Deadpool hails from a breed of game that won't, or at least shouldn't, last long into the next console generation. For all the mild novelty provided by its chipping at the fourth wall, it's really just a mundane action/shooter/hack-'n'-slash that feels like it belongs in the year 2008.
Deadpool, if you haven't strayed to the 50p boxes of your local comic shop in a while, is Marvel's 'merc with a mouth'. He's a wisecracking, amoral anti-hero loosely associated with the X-Men
stable who was conceived at a time in the '90s when anti-heroes were paying for comics creators to own yachts.
Think Spider-Man with a couple of katanas and a penchant for murder and you're basically there. He has a healing factor that he got (in a roundabout way) from Wolverine, a horrible disfigurement and a love of guns.
While most of the '90s lycra-clad super-chaps disappeared by the turn of the millenium, Marvel has managed to give Deadpool a second lease of life. This is thanks in no small part to his getting a couple of extra personalities and a propensity for breaking the fourth wall of storytelling to throw out knowing winks to the reader. Comics are a bit silly, he acknowledges. Let's go kill stuff. While he's not really one for things like character growth*
you can see why, between the superpowers and the uber-violence, making a game about him might make sense.
The upshot, however, is a rather lazy action-brawler with stuffed-in shooter features that rests on tired conventions and gameplay mechanisms.
The problem is not, of course, that there's no life in roaming beat-'em-ups. DmC showed us back in January
that you can still deliver a brawler with flair and pizazz. It's just that a string of poorly-performing movie tie-ins have demonstrated over the last few years that the genre shouldn't still be getting used as a vehicle for licensing cash-ins.
Still, I couldn't honestly tell you that Deadpool is horribly broken. It's functional. There are odd moments of redemption in there. It's just dull and a little sad.
The machinery of combat, for its part, largely works. You have the typical range of quick and heavy attacks, spread across a number of weapons, with combos to be had for a little added depth.
Oddly, there's nothing to encourage you to change up your move set, as is the current vogue. This can mean that the most sensible combat choice you can make is to mash buttons until enemies die, unfortunately. You can, of course, opt to upgrade your weapons and moves through a skills tree. Not that you'll necessarily notice once you've done so.
There's a shooting system which is passable. It's run-and-gun stuff with proper sighting (rather than guns serving as another ranged weapons, as in the likes of Devil May Cry
). Your aiming reticule will snap to enemies, to help compensate for the speed of play and the fact there's no cover system. The problem with this is that keen shoot-'em-up fans won't find much to interest them here. In fact, if you haven't upgraded your weapons it often makes more sense to take a few bullets and get in close to bash your enemies to death. But... shooting is there. It adds a little something extra to combat.
Enemies are very repetitive and oddly generic. Deadpool makes a knowing crack about this at one point, but knowing your flaws doesn't automatically make them forgiveable to other people. Wave after wave of identikit goons throw themselves at you and even boss characters start doubling up after you've defeated them once. This, of course, can get annoying. It's also a bit strange, given the fact that developer High Moon has a Marvel license to work with. Why not at least use AIM or Hydra grunts?
We do, at least, get some X-Men cameos. It's in these that Marvel fans will find the most enjoyment. Watching 'Pool cavort around the taciturn Cable reached right into the chest cavity of this '90s-reared comics fan and tickled something. If only the use of female cameos weren't kind of lechy and sad.
Similarly, the set-up is great. The story goes that Deadpool has pitched High Moon to do a game about him. To cover his bases he's planted a bomb in the studio and so, of course, they acquiesce. It's from this starting point that the player slices and dices her/his way through the game, and some good fun is derived from this knowing plot formulation. One great example is early on, when an off-screen developer's voice tells Wade he's gone over budget and for a couple of minutes you're chucked into an 8-bit top-down dungeon crawler.
Alas, for every knowing play on the tropes of videogame production, there's a dumb line somewhere around the level of a dick joke that's been canned and forced down your ear canal 18 times.
Much of the game looks really drab and uninspiring, too. There's a dark, grimy humour in the muted tone of some cutscenes, but elsewhere the world just looks shabby. In a world populated by helicarriers and hidden Antarctic jungles, I'm at a bit of a loss as to why you have to crawl through sewers and stumble round office blocks. Similarly, for a character as cartoonish as Deadpool, it's baffling that High Moon didn't opt for cel-shading instead of a second-rate 'realistic' visual style. Perhaps they were keen to get an 18+/M rating and were worried cel-shading wouldn't look gory enough?
Whatever the thinking, the sum total of Deadpool
's parts is a largely joyless, forgettable game. Generally speaking it functions and it has a few sparks here and there, but for the most part I don't think anyone will miss this sort of second-rate fare when the market - wrenched to the extremes of AAAA, 'indie' and casual – stops supporting it.
+ Fun fourth wall breaking narrative
+ Occasional enjoyable moments of fan-service
- Not very funny
- Largely quite dull
SPOnG Score: 5/10
With the one recent exception, arguably, of Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force
. There, I saved you a comment.