidedly off-script. It's all very meta and, for the most part, very funny. The game is also packed with pop-culture references, with comics (naturally), films, and other video games becoming frequent targets for derision.
The game runs at break-neck pace, jumping from one set-piece or joke to the next and never slowing down long enough for us to examine the dreariness that lurks beneath the main character’s verve and energy. This also means that the whole experience is rather short lived, with the main story clocking in at between seven to nine hours depending on skill. There is some replay value to be had over multiple playthroughs, with upgrades and unlockables carrying over to help with tougher difficulties, as well as a challenge mode where you can face waves of enemies for shiny medals. There is also precious little in the way of collectibles, a fact that some may rejoice at, but seems like a missed opportunity to expand on the character's history by providing background details, comic pages and the like. When a new character from the Marvel canon pops up, including Wolverine, Rogue, Cable and Mister Sinister, the player can choose to get a quick rundown of their background, narrated by Deadpool over comic pages, but these instances are limited and could have been expanded on in bonus content for extra fan service.
Roughly half of the game’s fifty achievements can be picked up through natural story progression, as well as a couple of stackable difficulty-specific ones for completing it. Each level also comes with three or four achievements for doing certain things, such as finishing a section in a certain timeframe or without taking damage. These range in difficulty but most will be easily attainable on an "Easy" playthrough. Deadpool’s irreverence does pass onto some achievements at the beginning of the game, such as the self-referential The First One’s Free
and The Second One Is Also Free…
, and a couple of optional activities
in Deadpool’s flat. However, the fun dries up after the prologue. It would have been nice for some more achievements later on down the line to be linked to doing something crazy or funny, rather than just doing something well. With a rock-hard "Ultra Violence" difficulty and challenge mode, getting the 1000G may elude some of the more casual gamers, but most players will be able to get 800G easily enough over a couple of playthroughs.
is a ho-hum, hack-n-slash title which is elevated by the Merc with a Mouth’s meaty insertion of humour and irreverence. Fans of hack-n-slash may find something here, but will ultimately find that it doesn't match up to the likes of Devil May Cry
. It can only really be recommended for already existing fans of the title character, those interested in exploring his unique blend of low-brow, fourth-wall-smashing humour, or those who want a game where they can turn their brain off for a few hours.
The reviewer spent eight hours with the game, completing the main story on "Veteran" and trying out a couple of challenge maps, picking up 31 of the game’s 50 achievements. The review was written from a personal copy of the game.
UPDATE: Since writing this review, Deadpool himself reached out to us to provide comment. A regular hijacker
contributor to the site (Exhibits A
), he had the following to say:
You said my game was average?! Average!? I’ll kill you. But you said I was awesome, so I’ll let you live. But you also said I didn’t have enough length, so you’re a dead man. But then you said “meaty insertion”, so you can live. For now.