Everything about Deadpool, the new video game starring the Merc with a Mouth, looked like it was trying too hard or worse, might drown in juvenile idiocy. Instead, aside from one serious problem, it’s a surprisingly effortless, effervescent game, a mixture of fourth-wall-breaking absurdity and smooth gameplay made by people who know what makes the character great.
Skepticism from a licensed game, especially from Activision, is reasonable, but High Moon Studios specialize in turning licensed pig’s ears into silk purses; they’re the ones behind the recent Transformers games. Unsurprisingly, the gameplay itself draws heavily from those games; it doesn’t have the depth of, say, DMC: Devil May Cry, but it’s a mix of that style of combat and the Batman: Arkham games. It’s refined so you can switch between third-person shooting and hand-to-hand combat, and the transitions are not only smooth and sensible, both aspects of the game are done well. The only problem is really the “stealth kills”, which feel tacked on mostly to deliver cartoonish violence and thankfully are entirely optional.
The main problem, gameplay-wise, is that your opponents are basically meat-puppets for you to deliver a beating on as you wind your way through fairly linear levels, and you heal too quickly for them to offer any challenge. They get smart enough to hide behind cover and block; that’s pretty much it. The game generally solves this problem by throwing swarms of mooks at you, and you’ll need to start the game on Hard to get much of a challenge as a result. Essentially, it’s built to flow, and to be a delivery vehicle for the script.
And the script is the real star here. While the game sometimes teeters on the edge of self-parody, whenever Deadpool breaks the fourth wall, or whenever the development team snarks themselves, it’s hilarious. Deadpool is fully aware that he’s in a video game, and he’ll call out badly built props, yell at the player when they miss the obvious, and talk to his id and superego on a regular basis. It’s the kind of game where the first thing you do pops a trophy called “The first one’s free…” followed immediately by Deadpool remarking “It’s going to be that kind of game, huh?”
Similarly, it uses other Marvel characters surprisingly effectively. The characters we see are chosen not for marketability but because they’re a part of Deadpool’s storylines; Cable and Wolverine in particular are handled very, very well.
Is Deadpool, as a game, revolutionary? Not particularly. Gameplay-wise, it’s similar to Remember Me, and if you’re not interested in brawlers with a little gunplay and a little platforming, there’s not going to be much here for you. But if you’re a fan of the character, or are looking for a game that’s just goofy fun you can pick up and play, look no further.