Platforms: Ps3 | Xbox 360
Developers: High Moon Studios
High Moon's Shawn Miller kicked off the developer demo for the Transformers-devs' most recently announced title - Deadpool - with an indication of the game's target audience. "We're going for an M rating," he said emphatically. "This is a mature game."
Of course, an M rating doesn't necessarily translate into a game designed for adult gamers, and to round off the presentation by suggesting that "Deadpool is a game that would've greatly excited our teenage selves" is perhaps a more fitting description of an action title that appears to revel in the decidedly immature.That the final scene of gameplay features Deadpool shamelessly ogling Psylocke's breasts only serves to underline this.
However, to be fair to High Moon, much of that has to do with the character of Deadpool himself. As anyone who has even dabbled in the comics that bear this anti-hero's name will no doubt affirm, Deadpool is rude, raucous, irrepressibly self-satisfied, obsessed with boobs, chimichangas, and cartoon violence. As a character, though, he's a pretty damn clever construct.
For those not in the know, Deadpool is a comic-book hero (and that word "hero" should be used with some slight reservation) who knows that he's in a comic book. A mercenary by trade, he's frequently apathetic, utterly self-obsessed, fairly unhinged (he talks to the voices in his head, and they often respond), and a veritable encyclopaedia of pop cultural references. A large notice delivers the message that Deadpool himself has had High Moon construct this game about him, for him.
What this means in gaming terms is that our central protagonist knows that he's a comic-book character in a video game. The opening menu has the red-and-black merc knocking on the screen and enquiring as to whether or not there are girls in the room. The issuing of a contract is swiftly followed by Deadpool asking "Who wants to watch me track down and beat the pants off of media billionaire Chance White?" Exploring the sewers to find a way into White's building, he makes a slew of poo jokes, hums Smooth Criminal to himself, blows up a bouncy castle for a few seconds' diversion, and concedes that maybe Spider-Man has a good thing going after instructing the player to have him complete a series of consecutive wall jumps.
In short, just as in the comic-books that bears his name, Deadpool is not your average video game hero, even if the hack'n' slash, third-person action trapping that he inhabits in this medium might seem somewhat familiar in form.
Of course, a character that is constantly talking runs the risk of becoming boring or, worse, irritating. Comedy is a difficult thing - quips can be hit and miss - and, as Deathspank showed us, if a game can't elevate itself above the peers it's mocking, the parody becomes self-reflexive and the point becomes rather lost in mediocrity.
That said, the demo raised more smiles and nods than frowns and grumblings. The chances are that whose who by into this game will already know something of the central character himself. Voiced by a placeholder in the live gameplay demo, it was actually a little disheartening to hear his over-the-top tones replaced by those of a slightly bonkers Nathan Drake. Nolan North is a versatile voice actor, but his synonymity with that most prominent of Playstation roles may well serve to be a thorn in strongly grounded roles sucha s this. It's one thing to take on a fresh character, but Deadpool is one who's personality is so very clearly defined already, and readers perhaps already have a fairly solid idea of what he sounds like in their minds, that winning people over could prove difficult.
Thankfully, the script should be up to scratch. High Moon are working very closely with Marvel to produce an authentic Deadpool experience, with Daniel Way - the man who has been responsible for the merc with the mouth for a number of years - leading the line when it comes to writing.
There's a classic Deadpool moment up on the roof, having sliced and diced White's guards to pieces. A helicopter appears, pummelling our hero with suppressing fire. Not that this really stops the super-enhanced quote-master. Working his way around to higher ground, filleting some more guards along the way with various combinations of light and heavy attacks, the occasional spot of gunfire, and a lobbed grenade or two, Deadpool proceeds to launch himself across at the chopper. After sending the gunner packing, he holds the pilot hostage at gunpoint and proceeds to turn the minigun merrily upon his foes.
Seconds later, however, another helicopter appears, and blows Deadpool out of the sky. After a brief conversation with two of the voices inhabiting his head, he decides to attempt a vast jump to safety.
"You can't fly," says one.
"It's good to have dreams," retorts another.
"Dreams, yes. Delusions..."
Launching himself from the chopper regardless, he begins to belt out R. Kelly's 'I Believe I Can Fly', the backdrop suddenly transformed into a sea of flashing cameras. He doesn't make it, the cameras disappear and he falls out of shot. A quick pan around to the ledge he was attempting to reach and we see him haul himself to safety with his blades.
"Dream...delusions...at least I've got SKILLS!"
That he does. Moments later, having grabbed White by the collar, with a button prompt heralding a pounding, a pause by the player will lead Deadpool to look out of the screen and ask "Do you want to push the button?" in the tone of a man beset by fools.
The X,Y combo system looks straightforward enough, the third-person shooting too, and having a cash register's ker-ching ring out every time Deadpool kills someone underlines his mercenary status nicely. Sending up clouds of cartoon blood as he whirls about on his head, blades extended like a lunatic chopper himself, he cackles as the combo count rises. Money and upgrades and new weapons await, and I have no doubt that High Moon will deliver a solid action title. The jury's still somewhat out though on Deadpool himself - and there's a world of difference between making us snigger for 15 minutes, and sustaining that for a whole game.
Deadpool is slated for next year on Ps3 and Xbox 360.