Deadpool has not gotten a fair shake. Wolverine gets game after game while Deadpool continues to get bit parts and cameos. Audiences around the world yawned at the awful treatment of Wade Wilson in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, and X-Men Origins: Deadpool has been in movie development Hell for coming up on four years at this point. The good news is that movie writers Rhette Reese and Paul Wernick “get it” and they are building a rated R movie. I’ll admit that the game receiving almost no preview press prior to launch I was thinking this title was going to be buried quietly. Well, I have good news – the folks at High Moon Studios also get it and have written the perfect Deadpool game. It’s ridiculous, over-the-top, breaks the fourth wall, is self-referential, and finally gives our anti-hero the spotlight his insane little mind deserves.
“Do I still think in those little yellow boxes? Ooooh I missed you little yellow boxes. What fun we shall have together!”
You know how you get a fantastic script for Deadpool? You bring in Daniel Way, former writer for the titular (heh, I said “tit”) character and pair them up with super-studio High Moon Studios (the team behind Darkwatch, The Bourne Conspiracy, and all three recent Transformers title). The storyline is straightforward – the Merc with the Mouth has been contracted to kill reality show creator Chance White, but when Mister Sinister gets in the way and costs him the contract, Deadpool decides to take a chunk out of the super villain instead. But wait…this is Deadpool we are talking about. The real story here is that Deadpool is loosely wandering through his warped reality ambling almost by luck towards these goals, psychotic breaks and fourth wall breaking moments (along with a few friends) to guide him through a videogame where he is very aware that he is the star. At points in the game Deadpool literally pulls out the script and talks directly to the folks at High Moon – yea, it’s that kinda game.
The writing in Deadpool is flawless. Not since Lucasarts closed down their funny division have I laughed at a game this hard. Even my wife, a tough comedy critic, was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes. Much of the Nolan North-voiced conversation in the game carries on in little yellow comic panel boxes in the corners, or via a little screw and a little tornado-looking scribble that pops on the screen. When it comes to battles of wit, Deadpool triple-wields. Fairly continuously throughout the game, Deadpool carries on conversations with…well…Deadpool. Somehow, the story elements never get old and every line is funnier than the last.
There are a few combat sequence phrases that Wade spews frequently that do get a bit tired. You’ll hear “If I cut you, do you not bleed?”, “I know I said just the tip”, “Two more slices for just 9.99”, and “I know – sharp, right?” more than you’ll like. Thankfully the rest of the constant commentary more than makes up for it.
It isn’t just the writing though – even the prompts in the game are hilarious. If you are getting hit by projectiles and shouldn’t be, Wade will remind you “Uh…you know we have a teleport skill to AVOID the giant rockets, right?” and “If you don’t use that momentum, I’m gonna kill myself” if you forget to unleash your special attacks. I’ve included a short video that gives you a look at the controls tutorial – even the way you learn how to move in the game brings the funny.
“Bring me more Pop Rocks and Dr. Pepper. Prepare to bathe my monkeys.”
If you look at previous Activision attempts at Marvel franchises you’ll see some fair to middling score ranges. Looking at the fantastic X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance titles and then looking at X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: Destiny it’s hard to believe that these titles come from the same publisher. Legends and Ultimate Alliance captured exactly what the comics are about and nearly every title since has devolved into a shadow of a beat-em-up. Deadpool spells a hard right turn for the Marvel universe as it is a character driven game that completely nails what it is to be in that world. In this particular case, Deadpool is a violent and murderous psychopath, so beat-em-up is appropriate, but it’s the approach that is different.
Where the three prior Transformers games from High Moon excelled at ranged combat and felt stiff up close, Deadpool balances both. Wade has a HUGE arsenal of ranged weapons as well as his beloved pair of swords (and eventually giant hammers) to unleash on his foes. Over the course of the game you’ll unlock plenty of upgrades that you’ll unlock with DP points earned as pickups and by ripping up your enemies. Additionally you’ll learn special “momentum” attacks that allow you to unleash weapon-specific special moves that have the Merc spinning around like a giant inverted lawnmower, charging up and blasting through a line of enemies, or spinning around and cutting down foes with a hailstorm of bullets. (and learn these well – you’ll need them for the final level as it approached old-school levels of difficulty!) In addition, Deadpool also has some stealth attacks. Well…they are Deadpool’s version of stealth anyway, complete with over-the-top sneaking while shushing the player and then hacking foes into tiny enemy chunklets. Right about the time the combat begins to wear thin, the game changes up and throws you a curveball.
As we know, Deadpool is very aware that he is in a game and Deadpool is at the helm. Periodically his very short attention span will wander and Deadpool will change it up. Anything other than the most brief description would ruin it, but you’ll see 3rd person action adventure, side scroller, top-down Zelda style gameplay, and even a few “out of body” experiences to round things out. Check out the video below to see some more of the combat and side-goodies. Don’t worry – not enough to ruin it.
Beyond the main story, there is also a Challenge Mode to extend the 10 or so hours for the main game. The challenge modes are multi-wave attacks with progressively harder enemies in the stages from the single player experience. These are broken up by bronze, silver, gold, and infinite, giving you just a handful of minutes to take out a huge array of enemies. As the stages progress you’ll face enemies with special powers like shields, additional damage, huge weapons, grenades and more. The infinite stage gives you the same experience but without the time limit to emblazon your name on the leaderboard. As an added bonus you’ll also get to play the infinite stage in a special costume straight from the comics. For instance, in the first stage you’ll get to beat your foes bloody wearing a little golden crown, a tutu, and swapping your blades for little glitter-covered star wands. It would be awesome to go back through the game with these costumes, but I didn’t find any option to do that – maybe we’ll see that added with the inevitable DLC packs in the future?
“Ssssh! My common sense is tingling!”
Sure Wade has an awesome healing factor that he picked up from the Weapon X project, he’s also got incredible martial arts and firearm skills, but it is his mouth that enrages friends and foes alike. Wade is joined by several familiar faces including Wolverine, Death, Rogue, Psyloche, Mister Sinister, Cable, and the most hilarious D-list villains that get awful red in the face trying to get Deadpool to take them seriously. When you run into these characters you’ll often get a chance to learn more about them courtesy of “Who the fuck is this guy? Press A or to find out” type prompts. These catch up those not intimately familiar with comic characters by giving us Wade’s twisted view of his friends. If they crack you up (and some of them are pretty awesome) you can view them again from the extras menu, though sadly it is the only extra in the tank.
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. During the final level when I faced off against three “earthquakers” one of them popped up on top of a pillar (something they shouldn’t have been able to do) and the game had no idea how to handle that. The result was a framerate around 10 frames per second, making this fight very difficult. During that same fight I had an issue with a few enemies becoming stuck in mid air as they tried to descend the large staircase central to the level. 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.
Normally a game without polish just comes apart at the seams, but the aesthetics of this game, the writing, and collectable tacos (because, why not?), the play-your-way upgrade system, and the voice work gives Deadpool the game he deserves. Just like Wade’s brain, it has a few hiccups, but nothing that should make you shy away from the title. Self-referential, acerbic, psychotic, and just balls-out fun, the game not only breaks the the fourth wall, it absolutely destroys it, giving us the best written Marvel game to date. As the game box breaks the fourth wall declaring itself awesome, I’ll confirm it – Deadpool exceeded my every expectation. Just don’t play it in front of your kids. I’ve included a short video of the first few minutes of the games to demonstrate why. Enjoy the Chimichangas!!