Deadpool is an easy character to mess up, as is evidenced by his infamous appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While that version of the character barely deserved the name Deadpool, there are plenty of other examples as how to not tell a Deadpool tale.
Like the 2013 Deadpool game from High Moon Studios and Activision, for example. Simply titled Deadpool, the game was recently rereleased for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, no doubt to cash in on the upcoming Ryan Reynold's film of the same name. Unfortunately, it really, really shouldn't have been.
This isn't a review. I've played Deadpool on Xbox One for an hour. It was a free rental from Redbox, the movie is about to come out and I figured, why not? I had always been curious about the title and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to take it for a spin.
Sure, I had read the original reviews for it when it launched on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. They weren't kind. But the game comes from High Moon Studios, the creators of the excellent Transformers: War for Cybertron and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Surely it couldn't be that bad?
Unfortunately, Deadpool is bad. Are there worse? Certainly. But a game starring the merc-with-a-mouth is so rife with potential that it made the fact that the game was so lackluster even more disappointing.
Adding to the disappointment is that the game starts off great. You find yourself in Deadpool's apartment, and as you might expect, things get pretty meta. Whether it's Deadpool talking on the phone with voice actor Nolan North (who voices Deadpool in the game) to Deadpool increasing the size of his black censor bar while taking a dump, it's every bit as over-the-top and outrageous as you would expect. All the while Deadpool's two inner personalities riff off one another, and that's not even mentioning how the game treats objectives and achievements. This is what Deadpool is known for. He's known for breaking the fourth wall and making readers look at things from a different perspective. He's crude, rude but also strangely sincere and honest.
I spent at least 15 minutes just fiddling with things in Deadpool's apartment and seeing what jokes would come out of it. I was having a good time. The core "plot" of the game revolves around a submitted game script sent from one of the folks at High Moon Studios for Deadpool's approval. He promptly scribbles all over it and proposes his own game.
So far, so good. But it's not long before you're actually introduced to Deadpool's gameplay, and then it all kind of falls apart. The game simply isn't fun. It's some of the most generic, hack-n-slash gameplay I've ever encountered, and the gunplay is so poor that it makes you forget Deadpool even has guns in the first place. Add on an annoying camera, bland level design and boring enemy encounters and you have a game that doesn't hold up once you actually start playing it. The framerate was also awful, and considering I was playing on the Xbox One, I can't imagine how it plays on the Xbox 360.
Some of the game's significant flaws could be overlooked if Deadpool continued to amuse or surprise, but from what I played the game simply doesn't. It is constant jokes and one-liners, many of them unfunny, and when combined with such trivial combat the end result is a game that simply loses its appeal. Deadpool needs a more precise writing hand than High Moon Studios was able to provide in order to be great.
Look, it's easy to overdo Deadpool. It's not just the game that has this problem, the comics and likely the movie will have it, too. In small doses, the character is great. He's different, he's unique. He's funny, and he can look at comic books (or movies, or video games) in a way that no other character can.
But even after an hour on near nonstop jokes, many of them cringe-worthy, it makes you remember why Deadpool is enjoyable as a once-a-month comic and not an 8-hour video game. And I only played the first hour.
Once again, this isn't a review. It's more of an observation. I'm sure there are more enjoyable moments sprinkled throughout the game. Heck, this YouTube video of cutscenes and funny moments has more than 41 million views. That doesn't seem possible, but it is. Clearly, somebody is enjoying at least the comedy side of High Moon's work.
If all of Deadpool was like the opening apartment scene, filled with meta commentary on game design and clever inside jokes, it would be worth checking out. Unfortunately, it grows boring after barely an hour, and Deadpool should be anything but boring.
He deserves better. So if you're planning on watching the Deadpool movie and looking for more merc-with-a-mouth goodness in the aftermath, don't go to your local Redbox (or game rental/retailer of choice) and play the game. It's not worth it. Instead, hope the Deadpool film performs well and inspires another developer to take a stab at one of the most unique (and offensive) characters in comic book history.