Banner by Qurbalicious
Developer: High Moon Studios
North American Release Date: 25 June, 2013
European Release Date: 28 June, 2013
Australian Release Date: 26 June, 2013
Trophies: 1| 2| 10| 38
High Moon Studios have previously demonstrated their ability to preserve the integrity of a beloved franchise while making it their own with their previous two games, Transformers: War for Cybertron and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Both games were true to the source material, specifically with relation to the iconic list of characters (including the return of original voice-actors), but featured original narratives which were accompanied with fun and engaging gameplay. So when Deadpool was announced back in 2012, it was with good reason that comic lovers and Deadpool fans were filled with excitement. To date Deadpool has featured in a number of Marvel universe games, but always as a secondary character, or in a cameo role. To remedy this, The Merc with the Mouth has broken the 4th wall (among others) and reached out to High Moon to create his own game, starring himself! Let's see how that went...
Deadpool, much like the character (in the good comics), is unsure of what it wants to be - it's part hack'n'slash, part third-person shooter, and part platformer - a veritable jack of all trades, but a master of none. It borrows heavily from other (better) games, but fails to capture what it is that makes those games great. The final product is the gaming equivalent of Frankenstein's monster - a hideous creature, cobbled together from parts that don't quite fit together; so desperately trying to emulate that which has come before it, but utterly failing in every way.
The game places an emphasis on combat, which is unfortunate because the combat is terrible - it's boring, repetitive, and (like your first car) mechanically unsound. When the game was first announced, I envisaged something akin to the Devil May Cry games of the PlayStation 2 era - a focus on melee combat with some auto-aim gunplay to add variety and increase combos. It's an established formula that has been improved on and streamlined for the past decade, and would have been the perfect fit for this game. Alas, it was not to be. Instead, combat is split roughly 50/50 between melee brawling (think Batman: Arkham Asylum with weapons) and third-person shooting, both of which have noticeable issues and deficiencies.
The shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired. For example, aiming is clunky and unresponsive, and when you try to lock on with auto-aim, more often than not the crosshair will be locked to the side of the target, leading to some very frustrating fire-fights. Another issue, though it might be considered minor, is that once you aim with your weapons Deadpool won't holster them until you perform a melee attack. Melee combat doesn't fare much better: most encounters boil down to mashing out a light-light-heavy combo ad nauseum, enemies don't provide any challenge, and I'm pretty sure the camera was actively trying to get me killed.
The controls are also problematic. Just like the comics, Deadpool has a personal teleportation device which, in the context of the game, allows him to bounce around the room in place of a dodge mechanic. The teleport ability is mapped to , which makes sense given that so many other action games map similar abilities to the same button. Unfortunately, simply teleporting is not 's only function. Similar to the recent Batman games, a small icon will appear above the heads of enemies about to attack you, prompting you to counter them, which Deadpool does by teleporting. Using . But wait, there's more! If you stun an enemy, or knock them to the floor, you can perform a special attack which will instantly kill them. To perform this special attack, you must - you guessed it - press . The icing on the cake of this -oriented control-mapping cluster-fuck is that counters and special attacks must both be performed within an incredibly narrow window of time, meaning that if you fail to press at the exact right time, you'll simply teleport in an arbitrarily determined direction which will, more often than not, result in the end of your combo, and a reduction in your health bar.
What Deadpool lacks in substance, it makes up for with flair
There's also an upgrade system tacked on that has been executed spectacularly poorly. Weapon, Health and Ability upgrades can be bought using Deadpool (DP) points - the game's currency that can be found throughout levels, or dropped by defeated enemies. The prices are reasonable, and you'll be buying upgrades right up until the end of the game, but it's the way that you unlock those upgrades that is the problem. You see, to buy new upgrades, you have to actually use the weapon you'd like to upgrade. That's not really a problem for your swords and pistols (your workhorses), but for the more exotic weapons like the Sais or Plasma Rifles (which you unlock quite far into the game) it proves a nuisance because they're so underpowered when you gain access to them that they're basically unusable - and so they remain for the rest of the game, unless you feel like grinding for lengthy periods of time or prolonging every fight as you slowly chip away at the health bars of enemies you could ordinarily dispatch with two heavy attacks. This might not seem like much of an issue, but I assure you it is, especially when you find yourself up against enemies that are only damaged by certain weapons.
