Can Marvel match the successes of Warner Brothers Games and DC Interactive's Batman Arkham franchise?
The quest to create a great superhero video game is no longer the challenge that it once was. Indeed, fans of the genre need only look as far as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City and LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes to find confirmation of this transition. Of course, in that list alone, a central issue can be asserted- each of those acclaimed instalments derive from the DC Comics universe.
Certainly, the head honchos over at DC and Warner Brothers won't be complaining about their acclaimed video game status right now, yet for Marvel Studios the matter is sure to be more than a little disconcerting. Whereas Joss Whedon, Sam Raimi and other incredible directors have ensured that motion pictures like Avengers Assemble and Spider-Man respectively dominate the superhero film market on the whole, the situation couldn't be more contrary to such dominance on consoles. Deadpool, then, marks an inspired attempt by Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron's High Moon Studios to restore some much-needed balance to the matter at hand.
However, while the studio's dedication to the comic-book franchise they are adapting is admirable to say the least, the core gameplay of the product itself is nowhere near as impressive. No matter the number of fourth-wall breaking gags the writers throw into their protagonist's narration of the narrative, they can't redeem the fact that the narrative is underwhelming in its best moments and downright dismal at its worst. Worse still, once the player is left to tackle the game's combat and platforming mechanics, they'll find that not only do High Moon attempt to riff on the Arkham franchise's engine successes, but they do so in an all-too-relaxed manner that produces a dishearteningly lacklustre experience for series veterans and newcomers alike.
This sense of general laziness in Deadpool's mechanics and storyline carries through to a number of other aspects of the final product, too. For instance, the visuals on offer here may well be eclectic and diverse in terms of the variety of environments Deadpool traverses, yet they're certainly nothing special considering that we've reached the end of this console generation, and indeed High Moon's stellar 2012 effort Transformers: Fall of Cyberton (9/10) trumps their work here graphically by a country mile. When upcoming titles such as Grand Theft Auto V and Batman: Arkham Origins seem destined to tail off the graphical fidelity of this generation with an almighty bang, it's simply not good enough for Marvel to assume that sub-par visuals can be compensated for by (fundamentally flawed) gameplay and narrative perks.
Mercifully, Deadpool is not wholly without merit. Despite the brevity and structural shortcomings of its narrative, the game does at least boast a brilliant characterisation of its lead character from Nolan North. Whether its in Deadpool's characteristic internal dialogues with himself and his various personas, his breaking the fourth wall to voice his opinions to the audience on regular occasions, or the hilarity of his chance meetings with fan favourite characters like Wolverine and Cable, there's little end to the basic-yet-effective humour on display throughout the course of the game's storyline and script. On the whole, though, this redeeming strength only serves to deepen the disappointment that most fans will inevitably feel at the realisation that virtually every other element of the product seems rushed or mishandled by High Moon.
Believe this reviewer, to utter such derogatory adjectives regarding the overall quality of Deadpool is by no means a pleasurable outcome. In a world where the Dark Knight and his Justice League cohorts appear to rule their respective video gaming genre, I would have been more than happy to report that High Moon's new product ushered in a bold new era of stability for Marvel's licensed efforts, shaking up the genre like never before. That's nowhere near the case, though, seeing as Deadpool remains a mere stop-gap entry for hardcore players in a Summer that's almost devoid of any big releases within our industry. For those fans who have picked up every edition of the Wolverine & Deadpool comics, this product is perhaps worth your cash for the hilariously apt characterisation alone- for the rest of the superhero fanbase, my best advice would be to stand well clear, safe in the knowledge that Arkham Origins should and will redeem the genre later this year. The quest to create a great superhero video game seems far less challenging than it once was, yet in the case of Deadpool High Moon Studios have managed to transform a molehill into a mountain of Genosha-sized proportions.