High Moon Studios
PC, Xbox 360
Review copy provided by the publisher
As a longtime comic book fan, you can understand why someone like me – who loves and appreciates games as much as his other passions – gets absolutely frightened when the two are brought together. Licensed games are generally the scourge of the industry, a type of game that through name alone sends chills down the spines of gamers everywhere. As DualShockers’ resident “X” fan, I’ve been waiting for the Deadpool game to release with both bated breath and utter terror. Now, after getting my hands on the game and going on a full ride with the Merc With A Mouth, I can relax a little. While not a perfect video game, Deadpool is certainly a perfect Deadpool game.
Leading up to Deadpool‘s release, the one thing going through every DP-fan’s mind was probably “Are they going to capture the essence of Deadpool correctly?” “Is this really going to be the Deadpool game we deserve?” “Can they nail Deadpool’s crazy humor just the right way?” Yes, because the “right way” turns out to be Daniel Way, longtime writer of the Deadpool comics, and writer of the Deadpool the video game script. Everything about this game oozes the pure essence of Deadpool in the comics, and no doubt Way had a large part to do with that. In fact, the entire premise of Deadpool involves our favorite anti-hero contacting High Moon Studios to make his own video game (after sending in a proposal written in crayon). So the same way Deadpool is one of the few characters in comics to know he’s actually a comic book character, he’s also the only person in the game to know that this whole adventure is being designed and developed by other people. This often includes some funny moments throughout the game, like “going over budget” (which gives way to a cool retro take later) or playing on normal gaming conventions.
Funny moments are abundant in this game: there’s plenty of comedy to be found in Deadpool, from simple “har har” moments, to hysterical segways that really make you appreciate how well Deadpool’s humor was infused into every aspect of the game. Every. Single. Part.
Take, for example, how I left the menu screen idle for a while, only to find a typically relaxed Deadpool teleporting out of his seat to go prancing and frolicking about his room. Later he dressed in his faux-X-Men costume while trying to look into my room (through the TV screen) for babes, and finally he turned into his “D. Pooly” hip hop look (from J. Scott Campbell’s variant Siege #3 cover) while a scantily clad woman walked on and off the screen at random. Or take a look at the trophies/achievements to find that his Platinum trophy says “Okay, you can sell the game now.”
While playing, the dialogue is one of the strongest points of the game, whether it’s between Deadpool and his guest stars/allies (several X-Men characters), his enemies (Mr. Sinister and his Marauders), or even with himself, as Deadpool has two inner-voices that he’s constantly conversing with. While playing, Deadpool and the other characters have a ton of great sound bites, some of my favorite including:
“Did that hit you the chest? I’m sorry, I was aiming for you crotch!” (Deadpool)
“Sometimes I let my guns do the talking… and boy are they chatty.” (Deadpool)
“You think I’m scared of a mercenary? I work in television!” (Chance White)
Sometimes these sound bites are aimed at poking fun at common game design choices, like a moment where Deadpool shouts (to no one in particular, but obviously aimed at the player), “More people who want us dead! In games, that means we’re headed in the right direction!”
Any Deadpool-fan will also appreciate the occasional balance of good ol’ crazy comedy with the rare, deep and dark moments that are at the core of Deadpool’s character, and how, at times, he shows he’s not crazy at all, but incredibly intelligent. When his first target, Chance White, calls him crazy early in the game, he very darkly responds “Not as much as you think…” and you find out that some random off-the-wall thing you did and forgot earlier was actually important to Deadpool accomplishing his mission. It’s moments like these that should please both fans and non-fans alike. There’s another great moment later on in the game that takes a surprisingly deep, disturbing, and visceral look into Deadpool’s mind, something players won’t see coming. How it’s seamlessly implemented into the game was so unexpected that it, too, perfectly parallels Deadpool’s random descents into sanity, and just how seriously messed up Deadpool is inside his head.
But if you’re worried this is a grim and gritty Christopher Nolan-esque re-imagining of Deadpool, don’t fret: these few moments are expertly and sparingly used during the game, with the majority of your time enjoying Deadpool’s random observations and thoughts, from Cable’s theme song, to Genosha being called a “timeshare for mutants,” to a slap-happy moment with Wolverine, to a fantastic “D. Pooly” dream sequence, all the way to the blaxploitation like end-credits.
