Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Deadpool - Unpolished Awesome

I'd like to open this review by admitting that I'm a huge fan when it comes to Deadpool. Marvel's morally ambiguous Merc With a Mouth, specifically the Daniel Way portrayal, is what actually got me into reading comics in the first place (yes, comics period), so I hold him a bit close in that regard. No matter what comics on my pull list may come and go, the one constant will always be Deadpool. Whenever there is a comic for the Regenerating Degenerate, or even if it just features an appearance by him (including variant covers), I'm always going to pick it up when it comes out. I'm even going so far as to buy back issues/trade paperbacks of his adventures, since he is the only character I am actually that diligent about collecting. To that end, I'd recommend reading Wade Wilson's War for an idea of a great miniseries featuring Deadpool, as well as the fantastic ongoing currently being penned by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan.

So naturally, when I saw at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 that High Moon Studios was producing a game based entirely around Marvel's other well-known Canadian mutate, I went absolutely wild. I was elated when I went to the Activision booth the next day to see what they were doing and I even declared on the internet that the mere idea of him having a game was mankind's single greatest achievement (we're all allowed to exaggerate, aren't we?). I even pre-ordered the game online as soon as it was available and willingly waited an entire year in anticipation, the release of the launch trailer the day before release making me restless with anticipation (I even at a chimichanga for the first time that night in preparation). When the game came out yesterday, I made sure to get to GameStop as soon as possible to pick up my order, later playing the game immediately upon getting home. Interestingly, I was able to beat it in one day (on the default difficulty setting by the way), so I am able to get this review out a little sooner than I had anticipated. So, you're probably asking, what do I think of it as a Deadpool fan? Well, to be honest, it's one of the most fun experiences I've had in a while, but it needed a bit of polish to bring it to a higher level.

#1 of what is currently my favorite Deadpool run.

From what I was able to gather from the campaign, penned by Daniel Way, there are actually two stories going on simultaneously. The meta-plot revolves around Deadpool contacting High Moon Studios so they can create a game based on him. However, he is unimpressed when he has to follow a script, so naturally he messes around with it (in crayon, no less) before actually doing something in the game. The second plot occurs shortly after a contract killing is interrupted by Mister Sinister, who does so by taking out Deadpool's target. In order to seek revenge, Deadpool follows Mister Sinister to the former mutant haven of Genosha, where Sinister is using mutant DNA in an attempt to create the ultimate mutant clone army.

As for the execution, it's mixed one way or another. Both plots get equal time, but the Mister Sinister plot is put a little out of the spotlight as Deadpool continues to negotiate his game with High Moon. This is probably what it's like after he's tampered with the script, along with his general uncaring nature of what's going on on Genosha. As time goes on he does seem to care a bit more, but only to the end that he would be allowed to complete his revenge, and we do get a better understanding of what is mostly there as background. On the other hand, this style of storytelling actually made it pretty easy to follow along despite the fact that I don't have much experience at all with X-Men lore, so in the end I was actually able to learn something about the world of the comics. Helpful bios are also accessible about the characters and locations in the game, so that helps out immensely. Daniel Way did his homework there and for the most part, I can't really fault him for providing such an enjoyable story, even if the X-Men who appear don't really do much in the end.

Though Cable does get a lot of attention by contrast.

What goes hand-in-hand with the Deadpool experience, which is perhaps the most important part of it, is that the script is absolutely hilarious. Deadpool's one-liners are extremely funny to the point where I have laughed about them outside the game, though I wish there was just a little more variety in some of his combat one-liners, plus there are a lot of sight gags and meta references that fit the character, or at least his Daniel Way portrayal, perfectly. To give a couple examples, there's a trophy for repeatedly slapping an unconscious Wolverine, Deadpool at one point motorboats Cable's chest while under the delusion that he's a big-breasted fan girl and Cable even gets a badass song for his bio that repeatedly asks "Who the f--- is that?" while explaining who he is. With some screwing around with the camera, since it's actually the player following Deadpool, and some unexpected gameplay changes with continued interference from Deadpool and High Moon, the game never fails to entertain or be gut-bustingly hilarious.

