‘Do poop jokes ever get old?’ I ask myself as I view the world premiere of High Moon Studios’ Deadpool. I didn’t think this question would ever be so critical, but when approaching the latest video game incarnation of Marvel’s meta-humor-spewing, double-katana-wielding cheeky bastard, this is a real make-or-break situation. How many times can a character smirk at the double entendre of ‘package’ before your eyerolls stop meaning ‘oh, Deadpool’ and start meaning ‘oh, please let this end’?
I can already feel the dedicated Deadpool fans screaming at me: ‘but that’s what he’s all about!’ – and you’re not wrong, nor is it a bad thing by default. The opening 20 or so minutes we were given to play Deadpool made me chuckle more than any game since Bulletstorm, a game I hold in seriously high regard. The difference is that while Bulletstorm was also a game that filled up the gas tank and kickstarted the engine of the dying FPS motor, Deadpool almost entirely runs on its humour. Inside the very works of the game I can see little engineers shoveling more dick jokes and fourth wall breaks into the engine, knowing that if they stop, it’ll just fade into obscurity. An average action adventure released in the last breath of a console generation and forgotten.
‘I’m awesome’, Deadpool reminds you for the hundredth time. Yes, you are, ‘pool – you’re a funny, unique breath of fresh air in the world of comic book superheroes, but your game doesn’t quite represent you as such. Once you’re past the amusing first five minutes, in which Deadpool is delivered the script of the adventure he’s about to star in and makes a point of shouting at the player to not screw it up, you’re thrust straight into the action – in a sewer. The sewer, my least favourite video game location, where original adventures go to die. What follows is the most bog-standard ‘run and jump’ platforming, followed by combat that does little to meet the standard of the hack’n’slash games of today, or indeed most superhero games (I’d call it an embarrassment in the wake of Rocksteady’s Arkham titles). Switching between dual swords and dual guns feels good, but neither really exceed, and the teleporting ability is nothing but an aesthetic change to where most games would have a roll feature. It’s bloody and well-paced combat, but ultimately will be nothing that anyone who’s played a video game in the last five years hasn’t seen over and over. Combos, skill unlocks, stealth kills – all stuff that can all go unsaid these days. Maybe he’ll do a moonwalk at some point.
As the demo proceeds, the player continues turning thugs into red mist throughout a large office building, and by this point it’s clear that for now, this is all we’re seeing. Deadpool is Deadpool, but he’s not doing Deadpool things. There’s nothing over-the-top or even particularly exciting about the adventure he’s on, and if that changes later on, High Moon are oddly reserved about showing us right now. Take away the gratuitous one-liners and you’d be bored silly; this is a great character imprisoned in the world of a mediocre video game. High Moon, if you’ve got the balls to call your players a dick, then at least take some gambles with your gameplay. Throw me on an exploding moon, make me fight while on LSD, pit me in a duel with Kim Jong-un – ANYTHING.
The rather worrying thing is, with Deadpool’s release this time next month, there’s no time for overhaul. If you’ve been twiddling your thumbs waiting for this game for a year now, you’d better hope that High Moon Studios have got some serious surprises up their sleeves, because I found none here.