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Deadpool - Review
Spiderman, the X-Men, Captain America, there's plenty of other far more recognisable superheroes to lead their own game so it's rather interesting that Activision gave the go ahead to Deadpool. Developed by High Moon Studios, notable for making, what I'm told, are rather decent games out of the Transformers franchise, Deadpool sees them shift from a third-person shooter to a more combat-centric title.
And this is where the problems lie. Deadpool is as generic as an action game can get. Run through a corridor, slash up some bad guys, rinse and repeat. In theory, that's the whole point; in fitting with Deadpool's character, he's actually working on the game that you're playing, resulting in plenty of fourth-wall breaking shenanigans. Voiced with wonderful enthusiasm by ubiquitous voice-actor Nolan North, Deadpool is starring in his own video game and is happy to address you, the player, at every opportunity, resulting in some oddball references to various video games, some of which raise a smile.
However, there's a certain point where all the postmodern jokes and surreal humour just becomes a way to mask that what you've created is an incredibly average game in every way possible. Combat is simplistic and mapped to just two buttons, while you also have access to a bevy of firearms that you can unlock with the experience points you earn. Admittedly, there's actually a lot of diversity to Deadpool's equipment; you can wield, katanas, hammers, shotguns, pulse rifles and then there's numerous upgrades that they can be kitted out with. The problem though, is that it's never necessary to experiment.
This is because enemies are sorely lacking in variety, and their attack patterns rarely encourage you to mix up your weapon set-up. Typically, mashing X and Y will down most foes if you simply hammer away at them long enough. Occasionally, you'll have to take on a bigger enemy, which translates to little more than spamming your teleport ability, or countering their attack with the push of a button. It gets boring very quickly and what's worse is that a lot of these enemies have a boatload of health, meaning that you'll be stuck going through the same cycle for a good few minutes before they drop dead.
However, the major problem with Deadpool is how unbalanced the combat system is. Melee assailants will almost never be able to kill Deadpool, not least because you come equip with a teleport ability and can counter pretty much every attack they throw at you. Ranged adversaries on the other hand will whittle away your health in a matter of seconds. It leads to a very bizarre problem where the way you think you're meant play Deadpool will actually get you killed 90% of the time. Instead of going charging into the midst of a boatload of enemies, throwing caution to the wind, as Deadpool would, you'll typically find yourself cowering behind a pile of boxes luring enemies towards you in small groups. Part of the reason that the recent Batman games were so successful is because they captured how the character should feel to play; there's no discrepancies between the Batman in the cut-scenes and the Batman that you control.
In Deadpool though, the way that the superhero comes across during cinematics is the opposite of how it ends up feeling to actually play as him. This is because High Moon Studios place too much emphasis on long range shooting, using the stiff, awkward aiming system. Rather than just use your guns as a way to maintain a combo between your bouts of sword swiping, a la Devil May Cry, here they become a necessity in order to defeat some foes. One enemy, for instance, shoots lightning and ice whilst flying, forcing you behind cover while you slowly take it down from a distance, which takes forever due to high health and inconsistent aiming.
Having said that, the close combat is similarly spoiled by a frankly awful camera that cannot seem to cope with Deadpool's teleportation mechanic. Frequently, when you teleport whilst fighting, you'll re-appear only to not know where the hell your character is, or what direction he's facing. This is exacerbated more so by the game's use of small corridors for good portions of game play which similarly play havoc with the camera controls.
Then there's the game's length. Deadpool is short, clocking in at about 5 hours on a normal play through, depending on your ability. What's worse is that whilst short, several of the game's six chapters feel dragged out and padded. After about three hours in, the enemy designs begin to repeat themselves, and the whole thing can begin to feel like a chore. The actual level designs hint at something better from time to time; a large part of the game takes place on Genosha, as Deadpool follows Wolverine and some other X-Men to track down Sinister. But instead of making use of the comic book lore at their fingertips, High Moon Studios instead have two entire levels made up of a sewer and a prison; the most clichéd of video game environments.
I don't want to sound too harsh to Deadpool though, the comic book setting helps alleviate a lot of the poorer choices that the developers made. More importantly, when Deadpool is arguing with himself; the gruff super-ego lecturing him on how to approach the enemy, whilst his crazy id shouts like a child at him, there's actually some decent bits of humour. In fact, the best bits of game play are usually those where you're fighting alongside Sable, Rogue, or some other superhero. The script is by no means clever, and for the most part the jokes are rather stupid and juvenile, but ever so occasionally there's a hint of something better.
High Moon Studio's game means well, tries its best, and wants you to enjoy your time with it. In reality though, it's tiresome, repetitive and all together rather childish. A bit like Deadpool himself then.
Deadpool was released, in the UK, on June 28th.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.
© 2013 LudoLogic