Oh, Deadpool. Always a character with an inherent identity crisis. Originating as a product of the ’90s and transforming into one of the most prolific joke characters in comics, there are a ton of variables involved with the guy. He is reliant, more so than any other character, on the writer, the sole force responsible for his effectiveness as a character. Sometimes he’s a great vehicle for satire, a destructive force constantly breaking the fourth wall and giving all of geekdom a good chance to have a laugh at its own expense. Other times he’s a pandering money grab, his creative team opting to tell lazy jokes aimed at the lowest common denominator. He’s a chaotic mixed bag of wildly varying quality. How appropriate then, that his new game is kind of a sloppy, albeit entertaining, wreck?
For those in need of some background, Deadpool is known as the “merc with a mouth.” Not long after his inception, he was involved in the Weapon X program (the same program that led to Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton), and artificially given a powerful healing factor (he isn’t naturally a mutant). He also has a nasty case of brain cancer. So, as the cancer cells eat away at his body and mind, his body turns around and regenerates. This has understandably driven him insane. Rather than treating him as a tragic anti-hero or something equally boring, Marvel has made him a comedic character, often having three-way conversations with himself and physically breaking the fourth wall. Love him or hate him, he’s Deadpool.
The videogame, aptly titled Deadpool, stars our good, slightly dangerous pal as he threatens High Moon Studios into making a videogame about him. They send him a script, which he promptly ignores as he sets out to do stuff and eat tacos.
There’s a lot to say about the game’s writing, but there’s also a lot to spoil. Deadpool is very much true to his usual character, as the game is written by one of his usual handlers. At best, Deadpool is laugh-out-loud funny, making plenty of its own jokes without leaning too heavily on making references, but also offering lots of fun critique on the current state of the game industry. Unfortunately, as Deadpool is as faithful to the source material as can be, there are also plenty of jokes that fall flat, are a little too low-brow or are even downright offensive. There is a moment in particular fairly early on in the game that is an unforgivably gross, violent instance of misogyny that made me feel so uncomfortable and embarrassed I had to take a break from the game for a moment. Mileage may vary.
The game itself is a third-person action-shooter heavily influenced by Arkham Asylum and God of War, but with none of the positives from either. It’s a pretty game, but the core mechanics are lazy, awkward, slow and boring at their worst. You start off with some very basic moves and abilities, something that never works the way it should in these kinds of games. Upgrades come quickly enough, though, and after the first mission or so made quite a bad impression on me, I warmed up to it a bit. Enemies don’t really make sense or have any sort of explanation, blending together as a result, but pose enough of a threat to make you learn what little of the combat requires you to think.
You can mash out attacks until, like the Arkham games, you are prompted to counter. You have your basic light and heavy attacks that play out almost exactly like you’re Kratos, but the animations aren’t clean enough, the attacks aren’t meaty enough, the combos aren’t distinct enough to offer anything noteworthy. The gunplay is a little more interesting. Largely ineffective on its own, it can be added to normal weapon combos as gun-kata, which packs a little extra punch. There’s a bit of stealth shoehorned in, which is mandatory in a few sections, but it’s super-lazy and inconsequential to the bigger picture.
Deadpool is a comedy that uses mediocre action as a means to an end. You want to play the game because Deadpool says and does funny things, but your eyes are going to glaze over when it comes time to mash your way to the next joke. There are a bunch of agonizing sections of the game that solely exist to pad length, since no actual incentives to revisit the game exist. There are some challenge maps, but since the core of the game isn’t really any good, there’s no sense to explore it without the window-dressing. There are some genuinely exciting, funny moments in Deadpool that are worth experiencing for Marvel fans, but it has mid-range bargain bin written all over it. Too bad the game doesn’t have any jokes about that.
Pros: Deadpool can be very funny, good production values, lots of fun Marvel cameos
Cons: Deadpool can be very unfunny, combat is painfully mediocre