The best compliment I can pay Deadpool is that it fed a need to learn more about the infamous Merc with a mouth. As with the Transformers Cybertron series, High Moon Studios has shoehorned plenty of source material into this release, and also exploited plenty of opportunities to allow the larger than life character to flourish by destroying the fourth wall wherever possible.
The game opens in Deadpool’s apartment, where players can take a short tour around the filthy rooms to get a feel for how he spends his time, stopping to pump up his blowup doll, check out his wall of guns, and play a little air guitar. The premise is that Deadpool is working with High Moon to create his own videogame, which often finds him talking to the studio, when not otherwise distracted by the consistent chatter of the two extra voices in his head.
The action begins with Deadpool taking an assignment, only to have his mark killed by Mister Sinister, which then takes the show to Genosha for the remainder of the ride, with a story that is vague on details because Deadpool isn’t even slightly interested in them. In fact, anytime someone tries to explain what’s going on, Deadpool gets distracted and takes the player with him, so I really couldn’t tell you what exactly Sinister is up to this time around.
What I can tell you about is the sequences in between the humorous cutscenes that make up the bulk of a rather light ride at around five hours, give or take some bottlenecks, of which there are many.
The third-person action finds Deadpool able to slice mutant clones and enemy soldiers while also filling plenty of these endless adversaries with bullets. If you’ve ever played a game where you can run around slicing dudes but also fire off a few rounds, you’ve essentially played most of what Deadpool has to offer on the surface. But the game adds a twist with Deadpool’s teleportation ability, meaning that when you see a prompt that you’re about to be hit by an enemy, you can tap a button to teleport and strike before they do, complete with a delightful “BAMF” sound reminiscent of 1960s batman. Teleporting becomes essentially for battling a few heavier variant enemies as well as boss encounters.
An added twist to combat is that Deadpool builds a momentum gauge while fighting, which allows the player an addition and more powerful move to clear away the endless enemies that pile on in most areas. Combat will also reward players with Deadpool points, and you’ll need plenty of these to unlock the extras—different weapons such as the shotgun and plasma rifle, grenades, new momentum attacks, health bonuses, there’s a great deal of stuff to save up for here.
Unfortunately, to make it necessary to want to do that, the game just continually throws waves and waves of enemies at you. The first hour of the game actually feels really well paced, mixing up enemy attacks with ridiculously over the top moments to break up any tedium, but as things continue the game descends into creating bottlenecks with its limited palette of mutant clones.
It feels like the game is constantly battling development restrictions, most likely financial ones as it continues, which Deadpool makes a few jokes about for good measure. But even Deadpool’s humor can’t alleviate the feeling that it’s been awhile since you’ve felt a game hit financial limitations quite so hard as it does here.
There’s a few surprises that work really hard at doing something original wherever possible, but the game continues to descend into simply fighting exhausting waves of enemies until it leads to the worst kind of ending for this type of game. The final stage throws something in the neighborhood of two thousand enemies at you before asking you to fight all its bosses again, and then tops that off with a battle against, I don’t even know, something like twenty Sinister clones all at the same time. I was hopeful that Deadpool might follow the example of 2011’s Captain America, playing it safe with fundamentals while mining the rich source material available, but instead the game simply tries to beat the player down to stretch out the experience.
I grinded through it, because for some reason I always find it easy to just mindlessly grind through these types of releases. But I was also legitimately enjoying the humor of the game for a time. It’s just that humor couldn’t possibly make it okay that I became grateful the game was short because it had descended into button mashing in big open areas against the same enemies again and again, and yes even again.
It’s unfortunate, because there is the template for a good game somewhere in here. And aside from additional levels of interest, there’s a missed opportunity in the fact the Deadpool can simply die and leave the player starting back at the nearest checkpoint. He’s got Wolverine’s regenerative powers and essentially can’t be killed, and while I don’t want Neverdead again, there’s something here begging for more than simply dying if your health bar runs dry.
And yet I can’t entirely write Deadpool off, because the source material feeds one of the most humorous games I’ve played so far this year at the same time, portions of it bored me to tears. Even when it’s terribly familiar and dry, there’s fun to be had in playing as Deadpool and discovering that his real super power is driving everyone around him nuts. High Moon gets a great deal more mileage from the source material than I expected before the ride sputters out, but that bit of fun isn’t enough to save Deadpool from a bargain bin recommendation at best.
Food for Thought:
1. Whenever notable characters show up, players can press a button to trigger a sequence that gives a quick rundown on said character, which is a hell of a good idea and the place where you’ll find the best Cable theme song ever created.
2. Fans of the character will find plenty of details to chew on here, including a romantic visit from Death.
3. The only added play option is a challenge mode that tasks players with cutting through yet more waves of enemies within time restraints across a selection of maps.