The only real weak point of the game I would say is the combat. More specifically, it's simply unrefined. There are a few weapons at Deadpool's disposal, three swords, and four each of guns and throwables, and while they all have their own strengths and weaknesses, something feels off about each different type in general. The melee combat is pretty reliable and I mostly used the Beauroyre Blades and *Bang Lee* Sais, but sometimes it gets a little difficult to pull off the combo that I desire, which could be due in part to a legitimate inability of me to do so or there is somehow always some kind of guard up. Really, it sometimes gets a bit ridiculous when there are several different enemy types onscreen that I'm trying to get a combo on, not taking into account the number of them that can grant offensive or defensive buffs to others nearby. It also felt like there was a lot of health stacked on top of enemies later on, which marked almost the only difference between earlier and later ones for some.

If only combat were more than just this.

Then there's the gunplay, which is also pretty reliable, but has some issues of its own. While aiming, there are a couple different things that can occur. If you choose to do some hard aiming, then it can auto-lock onto a target, though the lock is broken immediately when you touch the right analog stick. It can be a little difficult to get this going and is highly recommended not to do when trying to fight in a group. In this case you can do some run-and-gun action, but that's not entirely accurate, so constant stick manipulation is required, though you can also do some blind firing during a combo which has a great chance of working out. A similar aiming problem exists with the throwable objects, since there's really no way of doing it in a pinch without just blindly having it go in a predetermined arc based on your camera angle, so you really have to think in four dimensions to use them effectively.

But why is landing a combo so important? Well, that's because of the momentum mechanic, where the more you land hits on enemies in a short amount of time, the more a bar(s) on the left side of the screen fills up, allowing you to perform a special attack with certain button combinations to deal more damage to a surrounding group. To avoid having a combo broken from a melee attack, as well as counter these attacks, Deadpool is equipped with a teleporter than can only be used so many times in a row before needing an invisible quick cooldown period. These attacks are very effective and fun to pull off, but in order to access more and more of these attacks, you must spend DP (Deadpool Points) on upgrades that can only be purchased after you have killed enough enemies with different weapons. The limitation is a little annoying, but encourages experimentation, even if that attempt seems a little misguided. Combat is overall enough to get you by even in the annoying fights in the final stretch of the game, but with a little more polish that could have been a more fun and less repetitive part of the experience. The teleporter is fun to use outside of combat though.

Though this still sums up the combat experience.

Lastly, the game has a problem in terms of replay value, in that there is almost none. Outside of replaying the campaign to earn all the trophies or earning enough DP to finally buy everything, there's not much else to do outside of a standard challenge mode where you kill waves of enemies within a time limit to try and get on a leaderboard. It's a little sad that High Moon couldn't do anything to justify another playthrough, like having hard to find collectibles lead to a greater reward or something, but that's just the way it is for now. At least they didn't tack on a multiplayer mode; I don't even know how that would've worked.

On a technical note, the graphics are pretty decent, though a far cry from High Moon's Fall of Cybertron, but everyone does stand out despite its somewhat subdued color palette. The music is also just all right, but helps my heavy metal craving, and the voice acting is actually very good. Nolan North once again does an excellent job as Deadpool, with Steve Blum giving a good Wolverine performance again, or at least form what he is able to do. For everyone else, while I'm not familiar with what they are "supposed to" sound like, they're great as well. No complaints there.

Great performances from Nolan North (left) and Steve Blum (right).

When all is said and done, Deadpool is a game that, while insanely fun and humorous, could have used a bit more time put into the combat system. Still, I really don't regret playing it and had a blast that was enough to at least satisfy my knowledge of what the game was like. Fans of Deadpool like myself will definitely find the most enjoyment out of the game to justify the $50 price tag, though the uninitiated or other fans of Marvel comics should probably wait until the price gets a little lower, perhaps by another $10 or $20, before trying to play it. That said, I really hope the game generates enough sales for a better sequel, preferably written by current Deadpool writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan; they're actually hoping for it too.

Now, I think there's someone who wants to talk to me. I'm going to post this and see what he wants.

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