Developer: High Moon Studios / Publisher: Activision / Played On: PlayStation 3 / Price: $49.99 ($39.99 on PC) / ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Sexual Content, Strong Language]
From LittleBigPlanet (DLC) to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Deadpool isn’t a stranger to video games. Yet it wasn’t until now that he was allowed to have his own game, let alone one that truly takes advantage of his disturbing sense of humor and fourth wall-breaking antics. Deadpool (the game) is also an opportunity for Activision-owned High Moon Studios to try something new after three Transformers games. The studio is certainly familiar with chaotic third-person action, though Deadpool gives High Moon the opportunity to experiment with close-quarters hack-and-slashing, thanks to our (anti)-hero’s penchant for swords.
High Moon Studios gets Deadpool just as much as they get Transformers, which is a lot. They waste little time breaking that fourth wall and going meta: Deadpool’s first order of business is to get his game off the ground with the developer’s help. As it’s getting green lit, Deadpool calls upon Nolan North, his Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 voice actor, even though he’s already speaking with Nolan’s voice. Amusing gameplay anomalies occur due to fluctuating production budgets, toilet humor is rampant to the point of being literal, and Deadpool also finds time to make fun of JRPGs. The majority of the writing should satisfy most longtime Deadpool fans – and there are only a couple unnecessary “that’s the joke” moments. Many of the best scenes are interactive ones, though to describe them here would ruin the joy of discovering the jokes yourself.
The steady stream of humor makes it hard to remember Deadpool’s first objective in the game. All you really need to know is that you get to kill a lot of guys in a standard issue corporate high rise. The rest of the game has a clearer cut goal: take out longtime Marvel villain Mr. Sinister. Guest appearances by familiar X-Men (most notably Cable) add a lot to the story, giving Deadpool characters he can riff off and hit on.
High Moon takes further advantage of the Marvel universe by setting the majority of the game in Genosha, particularly in its urban ruins. For a setting that is steeped in Marvel and mutant history, it was disappointing that many of the environments look surprisingly generic. This is especially the case with the uninspiring prison level, which is plain as video game prisons go, even with a very toxic sewer. This prison is also large, not the best choice for the longest level in the game. Pretty much the only thing that is visually interesting are the Sentinel corpses that litter Genosha, some of which can be interacted with to surmount particular obstacles. Furthermore, High Moon wisely added a teleporting option where the player can reset Deadpool should he not successfully land a jump.
This sense of unremarkable familiarity also extends to many of the mission objectives, including item fetching, surpassing trials, and hitting switches. Only a handful of these repetitive goals were intrinsically funny, the rest of the objectives were only enhanced by Deadpool’s vocal reactions to the tasks.
The main draw of Deadpool’s gameplay is how it capitalizes on Deadpool’s homicidal side, especially when it comes to sword-wielding. When you do find yourself studying and memorizing an actions game’s move set, you know there’s at least some depth in the combat. One might think that Deadpool’s mixed gun and sword arsenal would make him similar to Devil May Cry’s Dante. Unfortunately, the myriad blade combos are often all you need to take out enemies. By the end of the campaign, I only looked to my guns to take out hard-to-reach floating enemies. Using the lock-on mechanic more frequently than that became an exercise in frustration.
The game’s ability tree is presented in multiple, well-organized categories, from offensive upgrades to new weapons to general stat improvements. It’s an impressively deep selection, unlockable by spending Deadpool Points you earn through skillful killing. It provides a sense of personalization for the player, even though you might feel short changed if you prioritized upgrading gun talents over sword skills.
A few waves of enemies can be overwhelming, but nothing that some trial-and-error can’t solve. Being surrounded by exploding baddies can mean Game Over in a near instant, while the larger heavies can take off a ton of health. While mashing the strong attack can get you far in many areas, sometimes the best option is to use Deadpool’s teleporting ability and let his super healing factor refill his life bar. A more bold approach would be toughing it out with his Momentum special attacks that concurrently renders him invincible for a brief moment. The most impressive Momentum attack is a breakdancing move that can yield over 80 combo hits. Reaching a 100-hit milestone is not only doable, but feels exhilarating in the face of often cheap enemies.
Deadpool’s repertoire of moves and attacks is impressive enough that you can see glimpses of God of War-like grace-with-brutality. Unfortunately, it’s hard to consistently appreciate Deadpool’s talents because the game suffers from less than impressive framerates. It doesn’t become an issue in clearing a room of enemies, but just doesn’t match up to high performance standards that hack-and-slash genre fans come to expect.
The challenge mode extends the Deadpool experience by offering non-story battles featuring multiple waves of enemies and a time limit to dispose of them. Aside from a general sense of accomplishment in beating these challenge modes, there isn’t much incentive for repeated sessions, unless you really enjoy ranking on a leaderboard. You do get to take advantage of all the abilities you’ve purchased in the campaign, though it doesn’t work the other way around. Deadpool Points earned in challenge mode are only used for ranking in the leaderboards and cannot be spent on skill improvements.
Playing for the humor and Deadpool’s banter with other Marvel characters are good enough reasons to give Deadpool (the game) a shot. The best jokes are evenly spread out and make the journey through generic levels more tolerable. Yet, if the likes of God of War and Ninja Gaiden have spoiled you with sublime and fluid framerates, Deadpool might be hard to swallow.
+ Well-executed Deadpool humor
+ Lots of upgrade options
- Lackluster framerate
7 / 10