Deadpool, like its title character’s personality, is all over the place. At times it’s genuinely funny and the action is good. At others time the gameplay is a chore and the jokes are so embarrassing you’ll look around to make sure no one caught you playing it. What’s unfortunate is that the latter times outnumber the former, and while the outlandish humor is something you’ll be rambling about to your friends after you’ve played it, the second someone suggests they want to try it you’ll turn absolutely stone-faced and shake your head. There are some great parts, but they sink in the quagmire of the uninspired combat that makes up the bulk of the game.
When I saw the trailers for the game a few months ago I thought of two things. The first was that the game seemed to have been written by a five year old and a first year college student working in tandem, and the second was that it looked like it pulled its combat from every third person action game that had come out since 1998. It turned out that I was right on both accounts. Sometimes, the humor is literally relying on you to find the words ‘poop’ and ‘boobies’ funny. Now, there are times when that stuff can get a laugh out of me, but they’re dropping these words half the time in hopes that the words themselves are funny enough. A lot of the humor is pretty dumb toilet jokes; something that can be done well in certain cases, but Deadpool just felt lazy about it. It’s as if they felt he needed to be saying something, so they may as well just toss in some crappy joke or say ‘poo.’ It just doesn’t work, and it gets tired really fast.
Deadpool‘s comedy is at its best when it is going for the downright surreal. There are multiple times when he hallucinates himself into really strange situations — imagining a hot tub party in the middle of Genosha or things like that. There’s continual jokes about how he can’t concentrate on anything he’s being told, imagining the character talking to him as a taco with eyes or shooting himself in the head out of boredom. What I enjoyed the most out of this stuff was that it was very hard to predict where a cutscene was going to go once Deadpool started talking, as the animation style could change in a second or something completely bizarre would happen. It made the game’s story, something generic about stopping Mister Sinister on Genosha, work really well. I really looked forward to these scenes, cringing when they relied on cheap humor but absolutely loving the craziness that could occur.
Nolan North sells Deadpool in this game. A lot of the craziest stuff works because North does a really good job with the character. I wasn’t overly excited about him taking on yet another role, but he manages to convey an overly-excited and womanizing style without coming off as stupid or sleazy. Many of the jokes that did work in the game only did so because North did such a good job with the delivery, and it’s his constant chatter that holds the game together. The man continually surprises me with what he can do with his voice.
More craziness gets reflected in the art design, but not often. The game itself looks good enough, reminding me an awful lot of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s solid and the enemy design is good, but everything about it looks pretty generic. The enemies all look like variants on Mr. Sinister’s character design, so they all kind of blend together. There are small visual clues telling you what kind of enemy they were, but for the most part I had to get pretty close to an enemy or watch it attack to know which one it was. They’re also almost exclusively gray, putting them in the running for the blandest enemy designs I’ve seen in a while. The levels aren’t exactly inspired either, looking like ruined versions of the office buildings and underground caves that fill every single action game. I could swear I’ve specifically been to some of these places before.
The art design in the cutscenes is where it gets good. A lot of it still looks like a generic action title for the most part, but every once in a while you’ll get something interesting, like taking a quick look at a character’s back story through shots of comic books or seeing the scene told with cardboard cutouts. The developers at High Moon Studios also used the game’s engine well at times, using Deadpool’s manic behavior to fuel a bizarre scene. He could be talking with a hand puppet, dressed like he’s in a rap video, or just pinging around the environment. For a game that can be so completely dull at times, the game can just come right out and surprise you with its art design.
Those sections are about all that keeps this game going. This is as generic as action games get, although it does try to mix things up a bit. You have your standard light/medium/heavy weapons along with an array of guns to keep you busy. You have to earn points in order to unlock a lot of these weapons, but you earn them really fast so you’ll rarely have to save up for long to get that shotgun you’ve been eying. You can also purchase various upgrades for yourself and your weapons, so you’re constantly working toward some goal. I didn’t find the other weapons added all that much to combat as the light weapon, the Sais, took so long to kill anything that many of the enemies died of old age while I was attacking them. The hammers are slow, but at least they’re not so slow that they’re useless like the heavy weapons tend to be in most action games. The swords that you start the game with do good damage, attack quickly, and are cheap to upgrade, so I really don’t know why you’d bother with anything else unless you got bored. Which you will.
As for the guns, none of them feel like they pack any kind of punch. I usually have this kind of problem with laser weapons in games since they usually sound lame and barely give sort of visible feedback when fired, but most of the guns in this game have the same problem. Firing my machine guns felt like I was shooting a rapid-fire airsoft rifle without any ammunition in it. It sounded just like puffs of air, and was about as effective even after I upgraded it. I eventually got sick of most of the dull guns and just stuck with the handguns, since they at least felt like they were having some effect.
