The spandex-sporting shooty, slicy, shouty scamp
The superhero barrel gets another scraping for yet another video game tie-in. This time, for Marvel's Merc With a Mouth, Deadpool. The dude hasn’t even had a movie yet. But hey, that might work in his favour.
Newcomers to Deadpool’s universe should know that he's known as a character that frequently breaks the fourth wall in comics. Essentially, he knows he's a comic book character even though everyone else in the Marvel Universe has no idea. This allows him to constantly talk to the readers and share jokes with them, often at the bewilderment of the likes of Wolverine who can’t fathom why he’s so laid-back all the time (he’s already skimmed through the script of this game for example) .
So yes, Deadpool knows he's in a video game this time. At several points, we hear him give High Moon Studios (the game's developers) a phone call to mock the script, complain about level design, ask for more explosions or bemoan the amount of stages based in sewers. And like most gaming efforts at satire and in-jokes, it mostly falls flat on its face. Generic stages (like sewers) are abundant in Deadpool's game and no amount of admittance of this from High Moon is enough to make trawling through them any less of a bore.
The script did make me laugh on a few occasions. I hated myself for it. But hey, throw 100 gags at me about boobs, farts and boners and I'm probably going to find a couple amusing. Ah, so much shame. I’ll play Journey afterwards to convince myself I’m better than this. To be fair, it’s nowhere near as embarrassing to be caught playing as Lollipop Chainsaw, which would require an immediate muting as soon as another human entered the room.
Nolan ‘Uncharted’ North reprises his role from the animated films as Deadpool and adds an enthusiastic level of gusto and swagger to the character. For sure, you can hear bits of Nate Drake in there but there’s plenty of Deadpool’s unique personality on show too. The best parts are when he’s bouncing off Cable’s constant deadpan delivery. Don’t expect much from the game visually though, character models are light on detail and the stages have sewers, concrete and corridors running on a loop.
High Moon are all too keen to point out their game's weaknesses, and it starts to make you feel a bit awkward after a while. And then just annoyed. Deadpool makes an early joke about them not having enough money to get a decent character roster, forcing you to stare at the poor turnout for Deadpool’s gaming get-together. Wolverine and Rogue are the most recognisable stars, while ones like Mister Sinister, Cable, Domino and Psylocke are probably only going to be recognised by regular readers of the comics as opposed to Marvel movie fans.
You don't have to work in the gaming press to be able to predict generic level design or a bland script from a game like this though. The best any of us could ever have hoped for was a game that was fun to play for a weekend. Thankfully, Deadpool just about manages to oblige.
Deadpool enjoys melee weapons and dual-wielding firearms. Try not to start comparing the game to Devil May Cry though. You begin with dual-katana blades with a very limited move list of strong or fast attacks. The more kills you rack up, the more skills and bonuses you can unlock with points picked up from defeated enemies.
The guns put the game into middle-tier third person shooter territory (think Saints Row-style shooting) and are handy for thinning out large groups of guards with headshots. They're a bit weak though, and having to constantly pump the triggers can cause your hands to cramp up. More weapons are available further down the line, shotguns, assault rifles and the like.
I got through most of the game with the pistols as I focused my upgrades elsewhere and left the bigger guns on the shop shelf. I bought them towards the end of the game and felt pretty smug that I hadn’t wasted my funds on them earlier. At least the automatic assault rifles give your trigger finger a rest. Ammo is strangely limited for all firearms though, there's usually some around the next corner, but it's still occasionally a pain in the arse for a game like this, you'd at least expect the pistols to have unlimited bullets.
Unlike the guns, melee weapons are much more interesting. Thankfully, you're not stuck with just swords. Sai are available for some eye-tearingly fast combos for those nippy foes that think it’s funny to dance around your efforts. Once I'd unlocked the hammers though, I barely looked back at the bladed weapons. Yes, they're a bit slower, but the huge amounts of real estate I'd wipe off enemy health bars made each swing a worthy time investment.
Changing between weapons with the d-pad is a somewhat awkward affair thanks to the unresponsive switching, which put me off mixing things up too much. It's probably why there are no combos with melee weapon changes in the middle either. Damn you Dante, why must you ruin other games!? Stealth kills make a few gory appearances, but there aren’t many chances to use them and it’s usually quicker to go in loud and proud.
I was surprised to see that not much effort has been put into encouraging the player to combine guns and melee attacks either. See, I told you not to compare it to DMC. Special attacks for each weapon can be built up to clear the immediate proximity of goons, and they're very stylish to look at. Each can be stored once the metre has been filled, so I was able to save them for boss fights, which take the form of typical circle-strafe and shoot, then dodge the charging attack. But to be fair dodging charge attacks also makes up most of the boss fights in the otherwise excellent Arkham games, so we probably shouldn’t have expected Deadpool to bring anything new to the Comic Book Tie-In class.
So overall, there’s nothing new on show here, but amongst all the violent sword swinging and gunplay, swearing, boob jiggling and knob jokes there’s a solid weekend of gaming to enjoy. Go on, we won’t tell anyone.