Speaking of which, the enemies in Deadpool are as varied as the expressions on Hitman’s face. For the most part you’ll be fighting waves of grunts, who are pathetically armed with either puny batons, or machine guns that are so inaccurate that they couldn’t hit the side of a barn from inside the barn. These grunts are really more of an inconvenience than anything else, merely delaying your progress from point A to point B. Once in a while, though, a larger foe (or two) will appear, usually requiring some combination of explosives, stun grenades, or your heavy melee hammers to dispatch - early on they prove to be a formidable enemy, but that’s really just because your weapons are so underpowered. Once you secure some upgrades, you’ll be mowing down heavies as easily as the grunts you’ve just finished painting the walls with. Boss fights are laughably simple (most bosses can be juggled with a combination of melee attacks), with the exception of the final boss fight, which just throws wave after wave after wave of grunts at you, until finally the real boss, the guy you've been chasing all game, is killed off in a cutscene. Yep.
When you're not hacking and shooting at the almost endless supply of clones, you'll be doing some light platforming and corridor-crawling. For a game about a character renowned for his unpredictability and non-sequitur shenanigans, Deadpool is ironically linear, with levels funnelling you from set-piece to boob joke with laser focus. These sections are boring, and require no particular skill or timing whatsoever.
Lastly, Deadpool tries to pad-out its length with a number of set-pieces, which are about as hit-and-miss as the combat itself. While some of them are genuinely funny and clever, there are many more which are just awful. One of particular note is a section where Deadpool has to sneak up on Mister Sinister, taking out about 4 clone enemies without being detected. Now throughout the game there are a number of instances where you can pull off stealth kills, but they’re always on single enemies, and they’re always stationary. In this level, however, they walk around like normal, in and out of each other’s field of vision seemingly without any consistency. I proceeded to fail the section fifteen times in a row – FIFTEEN – and every time I did, I was chided by Deadpool for failing to master a facet of the gameplay that you encounter with the regularity of Hailey’s Comet. The best part is that after my fifteenth failure the game decided that I was so shit it was just going to skip ahead for me - it didn’t lessen the number of enemies; it didn’t make them stay in the one place; it just skipped the section entirely, pretending that the whole thing never happened. Seems fitting, really, given that’s exactly what I tried to do with this whole game.
The premise of the game is that, as a result of boredom, Deadpool has decided that he wants to make his own video game. To make that happen he contacts High Moon Studios, who quickly shoot him down. In true Deadpool fashion, he blows up half of High Moon's offices, after which they hastily call him back to say that actually they'd love to make a Deadpool game. They send a script over, which Deadpool immediately throws away. I can't help but wonder what would have happened had he not done that...
In terms of fan service, Deadpool is clearly appealing to those exposed to the more recent comics, a.k.a. the shit comics. Fans of classic Deadpool will find no joy here. Those great characters you were hoping for, like Weasel, Blind Al, or Bob, Agent of H.Y.D.R.A.? They're not here. Those crazy, random, time-travelling, globe-trotting adventures you've come to expect? They're not here either. Instead, there's something about a contract on some fat-cat that gets ruined by some third-rate Marvel villains nobody has ever heard of, all of which work for Mister Sinister. Pissed that he can no longer collect on the contract, Deadpool sets off for revenge, inadvertently stumbling into some sort of scheme - something about blowing up either the world or a Taco shop - that requires the collection of the souls of dead mutants. Some X-Men are there, though they don't actually do anything - they're unconscious for most of the game - and Cable occasionally pops by to tell you to do things for some reason or other. The whole thing is so dreadfully boring and incoherent; it's a wonder that someone is actually credited as a "writer" for this game.
For the most part, this is the kind of humour that you can expect from Deadpool...
On paper, Deadpool had promise. Deadpool's penchant for breaking the 4th wall lends itself to meta-humour and satire, things that you don't often see in retail releases. In the beginning it's clear that High Moon and writer Daniel Way intended for Deadpool to be such a game, but they failed to keep it going for more than the first hour. In the opening level, for example, Deadpool (voiced by Nolan North) calls North to hire him as the game's voice actor. North then proceeds to pitch an "alternative" [read "gay"] take on the character, suggesting that instead of being all about boobs, Deadpool could be into "pecks and biceps," to which Deadpool replies "Yeah, well fuck you Nolan." It's a great bit, and I'd have loved to have seen more like it, but sadly I had to settle for Deadpool blaming me for everything terrible that happened in the game.
It's not all bad, though. From time to time the classic anti-hero that many of us know and love shines through. Tasteless and immature jokes tickle your funny-bone, and visual gags are a joy to watch. It's all very low-brow, and probably best described as 'frat humour', but really, if you're expecting anything else from a game about Deadpool, disappointment is unavoidable.
