Experiencing a brief surge in popularity in the comics medium, Marvel Comics’ Deadpool (as written by writer Daniel Way), became a fixture of Internet and meme culture, breaking the forth wall continually for humorous effect. Riding on the back of that success publisher Activision, in conjunction with developer High Moon Studios, released a game starring the character late last year.
Unfortunately since then, Activision’s publishing deal has expired with Disney, and the game has been relegated to the back-burner of Marvel video game titles, promptly thrown off of Valve’s Steam winter sale shortly after receiving a hefty discount. It’s now likely that you’ll only see it languishing on the second-hand shelves of your local game retail outlet.
It’s a slight shame, because the Deadpool game probably proves to be the high point of the merc-with-a-mouth’s existence. Scripted by Daniel Way, it seems to mark both the height of the character’s popularity and his quick decline into B-list antihero status after fans got a bit tired of his antics.
If anything, the game serves to illustrate why the character can’t carry his own title, at least not all the way through. Determined to cram as much of the character in as possible, High Moon Studios shoehorned in a huge depth of source material into this game; voiced by Nolan North, the character is allowed to flourish with plenty of fourth-wall breaking habits. But where the jokes work best is when the time-traveling Cable (given possibly the best theme song ever), voiced deeply and gruffly by Fred Tatasciore, plays straight man to Deadpool’s funny man, carrying over a relationship very reminiscent of the Cable & Deadpool comic-book series.
As far as the actual gameplay, the combat system itself can be best described as workable. While not revolutionary, or even particularly intuitive by any means, it certainty allows the Merc-with-the-Mouth to get the job done as far as hacking and shooting enemies to death goes. If you’ve ever played an action hack-and-slash plat former with RPG elements, you’ve essentially experienced all Deadpool has to offer from a gameplay perspective.
However, the game adds a slight twist with a teleportation ability. When you’re about to be hit by an enemy, a prompt appears on screen and you can tap a button to teleport away and strike before they do, all while hearing a hilarious-sounding ‘BAMF,’ a reference to the X-Man Nightcrawler’s teleport from the Marvel Universe. This ability becomes essential when battling a few heavier enemy types and also during the boss encounters which crop up from time to time.
The choice of villain is also a little odd. Fans of the comics will know that Sinister has never really been associated with the masked assassin’s Rogues’ Gallery, which sort of detracts from the whole experience. In fact, the only time that Deadpool encounters Mr. Sinister in main Marvel continuity is in the now-defunct Cable & Deadpool series, and it’s a brief encounter at best.
With the majority of the game taking place in the ruined mutant paradise of Genosha, Deadpool tries to make the most of its setting, with ruined sentinels and mutant clones making up the bulk of the atmosphere. This generally works to the game’s advantage, but the platforming occasionally gets frustrating in some of the game’s more rough areas. While the character can double jump without a problem and later gains the ability to teleport long distances, the game never makes the smooth transition to its generic platforming as it does in combat.
For a solo experience this is also quite a short game, clocking in at only about five hours of playtime. Dying and repeating areas from seemingly randomly generated save points artificially extends the length a bit, but not by much. It’s unfortunate, because about the first two-thirds of Deadpool work quite well. It’s only after you begin to near Mr. Sinister’s lair that the game starts sending wave after wave of the same handful of enemies at you, and really starts to gain the reputation that it has for repetition and mediocrity.
Deadpool isn’t the most innovative title around, and it’s certainly n0t the best superhero game. It can’t hold a candle to Traveller Tales’ Lego Marvel Superheroes, but it’s a passable action romp with a solid script and good character work. It’s not going to win any awards, but then again it was never trying to; and at least you can say that the game is fundamentally Deadpool through and through.