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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Deadpool


By on 6:32 AM

Deadpool's defining characteristic seems to be his uncensored personality. But if you spend time with this nearly immortal superhero, you discover that his most important traits are the scars he's burdened with. He dons a skintight suit that covers every inch of his disfigured body, complete with a mask that lacks even a basic mouth hole. However, Deadpool's scars aren't limited to physical imperfections. His mind is as damaged as his monstrous skin. Psychotic bouts affect his every mood, creating a character whose incredible powers are compromised by the hardships he carries. This dichotomy is realized all too well in this action-heavy beat-'em-up. Playful fight sequences are hampered by underlying flaws in the core mechanics, dragging this off-kilter adventure down from its promising perch.

Deadpool is a character whose upfront nature makes him impossible to ignore. Always ready with a lecherous quip, he keeps a running diary of his darkest thoughts as you slice through a ragtag assortment of the Marvel universe's B-tier baddies. His unabashed misogyny and incessant sexual jokes are puerile at best, but as disgusting as he can be, you can't accuse him of being insincere. The jokes feel natural coming from his hidden lips. He's the embodiment of extreme baditude, but instead of sounding like the cynical mind of someone in the marketing department, he instead mirrors the inane ramblings of a teenage boy. And even if your tastes clash with Deadpool's, the sheer wealth of attempted humor means something should tickle your funny bone. Disliking cows because they're only an "l" and an "n" away from being clowns might just be ridiculous enough to put a smile on your red-nose-hating face.
Just because Deadpool enjoys talking nonstop does not mean that he confronts enemies with pacifism on the mind. The way out of any situation involves copious amounts of slicing and dicing, with the occasional shooting thrown in for good measure. Deadpool bounces around tightly constructed environments like he's battling attention deficit disorder, knocking one enemy into the air and then delivering a whirling dervish to a group of would-be attackers before firing his plasma gun at a far-off sniper. It's a screaming-fast confluence of steel and spandex, so fast that the camera often lags behind your actions. Throw in a magical teleportation move, and you spend as much time trying to get your bearings as you do unleashing hell on your dim-witted foes.
Thankfully, fights are usually easy enough that you can dispatch the horde of attackers by just gleefully mashing the buttons. Your only defensive maneuver is the aforementioned teleport, so you whale away with your swords or guns and then vanish in a flash before you get your comeuppance. It's a smart technique that sadly doesn't always work because of finicky controls. Deadpool may not do what you want, when you want him to, so you wind up with a face full of fist instead of disappearing in a cloud to safety. Such unresponsiveness can lead to frustrating situations, but you can usually stay alive if you get even a little breathing room. Regenerating health is Deadpool's most handy superpower, so you can get back up to full strength pretty easily if you keep one eye glued to your life bar.
Fights are fast and bloody affairs that urge you to mix up your attacks to earn the highest rewards from your downed attackers. Dropped currency can be used to purchase upgrades in the pause menu, giving you access to new weapons, handheld explosives, and a variety of character enhancements. It's a system that urges you to experiment so you find the best weapons for your style (the slow and powerful hammers suit a different style than the fast but weak sais, for instance), and you unlock new techniques deep into the adventure. Because of the well-paced skill unlocks and the immediacy of the action, Deadpool is usually a pleasant enough, turn-off-your-brain kill-a-thon.
It's when the game tries to ramp up the challenge that things take a turn for the worse. When the game wants your back against the wall, it floods the screen with attackers. Deadpool may carry guns, but they're clearly secondary to his melee attacks, so a few far-away gunners can sap away your life in a hurry. Couple the difficulty of aiming while in a jam with the limited ammunition, and you may find yourself out of long-range killing instruments in the middle of a fight. Dozens of enemies, of both the gun-toting and sword-swinging variety, may try to stop your beating heart, and it's in the most hectic moments that the game becomes frustrating. Unkind checkpoints don't do the game any favors, either. If you fall to the last enemy, you may have to carry out the prolonged encounter all over again, changing the simple fun into pure tedium.
Despite the combat flaws, Deadpool makes a valiant attempt at being entertaining. A few brief diversions from the core action add some much-needed variety to the unceasing killing. Nintendo's most timeless franchises receive unexpected homages, and there's even a brief turret sequence that delivers a silly take on this tired trope. Who would have thought a Sentinel's detached shoe could be so fun? However, there are just too many flaws in the overarching mechanics to make this a consistently satisfying endeavor. Deadpool tries to hide its problems behind an exuberant personality, but all the talking in the world can't smooth over some fundamental flaws.

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