Every video game needs a selling point, and here’s how Deadpool lures you into his demented world and first outing as an interactive star: “Hey player, just go with it. We’re about to change your fuckin’ life.”
Marvel Comics’ Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is a learned student of pop culture. He speaks geek, even though his general attitude would probably put him on the bully side of the social equation. Like most schoolyard tough guys, his agressive behavior is a smokescreen. Deadpool is a born loser; he mocks what he doesn’t understand, and therefore everything is fair game in his eyes. He’s one of the most unusual and entertaining characters in Marvel’s arsenal.
Of course he’s the star of his own video game.
Playing as Deadpool is a relatively easy thing to imagine: between his healing factor, his sword+gun loadout, and his ability to teleport short distances, he’s got the perfect mix of ingredients for third-person brawler-style play. The trick with the character, and the biggest challenge facing developer High Moon Studios, is nailing the comedy. Fortunately, they’ve got some help: Marvel’s own Daniel Way.
The longtime Deadpool writer brings his considerable talents to bear on wrapping hilarity around High Moon’s tight beat ‘em up play, and an early look left us very encouraged. No, that’s not right. In truth, Way seems to have nailed it. This is the pop culture-referencing, gleefully sadistic, fourth wall-breaking nutcase that we all know and love from the books.
The conceit for the Deadpool game is built around the idea that the so-called Merc with a Mouth wants to be the star of his own video game. Naturally. In fact, the story begins, fittingly, in the most meta way possible, with Wilson listening as his answering machine spits out a message from a High Moon Studios rep – “you know, the guy you kept calling dickhead in the parking lot the other night,” he says – explaining that the studio is passing on the Deadpool game pitch.
An immediate follow-up message from Mr. Dickhead plays out in a much friendlier way, though it feels like a forced sort of friendliness. The screams of terror and pain in the background might have something to do with it. He says that High Moon reconsidered, and will be moving forward with the game. The camera then moves to settle on a pile of shipping boxes filled with explosives, all marked for delivery to High Moon Studios.
The play in Deadpool isn’t particularly novel, but it is certainly functional and in keeping with the capabilities of the character. You can deal out light and heavy attacks with whichever melee weapons you have equipped – dual swords, hammers, or sai – aim and fire your equipped range weapon with LT/RT, respectively, chuck grenades, jump/double-jump, and teleport dodge in any direction. The D-pad allows for quick melee and ranged weapon switching on the fly, and the Back/Select button brings you to an upgrade menu where you can improve Deadpool’s gear and abilities.
You’ve played this sort of game before; in God of War; in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed; in Devil May Cry – in any number of games cut from that same mold. It’s difficult to tell from an hour-long preview how technical Deadpool gets, but our first impression is of a game built for the mainstream. That’s fine. Activision should be shooting wide with this character.
The comedy is what elevates the experience, and what left us itching to see more after the hands-on time concluded. It’s a rare game that inspires truly out-loud laughter, and Deadpool is up to the challenge. Big credit to Nolan North here, who provides Wilson’s speaking voice as well as the character’s two deranged inner voices. The result is a constant stream of dialogue firing out quips and commentary as you play. The amusement factor is high, thanks to Way’s sharp writing.
Deadpool is straightforward play with seemingly top-shelf comedy wrapped around it. Way’s writing and North’s voice make beautiful music together, and the simple, highly accessible action should drive this one home for a wide audience. Extras like collectible tacos and challenge modes seem to offer a limited degree of replay value, but this one seems like a perfect summer diversion, based on our preview time.
Deadpool comes to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PC platforms on June 25, 2013.