Deadpool has always been a comic book character ripe for adaptation, and video games always seemed like a perfect fit for the fourth-wall-breaking ‘Merc with a Mouth’. It could hardly be worse than that Wolverine film right?
The task of making Deadpool’s very own video game fell to High Moon Studios and the project got off to a very good start when the very first script proved so good that Marvel signed off on it straight away. It’s easy to see why; High Moon has nailed the manic sense of humour that comes part and parcel with the character.
Best known for breaking the fourth wall, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of that on show here. The game’s story in fact is based around Deadpool wanting to make and star in his own game. He even owns and makes amends to a copy of the script! It’s meta, it’s manic and it’s all pulled off with panache.
There is no better example of this than the game’s opening, set in Deadpool’s apartment. It’s a small area but there is plenty to do, with everything either setting up the story, adding to the character or providing a laugh. You can play air guitar, go on the internet and even pump up a sex doll, though thankfully that was all you could do with it.
There’s even a short skit in which Deadpool makes a phone call to one Nolan North, the actor who provides the voice of both the anti-hero and the voices inside his head. It’s a great set-up for the main game’s tone, but, unfortunately, it was also by far the best thing about the demo I played.
Jumping into the story’s first level, the action begins with a short combat tutorial in the sewers below a tower owned by Deadpool’s first target. Clearly not looking to reinvent the wheel, the game has the standard light and heavy attacks, with the ability to teleport short distances substituting for the rolling dodge similar action games would have.
Guns can be integrated into the melee combat but the system doesn’t work fluidly enough for the two styles to overlap in a meaningful manner, however, this may change with any upgrades the player is able to get later on. You start out dual-wielding swords and a pistol but additional weapons, such as big comedy hammers and dual shotguns, can be bought with the Deadpool tokens picked up as you progress. Using these, players can also upgrade their existing arsenal.
There is a stealth option, but it comes with a Deadpool twist so selecting it is done for laughs rather than any tactical advantage. Tip-toeing behind an enemy in a Looney Toons fashion, the player is then presented with two options. There’s the boring stealthy kill or something a lot more over the top. Yeah, I’ll go with option B please.
For both good and bad reasons the game most reminded me of the PS1-era Spider-Man games. It’s very linear, with dry environments and little else to do but fight and collect, but the combat does work and is, for the most part, satisfying in small bursts.
There was a major problem with my time with the game however, one I couldn’t possibly leave out of this preview even if it was simply a freak incident. Deadpool is set to be released in just over a month and yet I was unable to complete the demo presented to me because of one enormous glitch.
Presented with a room of enemies shortly before the level’s climax, I dispatched of all who there was to kill but the expected cut scene that should have followed never triggered. Restarting from a checkpoint I cleared the room again, but it made no difference. After a third attempt I reluctantly threw in the towel and my time with the game came to an end.
Another major error reared its head in a set piece shortly before the one which marked the end of my game. Deadpool, having commandeered a helicopter, takes control of its gun turret only to find that no enemies had been spawned.
Sat there watching the dreary rooftop environment drift past, the game’s hero continued to spout off one-liners until another chopper finally appeared, providing the short section’s final target. I briefly considered whether this was part of the game’s sense of humour and indicative of the protagonists’ insanity seeing as he was still spouting one-liners and having the time of his life. It clearly wasn’t.
It is important to say that this was a demo assembled with an unfinished build of the game, and in these circumstances small glitches are often dismissed for that very reason. However, on this occasion it was clearly significant enough to report back on.
Deadpool may not set the world alight but it is still fun and functional. I’d say it puts the fun in functional but I’m both better than that (I think) and I was expecting the game to be a little bit more than that.
High Moon’s game carries itself with an admirable swagger but like so many superhero games before it, it lacks the polish of its contemporaries. Perhaps a case of style over substance, the style is still something that will appeal to fans and the substance is still serviceable enough to make it a ride worth taking, just maybe not at the first price of admission.
UPDATE: We’ve since chatted to Activision about the experience and they’ve given us the following statement:
“Hey Deadpool fans! As this was indeed a demo build, there would have been glitches in the build. But hopefully gamers will be happy to learn that the ones you mentioned have already been ironed out and the game is now looking even more polished in time for Deadpool’s most awesome entrance on 28th June.”