Superhero titles are an extremely hit-or-miss area of gaming, with most comic titles performing in the mediocre-or-below range of quality. High Moon Studios, known for the recent Transformers: Cybertron game series, attempt to change things. High Moon has not only created a comic title, but a comic title. Deadpool openly breaks (more like shatters), the fourth wall and acknowledges the expectations and thoughts of gamers in preparation for the debut game of Marvel’s anti-antihero. With such a cult-following amongst Marvel fans, the call for a spotlight on Deadpool has been vocal, and High Moon tries to answer with a game written by former Deadpool writer Daniel Way, scripting much of the narrative and dialogue. Is this a Dirty Harry-level of awesome, Deadpool-y badassery, or is it a return of the laughable monstrosity we saw in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? (And yes, that picture you see above is actually from the game.)
I’d say this Deadpool is a mixture of both, to say the least. With Mr. Sinister playing the role of head-baddie, cloning is a recurring topic throughout both Deadpool’s story and its level layout. In regards to gameplay, Deadpool is a blatant clone of the Devil May Cry series; slashing enemies while dodging hits to maintain combo chains, and shooting distant ones to keep up the combo is a staple of both DMC and Deadpool. Guess who does it better? (Hint: It’s Dante.) Surprisingly, Deadpool’s gameplay is insignificant in comparison to its story and narrative content, which unfortunately forces gamers to be patient as they proceed from cutscene to cutscene.
The story and the overall chaotic charm of Deadpool are the two main factors of what makes it enjoyable. Deadpool’s comic book is notorious for breaking the fourth wall and being ridiculously silly, and his game is no different. Deadpool openly chats with the High Moon developers, the player fanbase, and references material outside of the story that only comic fans would know. With Daniel Way at the helm, Deadpool’s narrative openly coincides with much of the source material. But, as a hardcore fan, I felt that a few of the jokes and lines were openly taken from Way’s previous Deadpool works. Nevertheless, Deadpool’s story and its delivery are unforgettable.
The game starts with self-healing mutant talking with execs from High Moon Studios about the creation of the game itself. Deadpool gets his script in the mail and starts writing over the script with crayons. What ensues is a complete and open embrace of the video game medium from a narrative standpoint. Deadpool constantly acknowledges the player, the controller, previous Marvel and pop culture history, the gaming experience itself, and, most importantly, the ridiculousness of Deadpool’s own circumstances (e.g., trying to eat pizza through a mask).
Most of Deadpool’s story sequences are downright hysterical. If you’re a fan of crude and slapstick humor, the cutscenes are for you. Even if you never end up playing the game, I highly recommend at least YouTubing some of the comedic scenes, such as Deadpool repeatedly slapping an unconscious Wolverine or the part where a dog runs off with Deadpool’s arm.
What defines Deadpool the game is its incredible voice acting, specifically in regards to its title character and the constantly-arguing voices in his head, all performed by the spectacular Nolan North (who is known for voicing Nathan Drake, Desmond Miles and previous incarnations of Deadpool). North’s unforgettable voices range from zaniness, seriousness, to bouts of melody, but when Deadpool has exchanges on screen with a Wolverine voiced by Steven Blum, the effects are surprisingly believable and excelled by character voices that just feel right. My only complaint is that I wish Cable was voiced by Lawrence Bayne. Though Fred Tatasciore did a decent job as the time-travelling mutant, I always associate Cable’s voice with that of the animated series’ actor.
Running with the themes of sinister clones, the enemies, gameplay and levels of Deadpool are stagnantly boring and repetitive. Expect to see the same enemies throughout the majority of the game and stereotypical levels expected of action/shooter titles (unexplained sewer, office and desolate-ruin backgrounds). Though it is interesting to see a post-sentinel genocide version of Genosha, most of the levels are relatively bland.
Deadpool fights thousands of the same exact type of enemies (though with a few anomalies every once in a while). The bosses/mini-bosses all fight the same way as well: attack, teleport away, heal, attack, etc. In the same vein of God of War, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Dante’s Inferno, Deadpool has light attacks, heavy attacks, a dodge button (it’s a teleport at least), double-jumps, and various long-range attacks from his arsenal of weapons. And yes, he uses bear-traps.
In the era of DMC clones, lock-on can make or break a game. And Deadpool has one of the WORST lock-on features ever. Instead of instantly targeting the nearest enemy, you must manually aim at a target to lock-on in the middle of combat. While being shot at by dozens of baddies, expect to die a few times due to the atrocity known as Deadpool’s lock-on. While the teleportation feature is cool, the fact that it is also the counter-button is a poor design choice, leading to numerous teleports away from enemies that were intended to be counters prematurely-ending most enemy combos.
Featuring Cable’s talking face in a taco (no innuendo there, I promise), repeatedly slapping Wolverine while he’s knocked out, hitting on Psylocke and making out with Rogue, Deadpool is, without a doubt, the funniest video game I have ever played in my life. Unfortunately, it is also one of the worst.
While I ultimately rated this game as a 5.0/10, Deadpool’s bottom barrel gameplay, lack of replayability, repetitive/formulaic/cliché levels and extremely outdated graphics would have earned this game about a 3.0 overall, and that’s being generous. But the game’s absolutely stellar performance by Nolan North, the decent soundtrack and its ongoing combo of fourth wall-breaking laughs promotes this horrible game into a rating much higher than 85% of the game actually deserves because it’s just that funny.
Deadpool tries to parody action superhero games but becomes the same exact stereotype it attempts to ridicule. Luckily, the laughs throughout allows players to disregard the staggering amount of downsides in the hopes of progressing to the next laugh. And that’s enough of a hook to warrant what sort of fantastical, crazy and downright hilarious acts Deadpool will perform next.
Factoring in the game’s $10 reduction in its price as a new release, I still cannot recommend Deadpool as a purchase, even for Marvel fanatics. Instead, I suggest renting the game or simply Youtubing all of its cutscenes in order to skip its atrocious gameplay. If you can’t get enough of Wade Wilson and enjoy subpar gameplay, then you’re definitely as crazy as everyone’s favorite Merc with a Mouth. Sometimes crazy in gaming is good. In this case, it’s not.
This review is based on the retail version of Deadpool for Xbox 360. Deadpool is also available for PlayStation 3 and PC.