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Developer: High Noon, Mercenary Technology [PC]
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC [Reviewed][Steam]
Deadpool they call him, the merc with the mouth and one of Marvel's most popular anti-heroes. He's had his share of cameo's of recent years, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, that new mediocre RPG and a swell of other bit parts, but nothing that really allows him to shine on his own. Additionally, outside of a few cameos in the animated and Wolverine: Origins film, there hasn't been any focused video content to really bring his character to life.
A risky prospect to be the first piece of interactive video content to make his character shine on his own, but if anyone could do it it's High Noon Studio's. These guys have proven they can take a legendary franchise in Transformers and turn them into fantastic tributes that both serve the source material and are engaging to play. With comic writer Daniel Way lending his skills to the game there's enough talent on hand to create something amazing.
Well, close enough anyway.
Starting off in Deapool's grotty apartment, legs akimbo watching TV the hilarity begins. Exploring his dwelling of choice we are teleported into his insane mindset and peppered with references from his comic adventures. From making pancakes, playing with the dog, admiring his fine weaponry, professing love to his blow up doll or merely taking a crap, there's a myriad of content to get you into the mood for his 4th wall breaking antics, of which there will be plenty. After tooling around it's time to work on the latest contract from Domino, capture a boss of a company by any means possible and in Deadpool's world that means only one thing.
When it comes to killing, Deadpool is a pro, when it comes to gameplay things are very straight forward, bearing on the generic side. On the melee side he has light and heavy attacks, mix them up in simple timing (or mashing) is enough to start spilling blood. On the ranged side pulling the fire trigger during a melee combo will focus on the nearest target, which is the body of his "gunkarta" combat style, or you can manually aim for headshots which ought to be enough to take any minion out in an easy shot.
Utilising these two attack styles in tandem is necessary to take on the different enemy types. Broken down there are light, medium and heavy minions to fight, along with a group of ranges attackers. Timing your combos are essential, like Arkham Asylum a counter button will flash above an attackers head, if you hit it in time you'll cancel their attack and fill your special meter. When it's full you unleash a group attack for either your melee or ranged weapons, and if you forget to use it enough Deadpool won't hesitate to let you know.
Maintaining combo's are essential to develop DP, or Deadpool points used to unlock additional combo attacks, weapons and character upgrades. Eventually you'll be able to unlock the dual Sai for light attacks and Dual Sledgehammers (yes dual) for heavy swings, and a myriad of ranged weaponry. Some enemies will react differently to each weapon, but there's no worry about upgrading what. If you die you keep the points you accumulated, so there's no chance that you'll become stuck.
The last element is the teleport function, tapping that button will make Deadpool disappear and reappear over a very short distance, this allows you to escape ranged fire, and close attacks without breaking your combo. Spam it too much and it'll have to recharge, but using it wisely allows you develop a good flow in combat without having to rely on counters to win. In essence, it's another tool for you to use at your convenience.
It's a barebones, yet effective system. It won't bombard you with quick time events, as it plays very similar to Bloodrayne in that you need to develop your own rhythm by studying enemy attack patterns and developing your own abilities to combat them. For this I commend them, it's too easy for action games to hold your hand and not let the system work its mojo. What is frustrating is dealing with ranged attackers, up close and personal is great but those pesky jerks at the edge of the battle field really peel off your health. Sometimes it's enough to really frustrate, particularly those out of view and retreating to safety can cause panic.
Combat is only half the game however, the real enjoyment comes from the great cut scenes and writing. While I'm not an avid comic reader and not familiar with Daniel Way's work, he has done an excellent job of writing a very funny, yet safe tale for us to follow. It doesn't break convention often, and mainly focuses on the light hearted side of Deadpool but I can't remember an action game where I've laughed and chuckled consistently through the adventure. Nolan North really shines in the material he's been given and excellently captures his essence. Even with some mediocre material, Nolan delivers a performance that manages to smooth over any inconsistencies and drive home a performance that will have you smiling the entire time. For this, the game is worthy of a play through alone.
Visually the game is once again, pretty safe. It does a good job of capturing the comic book feel, plenty of bold colours, adequate lighting and clean environments without adopting a cell shaded approach. It's quite good at times, although the level layout is often very tame, there's nothing to really offend you as you sink into the combat engine. As I already noted the audio is particularly good, and the rest of the cast do a great job bouncing off Nolan's fantastic performance.
The PC version production value is particularly good. Too often we've seen games like this given the bum treatment, but Deadpool is quite unique on the multi-platform scene. Visually there is some great texture work and lighting, and the effort into the control scheme on keyboard and mouse was very good. Plenty of options for remapping and complete with great controller support, of which I didn't need to use. The only technical downside were pre-rendered cut scenes looked crummy, particularly at 2560x1440 and looked suited for consoles more than PC. Aside from that little hickup, excellent work on this front Mercenary Technology.
In the end I had a great time with Deadpool, High Noon have done a marvellous job of starring this maniac and have delivered a great solo outing. You have to remind yourself however that this is a budget game and with it comes budget content.
For starters the game is relatively short, around 5-7 hours including cut scenes, probably with 2-3 hours of actual combat. Not a long outing, even with the extensive idle commentary that is littered throughout the tale. A challenge mode is also on hand, with each level featuring an infinite mode, complete with leader boards, but depending on how much you like the combat engine, it's not a huge amount to keep you tied to playing it.
Even so, despite its short run time, safe direction and very straight forward combat approach there is enough to keep you entertained for a few hours and give you a few great belly laughs. A good start and something I'd really love to see fleshed out more in a sequel. As it stands, it isn't overly daring, not particularly ambitious, and it won't challenge the gaming landscape. But I did have a blast with it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys action games, and silly antics alike.
High Noon, I like. Gimme more!
Short, safe and a great laugh. A game everyone should find something to enjoy albeit it's unambitious nature.