I’d be remiss in failing to mention just how great Nolan North is as Deadpool: but if you’ve ever seen the Wolverine portion of the Hulk VS animated-movie, then you probably already know how well North nails the character. In fact, it sounds like North is having pure fun as Deadpool, with equal parts comical, cooky, and crazy, and again, an occasional downright sinister edge that shows the kind of mean streak Deadpool has locked and hidden away beneath his mask of frivolity. The other voice actors, for the limited time they appear in the game, also are fantastic: notably Steve Blum as Wolverine and Fred Tatasciore as Cable make for some fantastic moments with Deadpool, especially playing the straight man to his eccentric tantrums.
Of course, while I’ve been gushing about how much Daniel Way and High Moon Studios got the personality of the game right, its the gameplay that also determines how good of a video game Deadpool actually is, and for the most part, it’s very good indeed. Unfortunately, though, it’s not as fantastic as the writing: but it works. Where in most games the story serves as a way to take the player from one section of gameplay to another, Deadpool almost works in an inverse matter, where the gameplay feels like its serving as filler to get you to the next part of the script. Still, there’s much to enjoy in Deadpool if you like action games, with the complexity of the gameplay opening up over time. In the beginning, I found the gameplay a bare skeleton of what most games offer, but I definitely found myself liking it more as time went on. Deadpool isn’t as tight and technical as the Batman: Arkham series or as stylish as the Devil May Cry or Bayonetta series, but it does manage to find a decent middle-ground.
Deadpool is a combo-based game, where the higher your combo goes, the more “DP” points you earn: taking too long to continue attacking or getting hit disrupts the combo. DP points can be used to unlock upgrades, new weapons, new attacks, and better stats. To build these combos, Deadpool has in his arsenal light and heavy attacks, a teleport-evade button, and can “interact” with certain objects and weapons. When prompted, he can counter attack enemies with good timing, and pull off instant-kills.
With his guns, Deadpool can go into an “aiming” mode where he can shoot enemies from far away, but the “snap to” aiming is merely serviceable at best, and shouldn’t be completely relied on for kills unless facing aerial enemies (I should mention that Deadpool can shoot behind him while he runs, which is really awesome). Later Deadpool can incorporate “Gun-Kata” moves into his combos (think the movies Equilibrium and Ultraviolet), which are far more useful. Deadpool also has a range of crowd control weapons at his disposal, including flashbangs, grenades, mines, and even bear traps (which were one of the most useful tools I had against boss enemies). Finally, all of these together can help Deadpool build up “Momentum,” which unlock special attacks that can be used against groups of enemies.
Speaking of enemies, there’s certainly a wide, wide range of them. The majority of your white-skinned enemies are clones created by Mr. Sinister, all genetically infused with the powers of various X-Men characters. You’ll fight “Titan”-sized enemies with Fire and Ice gatling guns/grenade launchers (which you can use after their death), Blob-characters who can do major damage by belly-flopping onto you, Storm-like weather casters who can do major ranged-damage, and, most hilarious of them all, defective and explosive Gambit clones that shout in high pitched voices “Mon Ami! Mon Ami! Mon Ami!” while running up on you suicide bomber-style. While the diversity of these enemies are appreciated, you will be fighting tons and tons of these disposable henchmen, which can be both fun and frustrating depending on how many types are being thrown at you at once. The end of the game is virtually an endless barrage of clone battles, so be prepared for the long haul.
Visually, Deadpool falls between mediocre and good, but when you take into consideration the amount of things going on on-screen sometimes, and that both Deadpool and some of his enemies take on real-time damage as they get hurt, there’s some leeway to be given for the sometimes lackluster graphics. There’s also a lot of great sequences that break out of the typical gameplay to give players top-down action sequences, 2D platforming sequences, rail-shooter sequences, and more, so there’s a constant stream of variety to keep your attention. Deadpool is like an old black and white film or a retro video game: it may not always be as pretty as its peers, but the experience more than outweighs what it lacks visually.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: whether you’re a Deadpool fan or not, Deadpool the game is definitely worth trying. It won’t appeal to everyone, for sure, but for those of you who enjoy 4th wall jokes, references to everything from Marvel Comics to Star Trek, quirky and random segments, and little things littered throughout the game like Deadpool’s box of “Not Porn,” then you’ll love Deadpool.