Poor Wade Wilson. The guy just can’t seem to catch a break. Take a look at some of his fellow alumni from the Weapon X program for example: Wolverine ‘graduated’ with an indestructible adamantium-fused skeleton and some pretty sweet pop-out claws; X-23 got some of Wolvie’s genetic code, a similar set of retractible can openers and a healing factor to boot. But what about Wade? Well, he left with nothing but a lousy healing factor, well that and the aggravated cancer that the program accelerated in his cells. It blighted his body and ravaged his looks. Oh, and it kind of maybe sent him cuckoo too.
On the sunny side, all of that pain and suffering really helped him to develop a sense of humour. As his brief forays into team membership with The X-Men, The Avengers (and pretty much every other Marvel team under the sun at some point) show, underneath the anti-hero there’s really just a guy that craves acceptance: he just wants to be loved.
Why am I telling you this? Deadpool Remastered launched the other week and it’s rare to see a game that so reflective of the strengths and weaknesses its title character: Like Wade himself, the game feels in some ways like a de-powered version of more successful superhero exports and it isn’t particularly pretty to look at… but that said, also like our titular hero it’s the funniest thing I’ve come across in quite some time and there’s no denying the game has heart. Deep down I get the feeling that it too really, really wants to be loved.
Deadpool Remastered originally launched for last generation systems as plain old Deadpool back in 2013 and seems an odd choice for a re-release given that the critical reception at the time was mixed. This remastered version gives the game a visual scrub-up and throws in some tangential DLC but the core gameplay experience remains largely unchanged. So (amid the feverish anticipation and potentially synergistic megabucks opportunities of the-soon-to-be-released Ryan Reynolds movie), one wonders exactly why Activision have bothered to re-release a game that released to a lukewarm critical reception a couple of years ago?
The answer of course was cunningly secreted in my largely rhetorical question, but truth be told I’m glad they have reissued it. Most early adopters to current-gen systems would have missed Deadpool and in spite of a few obvious flaws, there’s actually quite a lot to like here. Deadpool Remastered is a third-person brawler/shooter/action/adventure title that follows the much-loved anti-hero on a quest through some of the less-well travelled corners of the Marvel Universe.
The story itself is purposefully disregarded by the Merc with a Mouth himself but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been carefully crafted; in predictably meta fashion Deadpool not only understands that he’s the star of his own video game, but he also has the script and often chooses to deviate from it wherever he sees fit, often arguing with developers High Moon as he does so. This fourth-wall breaking approach is hugely fun and is also used to challenge some of the medium’s tropes, both old and new: from arch comments about ammo pickups right through to a ‘bugged’ level that has to be ‘patched’ mid-game, Deadpool Remastered brings the same quality of barbed subversion to video games that its hero has been dishing out to comics for a long, long time.
However, being clever doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. You only have to look at my A Level grades to see proof of that. A game in the mould of Deadpool Remastered lives and dies on the strength of its combat mechanics because after all, that’s what you’re going to spend ninety percent of your time with the game doing. Although the combat system doesn’t rival the slick beauty of an Arkham game, it’s fun, gory and fairly fluid (Deadpool’s teleporting ability cleverly acts as the counter mechanic here) but the game is hamstrung here by one of its key flaws: the positioning of the camera is often too tight, ranging from mildly annoying encounters where you can’t appreciate Wade’s wild moves right through to sometimes being unplayable when you’re brawling in a tight spot and simply cannot see all of the enemies that you’re engaging.
Thankfully, for the most part the problem is a mere irritant; it’s a shame though because chaining together some of Deadpool Remastered’s fill-up-the-bar-then-give-‘em-hell Momentum attacks can produce actions sequences that The Matrix would be proud of; it’s just something of a missed opportunity that you can’t always see them in their full unadulterated glory.
Speaking of seeing, we should probably talk about the graphics too. I mentioned earlier that Wade is no pin-up and in this sense too the game is somewhat reflective of its title character. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the fugliest game I’ve played on this generation but it is a repurposed last-gen title and sometimes (Mr Sinister’s character model for example), it looks like it. The issue is only exacerbated when you realise that Star Wars: Battlefront released the same week and is pushing new-gen consoles to greater and greater levels of visual fidelity.
It isn’t all about looks though. If it were, Watch Dogs would be an instant classic and Fallout 4 would be a disappointment – and we all know that neither of those labels apply. When it comes down to it, Deadpool Remastered scores a win where it really matters – it has lots of heart.
And it’s funny. Very. Very. Funny.
Controlling Wade through a series of increasingly outlandish situations is humorous enough. Listening to his non-stop verbal diarrhoea as he traverses the game world is downright hilarious. Deadpool Remastered does a great job of capturing the madcap idiocy that defines Deadpool’s world, often allowing you options (to paraphrase the immortal words of Tommy-Lee Jones) to ‘sanction his buffoonery’ – from choosing to grope Cable’s ‘breasts’ to winning a cow on what is surely gaming’s most random appearance of Wheel Of Fortune, High Moon’s efforts capture the anarchic spirit of Deadpool perfectly.
The character has featured in video games before, often breaking the fourth wall in his own inimitable style; Marvel Vs Capcom 3 had the Merc with a Mouth beating his opponents with the on-screen health bar whilst Ultimate Alliance 2 saw him poking holes in the game’s continuity; never before though have we seen the character realised so vividly in video game form.
Of course, it’s kind of ironic that some of the tired tropes that Deadpool is so quick to savage are sadly present in his own game, but perhaps that’s the point. Some of the levels do string out the same wash-rinse-repeat encounters out to the point of tedium… but when your guide through the world is so entertaining, you tend not to mind. On one or two occasions I felt like I was slogging through the combat just to see what Wade would do in the next cutscene, but when said moment arrived I was usually engaged in such a fit of giggles that I’d forgiven and forgotten the sometimes-overly-long journey to get there. A classic riff on the ‘And this one’s for…’ trope as Wade and I laid a beatdown on an unconscious Wolverine had me hooting with mirth; a literal case of toilet humour also springs to mind and raises a smile.
In conclusion, Deadpool Remastered doesn’t entirely hit the mark in the way that we’re hoping that Ryan Reynolds’ upcoming cinematic effort might. It does however get good marks for trying, as well as featuring the most perfectly-realised version of the character outside of the comics so far.
Deadpool Remastered is out now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.