Video Game Review: "Deadpool" Is Average, But Funny
Playing High Moon Studios’ Deadpool game is as much as psychological journey as it is anything else. It’ll be apparent from the moment you start the game in the titular character’s apartment whether this game’s humor is for you or not, and this will be very subjective. It is gross, it is crude, it is extremely immature, it is sexist. You’ll learn how mature you are as you play through it. I was disappointed to find out I am not mature at all and that my inner crude 14-year-old boy is alive and well, because I found the humor to be side-splittingly hilarious.
Deadpool leans on the fourth wall and breaks it right from the start by calling the game’s developer, High Moon Studios, and begging for a game based on his exploits to be made. When High Moon refuses, in one of the most politically incorrect and stunning moments in the game that may make or break the same for some right there, Deadpool remotely makes High Moon an offer they can’t refuse. High Moon quickly sends Deadpool a rushed script (perhaps a reference to the rushed production schedule for the game?) and it soon becomes clear there isn’t much of a plot at all. Instead, Deadpool shifts from event to event in ways he barely understands. Much of the dialogue is based on Deadpool conversing with two voices in his head, one that’s deeper and marginally more intelligent and mature and another that’s shrill and seems like an exceptionally perverted 12-year-old. Deadpool himself is somewhere in the middle in between these two distinct voices.
At first you’re out to kill a corrupt TV executive named Chance White, for reasons Deadpool does not understand as he’s only following the part of the script he bothered to read. You chase White a lot through the early going of the game, and White’s sanity slippage as Deadpool continues to pursue him is a comedic delight. For much of this part of the game, there are deliberate breaks from the core gameplay for brief moments. For one brief sequence the game’s budget runs out, so you are forced to play the game as a top-down brawler in the vein of the Legend of Zelda games (complete with a memorable parody of the Zelda dungeon theme) and cute 16-bit monsters popping out of machines that look like they belong in Sonic The Hedgehog. Another sequence has you taking control of a railgun and mowing down hordes of enemies in one of the most genuinely fun moments in the game. Another break in the gameplay is shamefully more traditional and seems to be a necessary inclusion in every Activision-published Marvel game: “The Slide of Doom”, which is immensely frustrating here as it is in every other game that’s featured it, though Deadpool childishly shouting “Whee!” makes it a tad more bearable. A tad.
The plot eventually changes and your new target becomes Mr. Sinister and his subordinates, the Marauders, leading to you getting to team up with the X-Men and Cable (there is one priceless sequence involving Wolverine I won’t dare spoil). The game starts getting more tedious from there, and also more frustrating as the enemies get cheaper (and continue to look the same, though this is lampshaded several times). There are still some memorable gameplay instances though, including one involving Rogue. But these breaks from the norm are not enough to combat the fatigue that comes with the gameplay, which is a variation of stuff that’s been done before at the best of times. You’re also using weapons that have been done before in every other action game ever made. It is up to the script and the humor to keep the game moving forward, and for the most part I found both up to the task. I won’t spoil the rest of the story from here, but despite the tedium there are still many priceless moments to be found.
Deadpool is not a game you play for original gameplay. The gameplay is basically Spider-Man, Shattered Dimensions with lots of blood, decapitations, and plenty of guns, complete with a surprising amount of emphasis on Playstation 2-era platforming. Matters aren’t helped by camera angles that are occasionally so wonky, I felt like they they were something that should have been excised years ago during the time of the original Playstation. Deadpool is a serviceable game and even fun at moments, yes. However like every recent Marvel game published by Activation that I have played, there is an annoying tedium to it all in the sense that every enemy you fight approaches you the exact same way and must be beaten the same way every time.
The controls are like the gameplay, adequate but not without their flaws. The most glaring issue with the controls is that Deadpool’s teleport ability and combat attack share the same button, so players may find themselves attempting to teleport around an enemy only to execute a direct attack or vice versa. This caused me to take quite a bit of unnecessary damage at several points in the game, particularly later on when the game becomes more difficult. I wound up eschewing the button altogether after getting killed over the button for the sixth or seventh time.
The graphics in Deadpool are nothing special, even when the second half of the game is spent on a tropical island filled with ruins, which should be a shining opportunity for beautiful scenery. There’s really nothing to write home about here. This is not The Last of Us or Halo 4 in terms of graphical prowess, the best way to describe the look of this game is Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions with a slightly more shiny coat of paint. It gets the job done, but if it weren’t for the cutscenes the graphics would be entirely forgettable.
When it comes to sound, all three of Deadpool’s personas are pulled off magnificently by the veteran voice actor Nolan North. Deadpool has never been brought to life so effectively, and North’s delivery saves some of the clunkier lines in the script, while enhancing already-funny lines to the level of absolute hilarity. Though again, such judgements depend on whether you find exchanges like “You can’t fire that railgun with one hand!” “Yes I can! I do things with one hand all the time!” funny or not. For me it was enough to continue playing to see what comes next, but for others it may not be so.
Stellar voice work from the rest of the voice actors involved enhance the experience further, as they vacillate between humorous delivery to more serious dialogue exceptionally well like the professionals they are (although Fred Tatasciore’s Cable sounds uncomfortably like the Kids WB! announcer). The sound effects are par for the course, with realistic gun and slashing sounds filling most of the SFX, and cartoon-ish sounds also pop up when necessary for comedic effect. The score is mostly a mixture of heavy metal, electronica, and Hans Zimmer-esque dark orchestra. Unfortunately it’s mostly forgettable, though it does a decent job of supporting the action. The only memorable piece of background music is the brief Zelda parody theme for the aforementioned 8-bit-esque sequence, which doesn’t really sit right with me.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of Deadpool will come down to how much enjoyment you get from the script and from Nolan North’s performance. The gameplay is nothing you haven’t done before, the graphics are nothing you haven’t seen before, and the soundtrack is nothing you haven’t heard before. The end result something fun, but also unoriginal. It doesn’t help that there isn’t much replay value either; once you beat the game, there’s no online multiplayer mode or any real extras to motivate you to play through again. This effectively turns Deadpool into a game to be rented or bought from a bargain pin for a lot of people. It’s a solid game, but mileage can and will vary significantly. My personal reaction was positive, but your own experience with Deadpool may be very different.