After successfully reigniting the Transformers franchise in video games three years in a row, Activision’s High Moon Studios moved over to a very different property. Marvel Comics’ “Merc with a Mouth,” Deadpool, is known for his irreverent attitude, propensity for violence, jokes, and multiple personalities, his ridiculous healing factor, and of course the fact that no matter where he is, he’s bound to break the fourth wall – he’s one of comics’ most self-aware characters.
From his humble beginnings in New Mutants #98 at the hand of Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, the character who started out as a simple assassin has been a member of several teams, has gone from joker to depressed, from freakshow to freakishly handsome, from fractured and deadly to… slightly more focused and deadly.
A recent star of last year’s Uncanny X-Force comic and the Marvel NOW! relaunches of Thunderbolts and his own ongoing, Deadpool, plus multiple mini-series, Deadpool’s star is shining bright in his main home of comic books. A stalled in development hell (but still possible) feature film and various animation appearance aren’t enough to contain him, however, and his new video game promises all those distinguishing characteristics are intact in a laugh-out-loud, blood-spattered affair.
Sitting in a PR office in New York City, I sat down for the majority of the first mission of the game – though not without a special look to about halfway through. At that later mission point, I saw Wade Wilson slashing and shooting his way through hordes of enemies belonging to Mr. Sinister, the main baddie of the story. While running through the ruins of the island of Genosha, plenty of comic book in-jokes and easter eggs can be found. Throughout each battle, Deadpool is constantly chattering away, often with the two voices in his head. With a script by longtime Deadpool comic writer Daniel Way, the back-and-forth between Deadpool, himself, and himself is quick, original, and really, really funny. Wade also says things situation to the game – he walks into a new area where several thugs start shooting at him, and says “Oh look, lots of enemies with guns! In video games, that means you’re going the right way!” If there are on-screen button prompts and you don’t press them, he’ll turn to the screen and yell or beg for you to hurry up. Even stealth kills get a gag or ten of their own. After sneaking up on an enemy, Deadpool turned to hush the player before spinning back around for a swift decapitation. “Watch this!” “I am so awesome!” and many more comments are spouted out by Nolan North, who voices all three of Deadpool’s voices.
After some swift butt-kicking with katanas, sais, hammers, and various guns, an old friend drops in: Cable. For those unfamiliar with the characters, or who just want an easy achievement/trophy, there’s an on-screen prompt to learn more about him when he lands titled “Who the F#$K is Cable?” Which then takes you into a montage of Cable-related comic book covers and basic info with a rocking soundtrack repeating those very words. After the introduction, Deadpool says, “I haven’t seen you since that comic we co-starred in together!” and goes on to get a new mission from the time-traveler – which he barely listens to, instead talking to himself in his head. Eventually, to end the conversation (after Deadpool turns and BEGS you to make it stop), a trigger pull causes Wade to shoot himself. When he wakes up, he’s been stabbed in the chest with a note giving him the basics of the mission.
Those cameos – Cable, Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke, and Domino are all promised (amongst several well-known and maybe not-so-well-known villains that will definitely need their own "who the f#$k is that" montages) – help progress the story and plant it firmly in the Marvel Universe, but High Moon promises there’s more to it than just as mission-givers.
After the late level demo, I got to jump in from the beginning of the game. Starting in Deadpool’s easter-egg filled apartment, it literally starts with him pitching his own video game, before jumping into the action of said game. It stays incredibly meta, with him talking to the game’s producer, calling his own voice actor, reading the script, and even giving a shout-out to his early days, if you explore his apartment enough. After a brief tutorial, the action begins and is pretty constant. This isn’t a deep puzzle-filled affair and won’t have long stretches of platforming (though there is some); it’s clear from the very beginning that Deadpool is about hacking, slashing, and shooting your way through as many enemies as can fit on the screen, and it’s better for it. The addition of a short-range teleport button to the standard jump, light, and heavy attacks make for some really fun combos and a little more strategy to it if you want that. Otherwise, newbies to the action genre who just want to blow off some steam will be perfectly happy as well.
There’s not much more to say about the initial mission of Deadpool. While the gameplay will be largely familiar to action game vets, it’s the delivery – the voices, the (often raunchy) jokes, and the over-the-top bloody-as-hell kills – that will make this game something fun and special. If you're looking for high art, you've come to the wrong place. If you're looking for so-stupid-it's-hilarious and insane action, this is exactly where you need to be. From the early moments, this looks like it will be 100% Deadpool, and that’s all fans can really hope for.
Deadpool hits PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 ($49.99), and PC ($39.99) on June 25, 2013.