At the risk of completely blowing this review’s purpose, I am going to come out and admit that I’m a massive fan of the character Deadpool. Having read about him in comics for years, I found that his unique style of comedic genius resonated with my person, where I considered any content which was graced with his presence to be better for it. (Except for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where I feel he just wasn’t done enough justice. But I digress.) Now while this might make it seem as if I’m an unsuitable candidate for reviewing the High Moon Studios developed game of the same name, I would argue to the contrary based on the very simple idea that of everyone who could possibly do this review, who knows Deadpool better? Who would be best equipped to talk about a game based on the character? Thus I feel that while my bias towards the character is definitely going to come into play, it’s not going to stop me from presenting as fair a review of this game as possible.
To that extent, I am going to first say that if you’re not a fan of Deadpool and you find his style of humour to be egregious, disgusting or distasteful, then you ought to turn around right now because this game brings that style of humour hard. And extremely well. I can’t even blame you, either, I mean, Deadpool’s character is not the most graceful or driven, am I right? He’s all about food, guns and boobs, and he’s about as conceited as he is perverted. He’s also schizophrenic, which is, an experience… His recent rise in success as a character might well be attributed to modern popular culture and the glorification of snarky assholes, the likes of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark and that film about that talking teddy bear and Mark Wahlberg. Plus, ever since he became a fan favourite, Marvel have been trying harder and harder to turn him from villain into hero. But where he shines is when he plays the role of politically incorrect anti-hero, or ‘enigma’ as I like to call it. In this game, that is exactly what he is.
Now with all of that out of the way, I hope we’ve established exactly what to expect from this game. Deadpool is rude, crude and always in the mood. If you don’t like it, stop reading. If however, you’re interested in finding out more, or you need help making your purchasing decision, read on. Let’s talk about Deadpool. The game, I mean.
Deadpool follows the same basic formula as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, another Activision-published game from a few years ago which was relatively well-received for its more mature take on comic-adapted storytelling and action, opting not to shy away from portraying gore and strong language. The similarities don’t end there since, after all, Deadpool shares Wolverine’s mutational genes, which means that both have a healing factor which regenerates their health, as well as lost limbs, although in the case of Deadpool, it’s a far more comical situation (excuse the pun) where he literally puts himself back together, when he comes apart. In fact, the similarities keep on going.
The game plays out in the form of a third person hybrid of shooter and hack-n-slash action. Much like with Wolverine, you play through linear, chapter-based levels without a mini-map to tell you where you’re going, which does have the effect of sometimes leaving you a bit lost and confused until you stumble upon the next in-game trigger that tells you you’re going the right way. Thankfully, the game doesn’t bother faffing about too much with collectibles and the like, so exploration, while still rewarding in its own respect, is not big on the agenda.
What is big on the agenda, however, is the comedy. And that’s immediately apparent because by all rights, the game is neither a gorgeous visual experience, nor the most compelling work of storytelling art. (But don’t worry, The Last Of Us has you covered.) That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have a story, however. In true Deadpool fashion, our protagonist Wade Wilson — voiced by none other than Nolan North, who is contacted and contracted in-game — decides to hire High Moon Studios to make a game about him, and you actually play through this game, in the game. Feel free to read that again. It’s that sort of fourth-wall breaking meta that is consistent throughout the game, where Deadpool, and only Deadpool, is astutely aware that he is the star of the show, at times directly addressing you, the player, much to the confusion of supporting cast members.
This was most readily apparent when, immediately upon beginning a new game, it popped two achievements for me and Deadpool commented on these achievements as they popped. You can imagine how much I swooned at that, as a fan of both the character and achievements.
The basic premise of the campaign is that High Moon Studios have created a contract for Deadpool to carry out, upon which he’ll be given mad payouts, however his contract is stolen from him, forcing a change of plans and a reworking of the original script. Seriously, Deadpool actually rewrites the script to the game you’re playing, while you’re playing it. And the craziness doesn’t even begin to end with that. There are actually sequences in this game that would make Suda51 blush, it’s that zany and out there. These include a retro 8-bit styled sub-level, a 2D Prince of Persia styled sub-level, an on-rails shootout from inside a Sentinel’s discarded foot (you read that correctly) and even a Call of Duty styled door breach. There’s a lot more, but I won’t spoil all of the fun for everyone.
Supporting cast members for the campaign include Deadpool’s favourite buddies from the comics, Cable, Domino and Death, together with a few X-Men the likes of Wolverine, Rogue and Psylocke. The villain of the day is Mister Sinister, with his army of clones consisting D-grade villains the likes of Vertigo, Blockbuster and Arclight, as well as literally thousands of grunts, of varying types. Make no mistake: In this game you will kill a lot of enemies. All clones, which somehow makes it feel that much sweeter. (Episode 2 never happened… Episode 2 never happened…) This also means that there are no continuity issues for the Marvel canon, which Deadpool astutely comments on at some point in the game.
While you might consider the campaign to be a bit on the short side, what’s important to note is that it never starts to feel old or tiring, nor does it let up on the humour. The campaign only consists of six or so chapters, each of which ought to take you around an hour on the normal difficulty, without checking every nook and cranny of the level. Once you’re done with the campaign, you can always replay it on another difficulty, for reasons I’ll come to in a moment, or you can try out the challenge mode, which unlocks via progress in the campaign.
The challenge mode works like follows: You play the Bronze challenge of a particular level and fight off three waves of enemies within a time limit, in order to unlock the Silver challenge. Then you repeat that process for the Silver challenge to unlock Gold. Upon successfully completing the Gold challenge, you unlock the Infinite challenge, which is a no-holds-barred, no time limit, all out frenzy where you’re simply tasked with survival, and your time is then recorded on the global leaderboards for that level. Adding the challenge mode into the mix, you effectively double if not triple your game time.
