Just in case you’ve never heard of the “Merc with a Mouth” before, here’s a quick primer: Deadpool is a former mercenary turned villain turned quasi-good guy anti-hero from the Marvel Universe. Through a secret weapons program that also produced another popular Marvel superhero, Wolverine, Deadpool gained a rapid healing ability but at the cost of much of his sanity. He’s well known for constantly breaking the fourth wall and having random conversations with the voices in his head through various colored text boxes, which is something that carries over from the comics to his game with some mixed results.
Deadpool‘s story – or meta-story, technically – starts off with Deadpool “convincing” the game’s developer, High Moon Studios, to make the very Deadpool game that you’re playing. A couple of remotely detonated explosives and a crayon-revised script later, you’ll find yourself hacking your way through hapless guards and X-Men clones while arguing with one of High Moon’s executives over the game’s budget, before embarking upon an adventure to save the world from some D-List Marvel villains. The game definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, with Deadpool constantly arguing with himself and delivering sarcastic quips while running through level segments that take place within 8-bit worlds or a colorful hallucination.
Much of the game’s humor is crude, juvenile and even a little sexist at times, but amid some of the tackier jokes, there are several genuinely hilarious moments (a few of scenes between Deadpool and his former partner in do-gooding, Cable, are particularly clever.) However, some of the reference-heavy jokes might be lost on those who only have a partial knowledge of Deadpool or Marvel comics in general. Deadpool does try to help out players who aren’t well-versed in the Marvel setting by having quick Behind the Music-style cutscenes that explain who some of the characters you meet are all about.
When it comes to combat, Deadpool‘s mix of sword-play and “gunkata,” is a definite highlight that has much more depth to it than at first glance. While some of the enemies you face initially will make it feel like you can you’ll just be able to button mash your way to victory, they’ll start throwing grenades, blocking your attacks and using ally-boosting abilities that can make them very tough to handle. You’ll have to vary up your attacks with counters, ranged attacks and combos in order to do the most damage without getting damaged yourself, and some enemies are just nigh-impossible to take out unless you devise a good strategy to weaken them first – usually with a bear trap or two.
You’ll earn “DP” points through collectibles and successful kills that can be used to unlock new weapons, gear and combos, each with their own strengths and weaknesses in a fight that give you a good amount of variety and tactics beyond just slashing enemies into pieces. Through the upgrades system, you’ll also be able to unlock various “Momentum” abilities, which range from devastating AoE attacks that can wipe out entire rooms full of mooks in a bullet-filled free-for-all or let you heavily damage a single tougher target. You’ll have to do a moderate amount of point grinding to unlock every single Momentum attack, upgrade and combo for each weapon in Deadpool’s arsenal, but once you do, the game really does a good job of making you feel like a certified bad ass capable of chopping, smashing, and lasering whoever gets in your way.
Annoyingly, Deadpool’s primary nemesis in the game isn’t some overpowered clone, but the game’s camera, which just can’t seem to find a good spot to show you the action. You’ll spend a good chunk of time wrestling it back to a good vantage point, and whenever you get into a brawl, or one of the wall-jumping platforming sequences, the camera has a tendency to get caught up in corners or awkwardly zoom in way too close for you to see what’s going on. There are parts of the game where you’ll be in a wide-open space so your problems with it won’t be too severe, but there are just as many levels set in tight corridors or hallways that can result in some dizzying viewpoints. The ungainly camera set-up is hardly game wrecking, but it can be frustrating to deal with, especially with Deadpool‘s combat system being as well-put together as it is. It’s a bummer to be stuck hearing the carnage you’re inflicting rather than actually seeing it.
Another issue is that as much fun as Deadpool can be, it has some problems keeping a steady difficulty throughout the game’s single player campaign. You’ll be able to beat it in about 7-8 hours, which sounds like a decent length for a game of the genre, but you’ll spend more than a few minutes replaying some areas over and over because you’ll get stuck in a “Die, reload, repeat” loop. There are a few choice sections where you’ll spam grenades, landmines, bullets and Momentum attacks, only to still end up getting killed by a particularly tricky mini-boss or a horde of gun-wielding clones. As rare as they are, these points can really break the flow of the game. Plus, aside from some extra challenge missions that you can play through for extra points, there’s not much replay value to Deadpool, and some of the jokes just aren’t as good the second time around.
Bottom Line: Deadpool can be surprisingly fun. The combat’s well put together and there are some genuinely hilarious moments in the story, but it has its share of controller-throwing difficulty problems and hit-or-miss jokes, many that aren’t quite as funny if you play through the game more than once.
Recommendation: If you’re a fan of the character, Marvel comics or hack-and-slashers, you’ll get the most out of Deadpool, but others may want to read some Deadpool comics to see if his style of meta-story telling and humor is something they’d enjoy.[rating=3.5]
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Developer: High Moon Studios
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360