What the reviews can’t agree on, however, is how good the rest of the game is. High Moon Studios’ third-person action game, you see, has its fair share of problems.
Deadpool is marred by overly conventional design — mostly level design, which can get boring at times — and technical issues, such as a wonky camera, oddly behaving AI and framerate issues. Still, getting to watch Deadpool be Deadpool might just be tempting enough to make one stay despite the game’s troubles. Here’s what the reviews are saying.
‘Press A to make a stink pickle or press B to kill germs.’ This is the choice facing Deadpool as he stands in his bathroom at the beginning of the game, and it sets the tone for the rest of it. It’s not Shakespeare, but is exactly the kind of humour you’d expect from the Merc with a Mouth. Nolan North’s take on the character is utterly bonkers and laugh-out-loud funny, and High Moon Studios has done a great job of treading the thin line between outright vulgar and tongue-in-cheek, giving all three of his personalities the perfect balance. While nothing across the brief five hour campaign tries to reinvent the wheel, its mechanics are passable enough to enjoy North’s performance.
Just because Deadpool enjoys talking nonstop does not mean that he confronts enemies with pacifism on the mind. The way out of any situation involves copious amounts of slicing and dicing, with the occasional shooting thrown in for good measure. Deadpool bounces around tightly constructed environments like he’s battling attention deficit disorder, knocking one enemy into the air and then delivering a whirling dervish to a group of would-be attackers before firing his plasma gun at a far-off sniper. It’s a screaming-fast confluence of steel and spandex, so fast that the camera often lags behind your actions. Throw in a magical teleportation move, and you spend as much time trying to get your bearings as you do unleashing hell on your dim-witted foes.
Where Deadpool really doesn’t surprise is in its level design. In a game that’s a send-up of video games, you’d expect to see an office level, a sewer level, a jungle level, etc, but you’d also expect these chestnuts to be turned on their metaphorical heads with a design that skewers your expectations. Instead, each of these visually uninteresting levels is played relatively straight. Sure, there are the occasional unexpected non sequiturs (Deadpool gets sucked into an 8-bit dungeon crawler, Deadpool hallucinates a scene in LittleBigPlanet-style graphics); it’s just that these bits are handed out like treats for slogging through the comparatively lackluster levels.
The ADHD level design is supported by some better-than-average writing and voice acting. The plot moves fast and works well as goofy, self-aware satire. The creative team has nailed the character — his juvenile antics, inner demons and dire tragic-comic outlook on life (and death). But there are inherent problems with a character whose immaturity is a selling point. Never is this more apparent than in Deadpool’s “appreciation” of the female form. There are a whole lot of virtual breasts in Deadpool, and Deadpool loves them. He loves talking about them, touching them and staring at them when a woman is talking to him. A bit more disturbingly, one of the very first shots in the intro has Deadpool literally shooting a framed portrait of a woman while he listens to a voicemail rejecting him.
Our hero isn’t one to hang back and ruminate on his options, so it’s only fitting that his game should reward a fast-paced jump-in-the-mosh-pit approach to play. Attack with a fury and you’ll easily fill Momentum meters that let you kick away a crowd, spin around on the floor like a breakdancer on a meth bender, and more. All the while, you’ll rack up a combination counter that bestows increasing bonuses to the quantity of Deadpool Points earned from each encounter. And what are those good for? Instead of using your katanas and pistols for the whole game, you can spend some Points on a pair of pointy sais (i.e., three-pronged daggers) that hit faster but do less damage, or swing a pair of massive hammers that could tenderize a concrete steak. Once these new options are unlocked, you’re free to switch between them on the fly using the D-pad.
Graphically the game is squarely in the ‘solid’ category. It runs on Unreal Engine 3, so the main characters in the game look absolutely fantastic. As Wade takes damage he can regenerate but his suit cannot, leaving it in tatters for a while until it slowly pops back to normal. In fact, most of the game looks pretty fantastic…until it doesn’t. Some parts of the game are just shockingly low resolution, including Wade’s dog which comes up a few points throughout the course of the game. There are also some issues with texture tearing, and most painfully in the final level, some framerate issues. (…) Most of the game the engine was fairly well behaved, but it does feel like despite a few delays there could be a little more polish.
If you can handle the hairy humour, you might have as much fun playing Deadpool as it seems like High Moon had making it. Thanks in no small part to the insanity of Wade Wilson (and an inspired set of performances by Mr. North), they’ve taken a genre that rarely produces more than repetitive filler and twisted it into a unique experience that embodies the very spirit of the character.
Top picture: Gergő Vas