Developers don’t seem to have grasped the fact that while games that poke fun at their own poor design can be amusing, they are still poorly designed. As much as Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’s knowingly patronizing tutorial might have been entertaining at first, most smiles will have faded by the time the last unneeded prompt leaves the screen. And it’s a pitfall Deadpool suffers more than any other game we’ve seen, the fourth-wall-smashing shenanigans of Marvel’s wisecracking antihero unable to consistently hit the high notes of some of the game’s most inventive set pieces.
In these rare instances of brilliance, we see flashes of the Deadpool game we wanted to play. Although the aforementioned wry commentary on the budget design is more common, it’s the moments where the game’s inbuilt freedom is used to allow it to creep into other genres and play styles that really stand out. Well, those and the songs – we’ve never played a Marvel game where people were so poised to burst into song and as much stick as Nolan North may get for being in everything, you’ve got to love the gusto with which he has clearly thrown himself into this role. Between Deadpool’s various personae, there are some genuinely coffee-out-of-the-nose lines and North’s delivery, while likely to be too much for some, is great throughout. He does have a range beyond ‘oh crap’ after all, it seems.
But when Deadpool isn’t impressing, it’s almost inevitably disappointing. There’s no middle ground here and outside of a few key moments when things get changed up, gameplay is only ever average at best. After seeing his flashy combo potential in Marvel Vs Capcom 3, the slower pace and wandering camera here just make it feel so much less frenetic than the character deserves and the genre demands. It feels as though it was once a more technical fighter akin to Devil May Cry before it was watered down with Batman-style counters and simplified special moves, the end result being a system which is easy to exploit and hard to ever truly enjoy.
To make matters worse, High Moon occasionally insists on turning the game into a shooter, and it’s an awful shooter. Gun-toting enemies are far too common and on higher difficulties, getting close can be near impossible. It’s just one of many traditional genre traps Deadpool is guilty of stumbling into – cheap enemies and lazy battle design that just sees them flood the stage, horrible platform sections that neither mechanics or camera can keep up with… the list goes on. And while Deadpool’s gaming debut will raise the odd smile, the real value of so mediocre an action game comes down to how often that happens. Which, in turn, depends on how much you like the character – there’s a good two-to-three points of swing in the score here based on that alone, and it’s that that will determine whether on not you should salvage Deadpool from the bargain bin or just let him make friends with Thor and Iron Man there.