Deadpool is an acquired taste. The katana-wielding, fourth-wall breaking Merc with a Mouth has an affinity with the bizarre, alienating himself from the traditional Marvel pantheon with a blend of witty repartee and infantile humour.
Either despite or because of this, Deadpool has slowly amassed a cult following, and he is now one of Marvel’s leading men. Now, developer High Moon Studios has featured Deadpool in his own game for the first time to a modest degree of success.
The set-up: Deadpool has coerced developer High Moon Studios, though some minor threats and a teensy amount of explosives to create a game based on his likeness. Unsatisfied with the production values of his house and uninterested in the large amount of reading that would be necessary to check the script, Deadpool instead elects to take mercenary jobs, which sets of a chain of loosely related events that create the central plot.
The plot can be muddy and poorly presented at times, but it’s largely intended as a vehicle for the humour, and as an opportunity to bounce around between locations.
Deadpool’s particular brand of manic humour is played up considerably here. For every funny quip or one-liner, there is a joke about bowel movements or an expletive-streaked diatribe against any target - the enemies, the player; even High Moon Studios receives a strong spray. How much enjoyment there is to derive from it depends entirely on the players own tolerance for Deadpool’s madness. The humour that harkens back to traditional, more austere Deadpool constitutes more than half of the material, and the remainder is composed of more shocking outbursts. As a game that is centrally pivoted around the humour, and as any sense of humour is subjective, the enjoyment for each player will probably vary.
As ought to be expected there are a number of small nods and cameos from the Marvel characters Deadpool frequently interacts with in the comics, including Cable, Death and Wolverine. The rest of the cast is primarily filled with second or third-rate superheroes and supervillians, giving the entire experience the authentic Deadpool vibe. As these characters don’t have the cultural cachet of Iron Man or Doctor Doom, the game gets a little more wiggle room to establish them the way it wants to, and tell a unique story.
Each major Marvel character that is featured is introduced with a tongue-in-cheek summary highlighting their key motivations and moments in the Marvel Universe. By localising the conflicts, giving short back-stories, and by not escalating the fight to be on universe-ending proportions, players are left with a feeling of scale and place. The game feels as though it is a part of the Marvel Universe, not some offshoot that is completely detached from the rest.
Underneath the thick layers of humour and meta-references lies a fairly confident if simplistic third-person action game. Deadpool’s combat descends into button-mashy, combo-based madness, akin to Batman: Arkham City. The combat would have benefitted greatly from a tad more complexity and available combos.
Elsewhere, Deadpool plays as a fairly basic third-person platformer. Like the plot, the gameplay is simply a serviceable delivery mechanism for more of Deadpool's humour, the game’s real draw.
Deadpool could hardly be considered a long game, with a thorough run-through of the campaign coming in at little over six hours. On top of the campaign there is a simple challenge system, which tasks players with defeating waves of enemies on the eight campaign levels under a certain amount of time. These include a few new gags, but the majority of the experience is combat, which is not particularly rewarding on its own. Most players will be left wanting more from the total package, and when considered next to its competitors, Deadpool feels a little barren.
Even though the gameplay can border on generic at times and the humour can sometimes misses as much as it hits, there is enough to recommend Deadpool, particularly to fans. Many have tried to accurately represent Deadpool, though few have done as well as High Moon Studios has with this first entry. The game could benefit greatly from increased depth to its mechanics, but Deadpool is a solid debut.