Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth, would have found the saga over his video game amusing. First released in 2013, Deadpool the game didn’t quite stick its superhero landing: it came out on the 360 and PS3, both of which were reaching the end of their tenure, with the next generation only a few months away. The Marvel bandwagon was building up steam with Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, but wasn’t the powerhouse we know now, and was getting stick for a couple of duff movies. And Deadpool was – at least to the non-comic book audience – nothing more than a punchline in the Wolverine: Origins movie. He was Ryan Reynolds with sticky-tape over his mouth.
You can probably predict what happened: it sold next to nothing. To make it worse, it came at the tail-end of Activision’s exclusivity rights to the Marvel licence, which meant that digital storefronts had to remove it (alongside X-Men: Destiny and Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions), so it didn’t have a chance to generate that ‘long tail’.
But then a lifeline came. Superhero movies were making so much money that even the abysmal ones were profitable, like The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Deadpool was greenlit for production and Ryan Reynolds, in a surprise move, was asked to star again. Activision bought the rights to Deadpool for a couple more years and re-released Deadpool the game on November 18th, 2015. Then they waited for the money to roll in.
Except it didn’t. It didn’t do badly, but the timing didn’t help them. Deadpool wasn’t due for release until Valentine’s Day 2016, which meant that the hype-train hadn’t quite started setting off from the station. And while we now know that Deadpool the movie was a big bowl of entertainment and the most successful R-rated movie ever, no-one knew at the time. Deadpool the game had a small amount of time to bask in the success of the movie, but the licence elapsed in 2017, and the game was hoiked from digital stores all over again. It couldn’t even stick around and make it to the release of Deadpool 2.
It’s a bit of a farcical timeline, full of hokey-cokeys, and Deadpool would have delighted in it. He’s never been the bride, and never wanted to be: he’d much rather be the bridesmaid, getting drunk and vomiting on the wedding cake.
As a game, though, Deadpool was prime throwaway entertainment, and it deserved to do much better than it did. It was a third-person action game with a complete focus on a single-player campaign, at a time when every other game was stapling on a multiplayer or arena mode. It dared to foreground its humour, which was a scary prospect at the time: back in 2013, it was a year before South Park: Stick of Truth, and any game that aimed to make you laugh had, by and large, been risible pants.
The perfect example was Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, which could quite easily have been reskinned to a Deadpool game. It constantly threw shade at tropey action games, while being the worst example of a tropey action game out there. It’s still the worst game I’ve ever completed. At the time, so many other games were falling into the trap of parodying games, yet being terrible examples themselves. Neverdead, Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse; even The Simpsons Game was pretty shocking.
Deadpool took the piss with affection. Gaming wasn’t the only one of its targets: it took aim at some of Marvel’s national treasures, like Wolverine, Rogue and Cable too. The sequence where Deadpool lies on top of an unconscious Wolverine, desperately trying to wake him, sticks with me. Some of the humour was just broad and slapstick: anyone who has played it will remember the ‘rolling head’ section, where you pull your body back together, piece by piece.
That’s not to say that the humour always landed. The fascination with big boobs feels a bit last-decade, and heaven forbid that you got lost: you’d have Deadpool rotating through the same quips (Cable too, occasionally), adding a weird sense of urgency to getting out of the dead-end.
Most importantly, it never quite fell into the trap of mickey-taking while being a terrible game itself. The combat was simple but fun, and it reminded of the vastly-underrated 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. Enemies would come thick and fast, and you’d switch from melee to gun to overblown RPG at the touch of a button. They’d explode like a pinata of collectibles, and those collectibles would unlock a small but worthwhile progression track. No fuss, just fun.
Undoubtedly, in a decade’s time, no one will remember Deadpool the game. It didn’t provide enough depth, add anything new, and South Park: The Stick of Truth, released a year later, would drag humour into the mainstream in a way that it couldn’t. With the licence gone, we probably won’t be able to play Deadpool the game easily, either.
But there’s some satisfaction in that: Deadpool the game was only ever meant to be throwaway – a taco in game form – and Deadpool wouldn’t have wanted to enter the milieu of an important game. He would have hated that more than anything.
What were your lasting memories of Deadpool? Stick ‘em down in the comments below. And if you haven’t yet played the game, you’ll find physical copies rolling around the Amazon aisles.