Being a fairly hardcore Deadpool fan, I was pretty skeptical when High Moon Studios announced they were tackling the infamous Merc with a Mouth and sticking him into his own video game. The Deadpool image has already been violated with monstrous representations of the character in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, and with poor execution, a Deadpool video game could easily follow the same tragic fate. High Moon Studios, having only been up and running as their own studio since 2005, has a fairly decent track record with games like Darkwatch and the Transformers line of games (especially Fall of Cybertron, play that shit), but they weren’t the hack-and-slash, humorous, games that Deadpool seemed to be striving for. Nevertheless, I put my faith in High Moon and picked it up.
My fear that the writers would make the same mistake that so many comicbook writers have made with Deadpool—
OMFGLOL, I wrote him so random! That’s why people love him, right?!!!!11!1!
—stayed with me through the first chapter of the game, but was eventually put at ease. The script was actually really funny and felt true to Deadpool’s character consistently through the game (I just looked it up, High Moon brought on Daniel Way as writer who has done probably my personal favorite Deadpool runs including Deadpool: Dark Reign, so that makes sense). Deadpool’s dialogue never got stale as the game progressed, and even the one-liners he’d spit out during regular combat had enough of a rotation that I wasn’t tired of hearing them. He frequently made fun of the High Moon developers about the game, often acknowledging cliche aspects or common gameplay mechanics that are used to allow the player to feel a sense of character leveling. He was the same old sex-crazed, psychotic, funny, shitty one-liner spewing guy that I remember, and I think most fans, and non-fans, can enjoy and be pleased with how he turned out.
As good as the dialogue was, I was most intrigued by how well the games utilizes the “breaking the fourth wall” device (characters acknowledging that they are in a game/movie or speaking to the audience). One of the best characteristics of Deadpool is his frequency to always break the wall in whatever he is featured in, it is among one of his most defining qualities. I assumed the game would play out like a regular game: linear story, bad guy doing bad guy stuff, dash in some humor, etc., and he’d occasionally break the fourth wall for cheap laughs. What I didn’t expect was that the entire storyline of the game is written around this device. It becomes the base mechanic for the storyline and for the gameplay.
Throughout the game you have essentially zero idea what you are supposed to be doing or why. Deadpool is aware that this is his video game being made, and carries around the games script as reference the entire time. All we can gather is there is this huge event that Deadpool plays the pivotal role in, but every time someone begins talking to Deadpool he begins daydreaming about Rogue’s boobs, arguing amongst his personalities (usually about boobs), or talking to the audience about something completely unrelated (boobs, mostly). Not even the player is brought in on the actual point of the game. Deadpool sets his own insane reasons for helping out, and they happen to fall in line with what the rest of the X-Men are up to.
Aside from story progression, it became an actual gameplay mechanic. At one point the player hits a gap that they can’t get across and Deadpool’s other two voices create thought bubbles that the player can use to cross like a bridge. My favorite instance of it is when the game, rather frequently, warps into an entirely different genre mini-game, like old-school 2D side-scrollers, or a Sonic 3D-esque “ring” collection slide because of one of Deadpool’s delusions, or arguing with the developers at High Moon about budget issues. They are actively apart of the gameplay and story progression, not just fun little in-game inserts to break up the monotony.
The rest of the gameplay was a bit of a disappointment. None of it was necessarily “bad” but it didn’t feel complete. The game plays like any classic hack-and-slash 3rd person with a lot of button mashing and feels like an early 2000’s arcade game in a lot of aspects. A feature I found neat that I wish the designers would have put more effort into was the “combo-flow” system (think the Batman: Arkham games) where you build up a combo-meter and counter as you progress, and bounce from baddie to baddie delivering forms of punishment. You can switch from 3 different types of melee weapons mid-fight, along with 4 different guns and 4 types of thrown or placed gadgets (grenades, bear traps) all the while utilizing Deadpool’s teleporter device to evade incoming damage. The game did a good job of allowing the player to utilize them all during a fight with relative ease and allowing for special combos depending on what you have equipped, but I often found myself getting frustrated when the game would get caught on itself and Deadpool wouldn’t respond to my commands, especially when getting swarmed by melee and ranged opponents, which is most of the time. There was also the issue I found with the ill placed ‘counter’ button being the same as the ‘holyfuckteleport’ button. You’d go to teleport away from an incoming huge shockwave, only to turn around and counter some insignificant melee fighter who happened to be attacking at the same time. All in all, from a design approach, the combat system was flawed. It had the potential to have the same smooth flow as the Arkham games, but dropped the ball along the way. I don’t often like to compare two different games, since each game should strive for its own image, but the combat systems felt too close together to not make the comparison.
There was also a lack of replayability to the game. Aside from finishing off the achievements, which most are actually pretty challenging or really funny and worth doing, or playing on a higher difficulty, there is no desire or incentive to continue playing afterwards. There are little challenges once you beat a chapter, like survival modes and what not, but they didn’t draw me in like I had hoped. I’m actually glad High Moon didn’t try to incorporate a multiplayer feature to the game, since I foresee no way of that going well, but a little something extra to keep the game going would have been nice. I personally would have added something simple like different skins, or embracing the arcade mini-games and allow the player to replay extended versions of the side-scrollers and what not, which I’ll give it to High Moon, they did with the “pirate-ship” mini-game in the challenges mode.
All in all I thought High Moon did a pretty good job with what I assumed would be a disaster of a game. From a true fan of the character, they done good, give it a playthrough. I hope to see High Moon Studios continue to strive for better quality games and see if they’re capable of putting out an even better sequel in the future.