There are two great things about Deadpool, the first being Nolan North, who does an excellent job of providing the voice of Deadpool. Despite the writing, North perfectly captures the essence of the character (including both his alternative personalities) and nails his lines. Really, North's performance was the only reason I actually pushed through and finished this game. While some of Deadpool's one liners became repetitive and irritating, I was always holding out for one more zinger; one more juvenile quip that would have me slapping my thigh. Are they enough to justify the price of entry? No. But they go a long way towards making your time playing this game bearable.
The other great thing is that Deadpool is short. The whole thing won't take you any more than four to five hours to complete, while the challenges might keep you occupied for an extra hour at most. Trophy hunters will appreciate a quick platinum, while those who like to stick it out till the credits will be relieved.
Much like Wade Wilson himself, Deadpool is nothing pretty to look at. The game runs on vanilla Unreal 3, an engine that has been used and abused since the beginning of this current console generation, and at this time in the cycle, it really doesn't hold up - the fact that it's a low quality port doesn't do this game any favours, either. Further compounding the problem is the bland art design. Deadpool features a number of drab and uninspired environments, and while there are a few gems, they're too few and far between.
The sound design is equally as uninspired. The only thing that really stands out is the comic book-esque sounds that accompany a successful counter - they lend a level of comic whimsy to the gameplay that I really appreciated. The soundtrack is serviceable - a pretty much non-stop, guitar-heavy list of rock tracks that, while suiting the game well, aren't particularly memorable.
In terms of stability, I encountered no issues, though I'm not about to praise a game for not crashing. The framerate is consistent, and there are no texture pop-in or draw-distance problems either.
Much like this rocket-cycle, Deadpool is a wild yet poorly constructed ride that is all flash and no substance, and destined to fall apart before the end.
The same humour from the game finds its way to the trophy list, with a number of clever names ( Okay, you can sell the game now) and quirky requirements (slap Wolverine a bunch of times). Some of them are novelly meta, including two Bronze awarded at the beginning of the game: one for simply playing, and the other for getting a trophy. The bulk of Deadpool's trophies come from natural story progression, though some encourage you to complete certain sections as quickly as possible, or perform large combos. Difficulty trophies stack, and the whole lot can be earned in two playthroughs, save for three awarded for completing challenges. It's not a particularly difficult list, and you should be able to knock the whole lot over in less than fifteen hours.
In every game, there's a scene that typifies your experience; a quintessential moment that comes to represent everything you feel about the game. For me it was when Deadpool shoots himself in the face because Cable is boring him so much. As a concept a Deadpool game should work, and it's something that fans have requested for a long time. In practice, though, it's plain to see just how incompatible Deadpool is with video games, at least with this particular one. Anyone that knows anything about comedy will tell you that repetition is humour-poison, twisting original and genuinely funny jokes and gags into boring nuisances. There are plenty of better things to do with 5 hours than wasting them on this game - go queue up at the DMV; teach an old person how to google something; or write a review that trashes someone's hard work. All of the above are solid alternatives to playing this disappointing game.
Rather than focusing on a single type of combat, Deadpool tries to do it all by mixing basic hack’n’slash and third-person shooting, and failing at both. The upgrade system punishes you for changing play-style, and rewards you with useless and impractical combos, while the convoluted controls hamper your progress at every turn. There’s almost no enemy variety, boss-fights are unsatisfyingly easy; for every decent set-piece, there are three terrible ones, and the regular combat is so boring it feels like a chore.
Much like the gameplay, the story is a mess. Initially it shows promise, but it squanders any good will by the first hour. Unfortunately, Deadpool limps along for a further four tortuous hours, propping itself up with lame jokes, pointless detours, and time-wasting set-pieces. Amongst all the crap there are a few glimpses of greatness, like levels based on retro games and a brief sojourn in Deadpool's demented psyche, but these sections are almost entirely drowned out by rest of Deadpool's mind-numbing mediocrity and its mostly boorish attempts at humour.
Visually unimpressive, and auditorily mundane, there's nothing particularly noteworthy about Deadpool, technically speaking. Its art direction is as appealing and exciting as a piece of toast, and its level design is copied and pasted straight out of the Generic Action Game textbook. There are no framerate issues or game-breaking glitches, though, and loading times aren't long, so I suppose there's that...
Overall: 4/10 - Tragic