Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘Deadpool’ and ‘X-Men: Destiny’ exemplify where superhero games go bad

If you thought superhero games would be fun to play or make, read what we found out about these Activision games featuring characters from Marvel comics

By Michael Fitzgerald

At first glean, the games seem to offer a reasonable amount of fun. Who wouldn’t want to be an X-Man? Or a Deadpool? You could spend all day just jumping around as a super-powered (anti-)hero, flinging energy bolts at your antagonists and hanging out with fierce mutant psychic ladies like Emma Frost or Psylocke.

Then after about 10 minutes you might realize you are in for just another game in the beat-‘em-up genre, already feeling tiresome and endless.

I decided to grab the games after reading that after the first of the year, many games starring Marvel characters had been pulled from various digital shops due to rights issues. I had heard these games were bad, but they were out of print and about to become less accessible and I might have to shell out a bit more later if I’d like to play them. I blame this mentality on growing up reading comic book price guides and watching certain covetable items balloon in value due to red tape like this.

In the beginning, each of the games’ better features stand out. “Deadpool” takes an easy road to fun by emphasizing the quirky assassin’s humorous dialogue between the voices in his head. The developers deliver some creative art direction using fancy tricks, like in one scenario that shifts perspective to play out in a retro style similar to the classic “Legend of Zelda,” complete with cheesy low-resolution graphics.

Some of the game’s more detailed environments are impressive, but it’s rare that you get a chance to take them all in while hordes of boring bad guys are constantly lining up to be shot at or cut down by the player.

The merits of “X-Men: Destiny” are fewer. Hanging out with X-Men heroes and villains is fun, but then the dialogue gets a bit tedious. The quality of visual elements range from the dazzling and neat, like an early battle where Iceman helps you fight enemies while forming crystalline ice sculptures all over the stage; to the crude and unpolished, like one cinematic cut-scene featuring special effects that evoked bitter memories of watching the unfinished bootleg of the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” movie.

Multitudes are revealed upon research of the development background of each of these games, both of which were published by the company famous for the “Call of Duty” franchise, Activision. Typing in “X-Men: Destiny” into Google search right now lists a Kotaku article titled, “What Went Wrong with Silicon Knights’ ‘X-Men: Destiny?’” among the top results. The article is a scathing glimpse into the once-great “Eternal Darkness” creator’s twilight, detailed by whistleblowers. According to the piece, the game developer’s team leaders thought they could take their time on the game and blow through deadlines while getting the game up to a better quality standard, but the game’s publisher Activision responded that the game would be released, finished or not. If the information in that article is true, it’s no surprise that the product in this gamers hands feels like a rushed mess. Overall, the experience is quite like an Angry Video Game Nerd video, starring myself.

The creation of “Deadpool” is reported to have been plagued by similar conflicts between developer High Moon Studios and its publisher Activision, which led to company-wide layoffs and the shuttering of the developer. According to one of the game’s artists quoted in an Examiner report, Activision demanded overtime for the studio’s employees while only expecting the game to be a level of quality that would gain no higher than a 64 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic (and like an academic grading scale, anything less than a 70 on Metacritic can be considered terrible).

The result? Games that are a struggle to enjoy due to their by-the-book repetitiveness and by sheer quantity of player deaths as a result of frustrating-camera-while-platforming action always near cliffs and bottomless pits. Purchasing these games eventually left me with a nagging sense of guilt for having some small part in supporting a system that likely left more than a few game company employees lacking a soul. So nobody wins! Except maybe those who decided to watch YouTube clips of all the potty-mouthed, low-brow cut-scenes of “Deadpool” and called it a day.