Even those are a problem with the game’s clunky gun controls. By all rights there should be no issues with the way the guns handle. Something about them feels very off, as if everything you’d want to do with them is just a little bit too slow. Also, the game has an auto lock-on — something that seems really useful when you’re told about it, but doesn’t work in practice with any reliability. You just have to hold down the aim button and the game will zoom to the nearest enemy… Sometimes. I found it worked about half the time and would have just done the aiming myself, but the enemies all dart out of the way of your crosshairs pretty fast. I would have just increased the speed I could turn to compensate, but I tended to zip right past enemies while trying to aim for them at the basic speed. In the end, I would just try to see if the auto lock-on worked, and if it didn’t, I would run up to the enemies and hack away at them.
There are a couple of neat additions to combat to make Deadpool stand out. You have a teleporting ability, one that works similarly to the one in Shinobi on PS2. You can zip around the area using the teleport to move ahead a specific distance, allowing you to dodge enemy attacks with it. It was a nice addition to the combat and one I preferred over the blocking that usually gets put in action games. You can also use your teleport as a direct counter if an enemy is attacking you, indicated by the button appearing over the enemy’s head. It was helpful in tangled fights with multiple enemies, although it might have made the game too easy if the camera hadn’t always been spinning around like mad; keeping many of the enemies out of sight. As is, it’s a handy tool that keeps combat moving quickly.
In keeping with that speed of combat, you also have a momentum meter. This fills up as long as you’re continually attacking enemies and engaged in the action, and will let you do extremely powerful attacks if you can fill it up. Considering the size of the groups you’re typically fight, this tends to fill up right at the point you’ll need it, so it’s a useful system. Honestly, the work done just to keep Deadpool constantly attacking should have made the game more fun to play, as the constant action requires a little bit of finesse to keep going and is satisfying when you pull it off.
The uninspired enemies really kill the fun of combat, though. Most of the enemies don’t even try to block your attacks at all; taking no appreciable offense when you come charging at them. The gun soldiers will cut you to pieces if they can, but a few teleports or shots from your own gun tends to put them down. There are a few more ranged enemies that are a bit more challenging, but most of them won’t block your attacks either, so your best bet is just running up and spamming light attack. The only ones that gave me any real trouble were the ones that flew around, and that’s because aiming with the guns was so clunky that it was really hard to get a bead on them to hit them. There were a handful of enemies that could block you in the game, and these were the closest thing to a challenge you could meet. However, to get around a blocking you have to hit light attack followed by heavy attack. This is the only thing that works to break their guard short of a counter teleport, so as soon as you see them you’ll know exactly what combo you’ll be using.
This results in a game where you pretty much just hit light attack ninety percent of the time, interspersing it with some gunshots and a momentum attack here and there. Since the enemies put up so little resistance most of the time (and since you automatically heal after a few seconds without taking damage), the developers decided to balance it by throwing absurd amounts of enemies at you in hopes that you’ll screw up enough to die. This happened before in the recent Splatterhouse remake and several other action games I’ve played. The developers suddenly realize that they haven’t designed any enemies that have any kind of competent attack routines, so they just hope pure numbers will distract you. Those mistakes often do add up during these sequences as you go for ten or twenty minutes of straight combat with no checkpoints, resulting in a lot of cheap deaths that are frustrating beyond belief.
This is pretty much all there is to the gameplay. At one point you get to do a fun sequence with a beach ball gun where you shoot at giant targets, but beyond that the whole game is just a bland third person action game with a few small innovations that try to make it semi-entertaining. The gameplay just makes me crave the game’s storyline and cutscenes, leaving me crossing my fingers and hoping this isn’t one of those times when the game just says a dirty word for a cheap laugh. This may be the first time I’ve played an action game for the story in my life, but that story is told in such an uneven way that it’s not even worth bothering with most of the time.
The game part of Deadpool drags it down the most. When Deadpool is on the screen just being himself the odds are good he’s going to say or do something to make someone laugh. It’s when you shunt him into this lifeless action game that he gets bogged down and turned into any other dull action game character. The main thing I’ve gathered from this game is that there is a great character buried within it somewhere, and if anything I should go out and grab some of his comic books to see what the fuss is about. Giving Deadpool his own game as added nothing to the character, and the only worthwhile parts of his game are the ones that could have easily been told in a comic book itself. Nice try, but I’ll stick with the graphic novels next time.