When Deadpool was introduced as a character in New Mutants #98, I doubt most would have thought he'd grow to be the phenomenon that he is. The mutant-verse is a pretty crowded place that's filled with fan favorites, and in the early '90s, there were a lot of popular faces Wade Wilson had to compete with. His popularity quickly surged with a Joe Madureira-drawn miniseries, many appearances outside of X-Force, and, in the latter half of the decade, his first ongoing series.
Nowadays, he's a surprisingly well-known face to those who don't follow the X-Men or comics. While he might not have the star power of Captain America, Spider-Man, or Wolverine, the fast-talking "merc with a mouth" still draws a lot of interest. When High Moon Studios, the developer behind the recent Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, announced it was developing a Deadpool video game, people were pretty excited. The end result might not be the stellar title that folks were hoping for, but it's still a fun romp with a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, a ton of self-referential humor, and lots of fourth wall-breaking action. You could ask for a more polished experience than Deadpool delivers, but for the most part, High Moon Studios got the character right.
Deadpool wants to make a video game, which he pitches to High Moon Studios, who turns it down until Deadpool threatens to blow them up. High Moon sends Deadpool the script for the game, and he ignores it while hijinks ensue. The main villain is Mr. Sinister, who is clearly up to no good, but most of that is glossed over. Pretty much every important plot point in the game that explains what you're doing is ignored by Deadpool, and giant swatches of exposition by other characters are muffled and drowned out by Deadpool's growing impatience to run around and kill things.
You'll kill plenty of things in Deadpool, which is abundant in mayhem and violence. Deadpool is equipped with giant hammers, dual katana, pistols, sais, shotguns, submachine guns, and a futuristic laser gun courtesy of Cable. Most weapons have to be unlocked by gaining Deadpool Points, which are dropped like currency from defeated enemies, with bonuses earned for maintaining high combos. The combat feels somewhat reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham Asylum system, where you can chain hits between enemies by pushing toward them with the analog stick. You can also tap a counter button when the appropriate prompt appears over an enemy's head.
There's also a bit of Devil May Cry here, with a series of combos available from the outset and additional chains that can be unlocked but are dependent on the equipped weapons. You can choose between your weapons by tapping on the appropriate d-pad direction, making it easy to switch between weapons on the fly without dragging your fingers away from the face buttons. Deadpool has some explosives and traps at his disposal, which can stun or incapacitate foes for easy slaughter.
While the game is exceptionally violent and certainly earns its "M" rating, most of it is so over-the-top that it won't cause you to feel squeamish. Deadpool takes every encounter in stride, is quick with a series of one-liners, and offers up comical "Game Over" screens if you fail. The checkpoint system in Deadpool is also lenient enough that death is rarely a major downfall, aside from a few late-game checkpoints that were quite infuriating due to forced cinematic sequences prior to actual combat.
Deadpool's combat, which mixes melee and ranged attacks, attempts to feel deep, but most of it is superficial. Despite having a number of moves and combos, Deadpool feels like the epitome of a button-masher, with the exception of a multiboss battle toward the end of the game. Some enemies force you to break blocks or make use of the counter system, but by and large, this isn't a difficult experience on the default difficulty level. There's some advantage to being inventive with the way you approach a fight, so you can earn the most Deadpool Points, but even then, you'll have little trouble maxing out most of Deadpool's core skills by the end of the game.
Some of the mindless combat is thankfully broken up by oddball sequences, like jetting around in the severed foot of a Sentinel while gunning down enemies, or riding a gondola in an underworld-themed circus shooting gallery. These moments add some much-needed breaks in the hack, slash, and shoot formula that's otherwise abundant in Deadpool's six- to seven-hour playtime. There are also a handful of QTE segments that are done right; they're into cut scenes to provide optional insights into new characters and their comic backgrounds, or they give you some semblance of choice in how certain moments play out. They aren't deep or defining elements, but they bolster the humor that's present throughout the game.
Deadpool's humor won't be for everyone, but High Moon Studios manages to nail it. The character is a pretty deplorable mutant: He's disgusting, juvenile and womanizing, but he ends up being likeable because he has a weird, childlike amazement and fascination with the stupidest things. He can be genuinely funny, mostly in an inappropriate manner. There are fart jokes, there are lots of references to boobs, and Deadpool scratches his crotch a time or two. Think of this as Marvel's Duke Nukem, and you'll get the idea, except this is infinitely better than Duke Nukem Forever.
Some of that humor gets a bit long in the tooth as Deadpool begins to wind down. Wade Wilson is best appreciated in small, 24- to 32-page chunks, so seven hours with the merc with a mouth is pushing it. Nolan North, who provides the voice for Deadpool, does a great job with the material, and some of the side characters — namely Cable and Wolverine — bring some additional humor as they act as buffers against Deadpool's wacky antics. Not every joke works, but there are many moments that had me smiling or laughing. Exploding clones of Gambit that can only say, "Mon ami" over and over again were one of those moments.
Deadpool isn't exactly the most polished experience out there. High Moon Studios passes some of this off as intentional, and there are some early moments where Deadpool points out poor art assets and other flaws. There are definitely moments where unintentional issues arise. I had to restart twice due to getting stuck on pieces of low-hanging geometry, even though spaces looked accessible based on the height of an opening or platform. There are some frame rate issues when the screen begins to fill with bad guys and flashy effects, but this wasn't constant enough to impact my enjoyment of the title.
There's not much additional content to get excited about. The only post-game content consists of timed challenge missions, which are basically waves of enemies across eight different settings. There are three difficulties for each mission, starting with bronze and working up to gold. Online leaderboards track your scores against other players, but the mindless nature of the combat is exacerbated by the challenge missions, making them a lot less interesting without Deadpool's accompanying hijinks. I also found it odd that I couldn't use the Deadpool Points that were earned in the challenge mode to outfit my skills, although those skills and weapons carried over into the challenge mode.
All in all, Deadpool feels more like a rental than a must-buy title. It's a game that remains true to Deadpool's character, and it shows that High Moon Studios definitely understands what makes the character work. Despite the flashier nature of the combat, the overall experience is quite shallow. There's not enough content to support the repetitive gameplay, and even though the strength of the game comes from Deadpool and the comedy, that still manages to wear thin toward the end of the game. It's definitely something I'd suggest checking out when it goes on sale, but until then, you can hold off on Deadpool.
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