As the first of four planned DLCs for Marvel's Midnight Suns, The Good, The Bad, and The Undead has a stage to set and expectations to manage. I'm not sure Deadpool was the right character to help facilitate that, but even putting the divisive hero aside, there's a flimsiness to this expansion that doesn't bode well.
Deadpool arrives via a set of three new story missions, the first of which unlocks automatically early on in the main game. He's tenuously connected to a plot involving an ancient artifact, Red Skull's granddaughter, and quite a lot of vampires. (Technically "vampyres", but I'm not using that spelling no matter how many times Captain Marvel tells me to.)
The man himself is fully playable, with a complete deck, and can be used in any other mission you like once you've recruited him. Given how many systems a Midnight Suns character hooks into, it is impressive how complete he is—he has the full complement of friendship cutscenes, a whole set of cosmetics, and even his own research options, combat item, and base upgrades. It's just unfortunate that, not only is he quite annoying, he's also sort of… boring.
Midnight Suns is good at a great many things, but quips is not one of them. Its MCU one-liners rarely land at the best of times—throwing into the mix a character whose entire personality is snarky gags only draws attention to that shortcoming. I'm not sure his jokes will even please die hard fans of the character—they feel obvious and undercooked, and any potential in the idea of his fourth-wall breaking nature letting him comment on the game itself is quickly squandered. Half the time it feels like they forgot to figure out a punchline, as with one often repeated line about wanting to jump-scare Iron Man into wetting his pants. I guess that's an amusing image, but it's not really a joke, is it?
Honestly, though, I was fully prepared for him being annoying—I get it, it's Deadpool, he's the annoying guy, you like him or you don't and that's fine. What's much more disappointing is how phoned in he feels mechanically. For all his wackiness and fourth-wall breaking, in combat he's basically just a guy with swords and a gun. He stabs people, he shoots people, sometimes he stabs them and then kicks them. His special ability? When he KOs enemies, he gains a stacking buff to some of his cards. Thrilling. Even the animations are dull, and feel particularly subdued alongside the main cast's often spectacular powers.(opens in new tab)
Surely Deadpool is the perfect opportunity for a game to get really wild and creative? He should be hitting enemies with his own healthbar, or using a card as a shield, or buffing himself with his own one-liners. In the board game Unmatched (opens in new tab), the Deadpool deck consists of cards he designed and drew himself (opens in new tab), and he gets bonuses based on whether there's food on the table or who's wearing pants. That's the kind of anarchic energy that's sorely missing here.
It's pretty clear that the reason we don't get anything like that is a limited budget. Deadpool, of course, makes a direct joke about that himself, but lampshading it doesn't make this DLC feel any less thin of an offering. Unfortunately, that goes double for the three missions.(opens in new tab)
Despite my Deadpool ambivalence, I was excited for these new levels. During the main game, I often thought another enemy faction would round things out nicely, and Blade's regular mentions of the vampire threat make them the ideal choice to be the antagonists of the DLC. It's a double disappointment, then, that for their first outing they make such a poor showing.
The cutscenes are all fine, as fully-featured as the main story's with an agreeably campy plot, even if Deadpool does stomp all over it. But the battles themselves are weak—over-simple kill missions that find challenge only in awkwardly punishing mechanics. The vampires themselves struggle to find a clear identity—they're all reskins of existing enemies, but with fiddly new abilities based around various insistent timers and cursing your cards to make you bleed when you use them. The main game's foes are sublimely designed, with multifaceted powers and clear archetypes that make them a joy to tangle with. These guys feel half-baked by comparison.(opens in new tab)
It's never more evident than in the final boss fight. To give a spoiler free summary: the boss literally just shoots you twice on each of their turns and does nothing else, is defeated by simply downing them twice with normal damage, and the mission is ultimately won by whittling down the health of an inanimate object that artificially prolongs the fight by regenerating every turn. It's hardly a thrilling conclusion, and it's a troubling step down from the excellent supervillain encounters of the main game.
After you've finished the DLC, new generic vampire missions are added into the Mirror Table's rotation, but honestly, even as someone who was looking forward to that added variety, I don't know if I'll be picking those as I continue my playthrough. They're just not fun enemies to fight, and that's incredibly disappointing from a studio that is not only so good at turn-based strategy design, but not long ago did excellent work with XCOM 2's expansions.
The DLC's story ends with a tease of more to come—the vampires are clearly going to be the threat through the three more DLC packs to come. The final tease of who their leader is is undeniably exciting, but I'm left concerned that, if they remain as disappointing on the battlefield, the presumably nine more missions ahead of us could be a real slog. For a DLC all about bloodsuckers, this first entry has disappointingly little to sink your teeth into.