But that’s not all, since Deadpool works on a persistent upgrade system that carries across playthroughs, which is, again, reminiscent of that from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This allows you to unlock up to three different melee weapons, each allowing for heavy and light attacks which you can mix as you please; four different firearms, which can be aimed and fired with the triggers, at times in tandem with melee combos; and four different throw-able items including grenades (or: PINEAPPLES!!) and flashbangs. Only one of each is given to you at the beginning of the game, where the rest need to be unlocked. Then, by using each of these weapons, you unlock further upgrades to each as well as to Deadpool himself, via character upgrades.
The currency for these upgrades, if you haven’t guessed it by now, is DP Points, which is basically some arbitrary in-game currency in the form of kill rewards and little tokens of varying reward, scattered throughout the level. (Think of the coins from any Mario game.) This effectively replaces the need for collectibles since players are encouraged to explore levels if they’d like upgrades, which in my book is a far better means of doing things since it means you get tangible benefits from being thorough. Bonuses to your kill rewards are earned by performing sick combos, mixing up your weapons and attacks to maximum effect, while countering the attacks of enemies or teleporting out of harm’s way. For the most part, though, you could just button-mash your way to the end. I like to think that if I was Deadpool, I’d be a little more graceful in my slaughter.
Added to your arsenal (heh, arse) and again borrowing from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool has Momentum attacks, which you can consider to be the special attacks of the game, building up through regular attacks, or by eating tacos dropped by defeated enemies, and allowing you to unleash devastation amongst enemies. These too are unlockable, with each melee weapon getting three special attacks and each firearm getting one of its own. Further, each weapon has an upgradable execution animation which instantly kills stunned enemies; extremely handy for some of those tougher enemies, later on in the game.
Finally, there are some sections of the game which allow for a stealthy approach, offering some ridiculously funny takedowns as a reward for sneaking up on and ‘silently’ executing enemies. Mostly, though, these are entirely up to you, the player, and if you’d rather go in guns-blazing, you may; there’s just one part in the game where it’s not possible to do so.
While it’s true that it’s nothing special, the combination of attacks on offer, together with the fact that it’s Deadpool, makes for something that I really felt I could get into. When I wasn’t counter-attacking and teleporting my way all over the place, I was using my katanas and sais in tandem to wreak absolute havoc while juggling enemies in the air for so long that the always-hilarious airport announcements would begin. It felt good, while it lasted. Not shallow, or ineffectual. I felt, for all intents and purposes, like a badass.
On the whole, the game is a mature, adult experience. It’s definitely got a lot of immature quirks to it, I mean at some point Deadpool even comments on the boob physics in the game, and I imagine there will be a few people who might call him a racist, a sexist, a pervert, a right-winged liberal and all sorts of other names but hey, this is Deadpool. What were you honestly expecting? To that extent, I really do feel that High Moon Studios have perfectly captured the essence of Deadpool — eww, what I mean to say is, I feel that they’ve done him right… uhm, wait. This is classic Deadpool (as opposed to classical Deadpool, which is part of chapter three) in its finest form and really, that’s the best way I can explain it.
I have played a lot of strange, unique and quirky games in my time, but very few compare to my experience with Deadpool. Short-lived though it was, I can foresee at least one more playthrough of the campaign and maybe even a nostalgic trip through the game once more, in a year or so from now.
Of the flaws, there are few, besides obviously being short. The game does, for example, have quite a bit of slowdown at times, owing to what I would perhaps call a badly designed game engine. When a lot of things are going on, on-screen, you really feel it in the frame rate. Another issue is that sometimes enemies and geometry get confused with each other, and enemies will glitch out of existence or into some object. It’s all great fun when the game is trying to make fun of this as part of the plot, but it’s not so great when you need to kill that enemy in order to progress, but you can’t because he’s in the floor. Further, some levels are just too plain at times; I understand the need to keep things plain and it never really became distracting but I feel that since they had free reign, they could have used more opportunities for bizarre, colourful oddities.
Another possible complaint is that the game isn’t overly complex. I would not consider this to be a bad point, however, since after all, the focus is on humour. They’re trying to make you laugh, so what point is there in frustrating you with deep, intricate mechanics? And that’s not to say that I didn’t have a tough time of things; the final level of the game for example, is what Deadpool himself called, “an orgy of death and destruction.” It won’t take you long to master the game’s mechanics, but that was never the point of the experience in the first place.
When it comes to humour, at least, the game never lets up. It is constantly throwing funny things at you, and there were times when I genuinely, heartily laughed myself to tears. There were other times when I had to pause and take a breath upon the realisation that I was playing a properly faithful adaptation of the Deadpool games. I was playing an ideal version of what I imagined a Deadpool game to be. And to that extent, I feel that High Moon Studios absolutely nailed it. From the fourth-wall breaking to the odd perversions to the pop culture references to the schizophrenic voices whom Deadpool constantly has conversations with, everything was there. Fuck it, I even got to squeeze Cable’s man-titties. I mean seriously now, this game… it truly is something.
It may not be for you, it certainly isn’t for everyone, this style of humour can be quite hit or miss, but I would say that you’d be doing yourself a monumental disservice if you enjoy this particular brand of humour, and don’t at least try this game.
If I may use the following as a litmus test for whether or not you might like this game: At some point in the game you end up in a sewer and have to cross poisonous water, so you use your own speech bubbles as platforms in order to do so. Your. Own. Speech. Bubbles. If you’re not sold yet, then I don’t know what else to say… Maybe this game just isn’t for you.