In the Marvel Universe, Deadpool plays an odd role. As a mutate, he isn’t quite a mutant. As a mercenary, he doesn’t really align with any particular group, although sometimes he does. As a character, he’s unstable and constantly breaks the fourth wall. Since his introduction in 1991, he’s been an anomaly, and because of that, he has become one of the most beloved characters to ever have their own comic. Now, 22-years after his first appearance, the “Merc with the Mouth” joins the ranks of other AAA comic legends like Wolverine, Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman, and finally has his own self-titled video game.
The game builds on the charismatic person that has taunted comic book fans for over two decades. For example, Deadpool, the comic book character, packs some heavy artillery to pull off his jobs, brandishing both an arsenal of guns while demonstrating a proficiency with his katanas. The character in the video game comes with the same skills, and then kicks things up a notch, and that’s when things start to get a little crazy, and by “things, I mean Deadpool. The game plays like a straightforward hack-n-slash, reminiscent of so many titles before it, but High Moon Studios (you may remember them from “Darkwatch” and the recent “Transformers” games) do their best to separate their game from the crowd, but somehow Deadpool remains the standout feature.
While out on a job, Deadpool’s target, a cable network exec, is kidnapped and killed by Mr. Sinister. Deadpool still needs to collect on his bounty, so he follows the script that High Moon sent him and joins up with Wolverine, Psylocke, Rogue, and Domino to chase down the famous X-men villain all the way to Genosha. Obviously, this game breaks the fourth wall, and does so within minutes of starting it up. The overall story is layered on top of a meta storyline where Deadpool is in touch with the execs at High Moon Studio throughout the game, and he has “convinced” them to make the most awesome game ever about his life. Typical Deadpool.
For a character that is lauded for his writing, “Deadpool” won’t leave its fans disappointed. Like the comics, “Deadpool” is funny… as long as you like that kind of humor, but if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t care about this game to begin with. As you wander around Deadpool’s apartment in the opening sequence of the game, it becomes instantly clear that the maturity level of the game is very low – especially when you step into the bathroom – but that doesn’t diminish the quality or quantity of jokes peppered throughout the game.
There are basically two kinds of jokes in the game, one-liners and larger, set piece driven ones. The one-liners come fast and furious no matter what is happening on screen, but can become cumbersome and repetitive as you work your way through the game. The larger gags tend to break up the flow of the game, and call out that they are making a joke right now. Most of them aren’t bad, and are likely to elicit at least a chuckle from Deadpool fans, but they don’t always hit the target. That being said, “Deadpool” is still one of the few games ballsy enough to try and incorporate humor as an ongoing facet of the game, instead of just for comic relief.
While the writing is likely to keep players engaged, the gameplay probably won’t. “Deadpool” falls into the same trap as so many other hack-n-slash games before it; it’s a genre that breeds repetitive games. Run over here, beat up or shoot these guys, then run over there and do the same. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Even the occasional boss battles seem to all be derivative of this same basic concept, only for those you usually need to run away every now and then to let your healing factor kick in. Upgrading your character and his weapons helps to introduce some new mechanics throughout the game, but it ends up not being enough to make the battles too interesting.
On the plus side, High Moon does clearly make the effort to mix up the gameplay here and there, giving players the chance to play as Rogue for a little bit, or introducing a rails level, but it’s too little to make it feel like a break. Fortunately, the waves and waves of enemies don’t feel entirely generic, as the story introduces them as modified clones of X-men, or characters from the X-men comics, which makes them moderately more interesting than faceless soldiers (of which this game has its share). However, seeing another horde of suicidal Gambits running at you does get a little old after a while. (Seriously, watch out for those guys.)
Simply put, “Deadpool” is a game with a character that outshines everything else. If you’re a fan of the comic book character, then you’ll likely be able to appreciate the game on a different level than your average player, because you can appreciate Deadpool. If you took Deadpool out of this game, you’d be left with a template for 90% of hack-n-slash games on the market today. There’s nothing that sets this game apart from the pack beyond the character with the name on the box, and, really, that’s enough to carry it, but only as long as you’re in on the joke.