By Javy Gwaltney | Contributor Published: 07/08/2013 10:40 am EST
Note: People who are looking for that review of the Deadpool game by the guy who played it without knowing anything about Marvel’s Deadpool…you’ve come to the right place. The rest of you should probably read another one, like Mike Fahey’s review over at Kotaku. Our Graphic/Novels editor, Brian Martin, will be supplying some context about the character and his thoughts about my thoughts (in bold-o-vision).
Some games embrace storytelling and make their supports for a story that needs to be told (Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead). Other developers flip that around and create a simplistic premise that supports systems within the game, like Issac’s villainous mother chasing him into the dungeon beneath their house in The Binding of Issac.
Deadpool, however, might be the first game that burns its own script, puts out the blaze by urinating on it, and then lights it up again just for giggles. High Moon’s Studios swan song is hilarious, ludicrously violent, juvenile, and — unfortunately—rather tedious (Sounds almost exactly like the comic, with “tedium” setting in around the point that Deadpool started having more than one monthly series devoted to his exploits). Luckily the game’s playful wit and crazy antics of its eponymous, masked protagonist frequently burns away the numbing sense of boredom that envelops you during lengthy combat encounters.
Deadpool is a very, very funny game, and it wants you to know that from the moment it opens up to our hero sitting in his apartment. During this brief introductory level, you can explore the gross, dilapidated living quarters and interact with his belongings (This was always a favorite environment during Joe Kelly’s run on the book, which was character-defining, to say the least. If only Deadpool’s roommate/hostage Blind Al made an appearance here…). You can chuckle to yourself as Deadpool (Wade Wilson) picks up the phone to call his voice actor, Nolan North, and then proceed to insult him once he hangs up the phone or wrinkle your nose in disgust as he drops his his pants, revealing horrifically burnt skin, to drop a deuce. There’s also a rather unhelpful, 20 second bio on the character you can watch on his television that doesn’t really tell you anything about him other than that he’s an anti-hero with regenerative powers like Wolverine and he’s a bit crazy. (As in, he has voices vying for control inside of his head and is aware that he’s in a game.)
Once you’re done toying around with all the goodies inside Deadpool’s apartment, you can open the door to receive the game’s script — yes, the script for the game you’re playing —and watch as Deadpool “edits” the work, ripping out pages and crossing out dialogue with red scribbles (Deadpool’s relentless breaking of the fourth wall is another hallmark of the character). SMASH CUT to a sewer beneath a skyscraper housing a man he’s contracted to kill and the game has officially begun. There is technically a plot (involving Cable and Mr.Sinister) to the game, but Wilson spends so much time running around, shooting, slashing, and blowing his enemies to tiny bits, that it never rises above being a joke material for the writers (and for Wilson himself). This works surprisingly well as much of the enjoyment I derived from the game was Wilson’s juvenile commentary and the wacky situations in which he finds himself. An example: Wilson has to get across an island filled with evil clone mercenaries ordered to kill him. What’s the only course of action?
Why, by hollowing out the boot of a Sentinel, turning it into a aircraft, and air-stomping across the island while shooting at bad guys. Duh (Like the Kuribo’s Shoe from Super Mario Bros. 3! Deadpool’s always had a penchant for referencing pop culture, whether current or dated). Wilson’s commentary and sudden segues into an overactive imagination filled with large-breasted women only adds to all the crazy on display (Sounds like the developers got this one wrong. Any fan knows Deadpool’s real dream girl is Bea Arthur). When the game really works, it’s hard not feel as though all those voices in Deadpool’s head are assaulting you all at once as they’ll revel in the violence, make vulgar comments, disparage one of the other voices for saying something stupid, or even reference you, the player. A truckload of credit should be given to North for being able to make each of these voices unique and entertaining (Considering how much Deadpool talks, North must have really earned his paycheck on this one).
Unfortunately the game’s humor and voicework are where its inspired choices end. Everything else in Deadpool is decidedly ho-hum. The graphics are OK mostly, but sometimes they’re hard to look at, especially the bland environments. The the weak attack/strong attack combo system the combat is centered around is painfully simple. You’re basically going to be slicing and dicing bad dudes in bland environments, pulling off combos to earn points to buy upgrades for your melee weapons— just stick the swords—or guns. Fighting with swords and guns sounds cool, and it is for a bit, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as it could be (This is shame, considering that this is a character with such a varied fighting repertoire that he once Rochambeaued Captain America). With the exception of the shotgun, all your other weapons are peashooters designed to stun or sap your enemies’ health. The action is initially exciting, especially for the first two levels, but after that everything gets a bit stale. Eventually it reached the point where I was only playing through the game in order to experience more of its segues into bizarre, elaborate jokes. There’s one section where the game temporarily devolves into an 8-bit dungeon crawler because Deadpool blew the High Moon’s budget. It’s worth nothing that all of the game’s gags don’t hit the mark. Some of the jokes carefully tread the line between hilarity and outright sexism, only managing to get away with it because Wilson is a Falstaffian fool. He’s a loveable idiot, but an idiot nonetheless, always choosing to go in guns blazing instead of opting for stealth, always getting distracted from the task at hand by his fantasies.
As someone who’s never read the character’s comic book run, I enjoyed the game. It’s stupid and quite funny. However, there’s no escaping that its hack & slash gameplay quickly grows repetitious and dull. If you don’t mind killing wave after wave of enemies to earn some laughs, then this might be that hilarious, gut-busting game you’re looking for (And if you really want to read some great Deadpool comics, go straight for Marvel’s Deadpool Classic TPBs, which reprint Joe Kelly’s amazing run, including issue 11—one of the best single comics ever!).
When he isn’t teaching or cobbling together a novel, Javy devotes his time to writing about these video game things. He's a contributor and the former game editor at CultureMass. You can follow the trail of pizza crumbs to his Twitter feed @JavyIV.