Thursday, July 04, 2013

Being Deadpool

Playing "Deadpool: The Game" is like stepping in the playpen of a deranged, homicidal, lunatic which, in fact, Deadpool (the Marvel Comics character) is. It's a bit disturbing because when you play a role in a video game, especially in the third person, the effect is that while you are manipulating the digital puppet you lose yourself in order to take on the character's persona; but in D:TG you get the distinct impression that the PUPPET is manipulating YOU.

This role reversal is created by the character of Deadpool, who is one of the most self-aware characters of any medium in which he exists. Constantly breaking the fourth wall, he speaks directly to the reader -- in this case, the player -- while the other characters chalk up his behaviour as just another manifestation of his unstable frame of mind.

And his constant chatter never stops! While the player primarily interacts with Deadpool's ego, his id and superego lend two additional personalities (with voices to match) all having a three way conversation while at the same time addressing the player and the supporting cast of characters including the baddies, the X-Men AND the game designer whom he berates from time to time about the quality (or lack thereof) of his game design.

There's our first premise right there: the player is playing a game commissioned by Deadpool, designed by an unwilling game designer with little budget ('cos his mentally unsound employer has no money to put into game development) while the point of the game is to complete an assassination contract so that Deadpool can be paid some money so that he can pay the game designer to come up with a better job of designing a game worthy of the Deadpool name. Wow, summarized in one sentence! Terrific!

Ok, that's the meta part of the game. The playable part is dead simple: help Deadpool kill lots of people -- sometimes in the goriest way possible; pick up buxom chicks (his people skills are zero, though, so this challenge is totally impossible); and if he's taken damage, stay alive long enough for his regenerative power to kick in. If he dies, he will scold the player for letting him down. Trust me, he will die. A lot. And then the player can continue the game from the last save point, and hopefully get better results, i.e., plot progression.

Speaking of plot, there actually isn't one. That's because Deadpool has the attention span of a ravenous housefly in a septic tank. When the other characters, like Cable, try to explain the mission, motivation and other relevant exposition, all Deadpool hears is "blah, blah, blah...", while he pleads with the player to press a button and make it stop. All Deadpool wants is to kill more bad guys and get the girl at the end. As the player, honestly, that's what we want too, isn't it? Plot is just trimming and unnecessary context, a roadblock in the way of our innate compulsion to paint the town red... with buckets of blood.

Here's a good time to present a parental advisory: D:TG is ridiculously violent. Deadpool is inhumanly proficient in both melee and gun fights. We may be used to enemies being gibbed in normal gameplay, but Deadpool's stealth attacks are horrifically vicious... yet so satisfying to pull off. It's also funny as while sneaking up on a poor, unsuspecting schlub, Deadpool will occasionally turn to look at the player with a finger to his lips, or use hand signals to indicate whether to advance or stop as he tracks the movements of his target for the optimal strike.

Gameplay is a mix of run-and-gun (while running, Deadpool can shoot backwards -- a very useful skill to master!); sneak and silent kill; and some very rudimentary puzzle solving. Equipped with upgradable personal and equipment bonuses paid for with collectible 'DP points' and some unbelievable cut-scene hilarity, both the player and Deadpool build themselves up to the climactic battle which is quite a test of endurance and skill patience. And just when you think it's all over, the final confrontation with the formidable Mr Sinister is frosting on the cake. A particularly nutty fruitcake, at that.

What I like about D:TG is that it is a comedic romp hosted by a nonsensical, sophomoric psycho who gets away with gaping plot holes; a tenuous grasp on reality; and shameless, self-aggrandizing narration. The game mechanics vary wildly, as random as the game's eponymous protagonist's state of mind, yet there is still some discernible method to the madness.

What I don't like is that there are too many buttons to mash, especially when I'm not playing with a console controller but a keyboard. Although I can map the keys to my preference, some key combinations are impossible to execute without temporarily losing control of the character. As the game progresses, more and more fighting combos are unlocked, but it still comes back to mashing the most accustomed set of buttons anyway. Dexterously uncoordinated, that's me.

Some people don't like the fact that completing the game doesn't take long, but I like short games 'cos I have a life.

D:TG is violently fun and relies a lot on cheap humour (including toilet humour and bad puns -- the first game objective is to "play with Deadpool's junk," hur, hur). Gameplay is not difficult (barring the number of buttons to keep track of) but does take time to figure out the right timing to balance kill efficiency with long-term survivability. However, after playing the game once through, there seems to be little incentive for replay. Maybe that's for the best. Summer vacation is over.

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