GAME NAME: Deadpool
DEVELOPER(S): High Moon Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
GENRE(S): Action Beat ‘Em Up
RELEASE DATE(S): June 28th 2013
On paper, Deadpool seems absolutely perfect for a video game – He’s a wisecracking mercenary ninja sporting dual swords and pistols – as well as self-regeneration and teleporting abilities. It’s an ironic, deliberately derivative mix that should be easy to translate into a fun video game. In addition to this, Deapoool, as polarizing as he is can be, is already a hugely popular character among fans of the Marvel Universe, with his self aware, puerile 4th wall breaking antics making him at the very least unique if nothing else.
These traits are earnestly recreated by Nolan North – a man about as close as somebody can be to a household name in voice acting when it comes to video games. Not only has North lent his voice to just about every single game ever released, including the likes of Uncharted, Arkham City and The Last of Us, North has also provided the voice of Deadpool in various animated features and the Marvel vs Capcom series. He puts in an ardent performance as the eponymous loud-mouth, and does his best with an extremely by-the-numbers script that largely centres around the player hopefully finding the word “balls” or “boner” the ultimate comedy zenith – a move in which the writers have apparently made the bizarre choice to market their game solely to Beavis and Butthead.
The premise of the game flashes promise – Deadpool, playing to his 4th wall breaking roots, is holding the employees of High Moon Studios to ransom so that they will make a game about him. It starts promisingly enough, with one of the game’s few genuinely funny jokes involving Nolan North himself agreeing to do the voice acting, but this meta-premise is ultimately wasted and becomes secondary to a convoluted plot that serves as an excuse to wheel out various characters in the broader Marvel Universe as you plod through the game’s generic, lifeless levels.
This could all be forgiven if the gameplay was fun and engaging, but sadly this is the worst part of Deadpool. With combat mildly reminiscent of the likes of Devil May Cry, you have the ability to use hand to hand combat utilizing various weapons, in combination with a number of different guns. To the game’s credit, there is a huge variety in both weapons and upgrades, but the changes rarely feel significant or change how you play the game. The combat feels clumsy, rigid and lifeless, the gun-play in particular feels totally non-tactile and unsatisfying and has none of the nuance shown in combo systems in similar games like the recent DmC or something like Bayonetta.
All of this takes place in some of the most cliché, generic levels your mind will dare to comprehend, with nothing novel or exciting ever appearing to change up the pace or setting of the game or confound the player. At one point Deadpool actually stops to remark about how rote a certain boss battle is – a self referential joke that could have been pretty funny if the game did more to excite the player, yet instead inadvertently becomes a bizarrely ignorant commentary of how bad the game is. There are more than a few snipes by Deadpool in this vein and it’s hard to work out if the game is cheerfully laughing at it’s own failings in nervous embarrassment, or really does have that little self-awareness, that it doesn’t realise how poor it is. The game also manages the remarkable achievement of looking horrible whilst somehow running terribly, with it’s sparse, blocky environments, bland models and janky physics somehow crippling the ageing Unreal 3 engine to a flickbook smooth frame-rate at times.
The most upsetting part is that it feels as though didn’t need to be like this – As mentioned, Deadpool lends himself to video games brilliantly and High Moon are a good studio, as proven by the brilliant and surprising sleeper hits in the Transformers Cybertron series. There are brief flashes of the loving fan service that made the Transformers games so good – for example any new character encountered in the story is given a stylish, introductory comic book style entrance that give a tiny glimpse into the subtle but meaningful flourishes High Moon fans will undoubtedly know them for.
Ultimately, there are simply too many fundamental flaws in the core mechanics and design to look past. Deadpool is a frustratingly dull, perpetually grating mess of a game that seems so valiantly unaware of how poor it is, it actually borders on insulting the player. It is painfully ironic and equally mystifying how a character who’s defining characteristic is purposeful self awareness could be imprisoned within a game so seemingly oblivious to how belligerently poor it is. In another one of it’s awareness devoid jokes, Deadpool gleefully boasts about how many views the announcement trailer got… Sadly, all this serves to do is provide a tragic guideline for estimating just how many people will be bitterly disappointed by this tepid, excitement bereft waste of everyone’s time.