I received a copy of Deadpool from Gamefly last week and I spent the better part of last night playing through it. This isn't a formal review, since I haven't finished it, but more of an opportunity to get my thoughts down in blog form.
Comedy = Tragedy + Timing
Deadpool has a number of things going for and against it. Before getting into the critical aspect of this discussion, I want to point out how genuinely funny the game can be. This is largely the result of Deadpool's character who is incredibly self aware of being a comic book character. This extends to a lot of meta jokes about comics and video games tot he point where the impetus of the adventure is Deadpool's request to High Moon Studios to make a video game (going as far as to call Nolan North to voice him, since they "sound alike"). Although I've never read a Deadpool comic, I get his schtick and it plays out very well here resulting in a good number of laugh out loud moments.
Much of the comedy can be attributed to the wild and unhinged performance by Nolan North. I've grown so used to him playing straight-laced characters like Nathan Drake and Desmond Miles, so to hear him go totally bat shit insane is a real treat. I absolutely loved North in Saints Row IV but his performance doesn't reach this game's level of madness and insanity. Not only does he supply the voice of Deadpool, Nolan North works double duty as the crazy half of the character's inner dialog. The comedy isn't of the filthy or inappropriate variety, like in Saints Row IV, instead the joke comes from the anti-hero's wild non-sequitors, fourth wall breaking and genuine buffoonery.
As funny as the game is, I find it interesting that while the video game medium can play to the strengths of Deadpool's erratic and unpredictable behavior, in most cases it simply can't keep up and the joke gets ruined because of bad timing. A good example occurs at the very start of the game in which the player is awarded a trophy for simply getting Deadpool's ass out of a chair. I watched as the character went into an animation where he points to the top corner of the screen and makes a vague crack about achievements. In that moment, I had no idea what was going on. What is he talking about and why is he gesturing? Only when that familiar sound went off and the trophy notice appeared did I get the joke, offering a polite "Ohhh, now I get it! <polite chuckle>" in response.
Jokes fall flat in combat due to the repetitiveness of one liners. I've only spent about two and a half hours with it, but I've heard the "If I slice you, do you not bleed?" almost a dozen times.
Arclight? Is that Iron Man's Girlfriend?
I consider myself to be a very casual Marvel fan and if there isn't a movie about them, chances are I don't know a great deal about the company's extensive catalog of heroes and villains. Deadpool does a fun job of providing background on the main players. High Moon Studios could have simply offered some text and a picture or two about these people but instead, the player is treated to thirty second cutscenes made up of a collection of character art backed by dialog from Deadpool himself. I thought it to be cool, flashy and entertaining to watch. I really enjoyed that Cable doesn't get a proper bio, just a hip theme song.
While a fairly notable cast of characters, I can't help but wonder why the game doesn't feature any high profile X-Men characters outside of Psylocke, Rogue and Wolverine. Let me know if I'm mistaken in dismissing villains like Blockbuster, Arclight and Vertigo, but it seemd to me that High Moon dipped from the bottom of the well.
A Funny Game, But Not A Fun Game
Deadpool is funny. I'd even go as far as to call it hysterical. I only wish the game was as much fun to play as it is to laugh with. The game is very much a standard third person brawler replete with all sorts of upgrades and combat modifiers to purchasing using D(eadpool)P(points). I found that most of the upgrades were rather expensive and nothing annoyed me more than to have Deadpool constantly tell me to purchase upgrades despite not having the money for them.
Combat mostly relies on the tried and true mechanic of stringing together light and heavy attacks to vanquish foes. Given his love of guns and heavy artillery, you can mix in pistol, shotgun, pulse rifle and rocket launchers shots in between hack and slash moves. The method of hitting enemies and dodging their attacks with Deadpool's teleport ability is similar to that of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The longer you can keep a chain going without getting hit, the more powerful your attacks will become along with bonus perks earned from upgrades. This worked really well in Batman while Deadpool it lacks the same level of visceral, methodical combat. It doesn't help that most basic level foes can take a lot of damage before dying. Combos are encouraged yet they didn't feel all that necessary to me. I accomplished the goal of killing enemies just by mashing buttons. No real finesse required.
The platforming bits that aren't very fun either. I found it easy to misjudge the length of a gap, causing me to lose any ascending progress. Thankfully, I never have to worry about Deadpool falling to his death as thanks to teleportation will bring him back to the start of that section (a la Prince of Persia). That doesn't excuse the tediousness of these particular sections, however. I'm glad that these segments are few and far between. So far.
There's still plenty of game left (I think?) and the biggest motivation for me to keep playing right now is the sheer unpredictability of character's wacky hijinks.