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Deadpool review: Crazy for thinking


Deadpool depicts the exploits and gleeful eviscerations of a giggling psychopath, gifted with guns, swords, and style. We've had plenty of that, thank you, but this one's novelty is a self-aware protagonist, starring in a game that's absurd, flippantly violent and incoherently narrated by its own admission. Here we have proof that it's possible for a game to throw itself on the mercy of the court, provided Mercy is the name of a totally sweet sword.

Deadpool is an impulsive egomaniac drawn from Marvel's weirder pages, and he's oh so happy to exist in a world designed expressly around him. Jolted to immortal life by a delirious performance from Nolan North, Deadpool is a pithy vector for the player – rather, the nightmarish caricature of a player as envisioned by a cynical game designer. His attention spans the pinch of two fingers, he makes extravagant demands with no care to their consequences, he slobbers over Unreal women and he'd rather die than listen to a syllable of exposition from the poor, plot-mandated X-Men. Their anguish must be akin to the people who worked on a cutscene you skipped in your monstrous impatience, unaware that it took four agonizing months of wrangling manatees in motion-capture suits.

There's no dearth of idiocy in Deadpool, but it's more palatable when paired with honesty – something that often feels amiss every time a new bad-ass action game struts out with the immaculately rendered Tear of Real Emotions This Time rolling off its cheek.

Gallery: Deadpool (6/25/13) | 9 Photos

At times the writing reeks of a juvenile draft (a fart), and other times it spits out a laughable indictment of games. Leaving Deadpool trapped in an idle animation, as he pleads with you to act, is a funny juxtaposition of protagonist and player, and finally pressing the button to spectacular effect shows just how arbitrary such interaction can be. As for the recurring joke about the game's uncontrolled budget, well ... maybe that is too soon.

Though Deadpool's manic march through rapid-fire references, crotch shots and insults matches his jagged personality, he's still anchored by the requirements of an action game, and a mechanically unremarkable one at that. Such is parody in games: you laugh at what you do, but do it you must.

We know Deadpool's arrogance comes from comic canon: like Wolverine, he can survive everything short of complete dematerialization. Not so in the game, which is filled with less-than-impressive death. There's death by off-camera gunshots, death by kamikaze mutants, death by ill-advised floating platform sequences and notorious death by inadequate playtesting. So, why can't we be arrogant too?

There's a failure to align with the spirit of the game, and a last-minute retreat from the power fantasy even while Deadpool charges into battle like an oaf. The enduring challenge isn't to stay alive, but to play well enough to keep the combo meter running. With successive kills and counter-attacks – and short-distance teleportation to evade – Deadpool can amass enough of his self-branded points to unlock hammers, guns, grenades and character attributes. The domino sequence of playing aggressively, unlocking overpowered weaponry and amping up your offense even further within a short span of time holds the combat together.

Outside the reward of progression, the action has a perceptible tempo with some spikes of crudeness. Though gun-toting enemies can be picked off from afar, they hang back and have a scattering effect on the attacking groups. Most of Deadpool's special moves, which build up to activation after several successive strikes, are only effective against mobs in his immediate vicinity. Tripping over the scenery to pick off the stragglers doesn't quite gel with the fighting flow.

There are other signs of an unrefined, licensed product (besides Deadpool himself, who'd be happy to be described as such). The start-to-sewer time is quite depressing, the framerate veers into appalling territory at several points in the game's second half, and the game's idea of a climax is to drag and drop every defeated boss into the arena, with little demonstrated concern as to how they interact with each other or how you're supposed to make sense of the chugging chaos that ensues.

That's when Deadpool tears itself apart, only to come back to life for a few more gags. Better to take it as an unvarnished comedy, then, because Deadpool self-destructs when you read so deeply (and madly?) to see satire. That's okay, bearing in mind there are better games in which you slice people up for points, and that everything Deadpool the man revels in – the bullets, the blood and the babes – are sincerely sought and embarrassingly commonplace in the marketplace to begin with.

I love stupid action games, but stupid isn't special. Maybe one day it will be.

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Deadpool, provided by Activision. Deadpool is also available on PS3, PC and Wii U.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

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