Captain America: Super Soldier Review
Publisher: Sega / Developer: Next Level Games / Price: $49.99 / Played on: Xbox 360 / ESRB: Teen [Mild Blood, Mild Language, Violence]
It’s tough not to come into Captain America: Super Soldier with preconceived notions. It’s got two strikes against it as a videogame adaptation of a movie, which itself is adapting a comic book. Typically, this sort of licensing musical chairs leads to some lousy games, but Cap is anything but lousy. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the stellar game its constituent parts should allow it to be. Borrowing elements from games like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Enslaved , in the end Captain America never quite lives up to its enormous potential but it definitely approaches greatness in most respects.
While getting started in Captain America, you should be familiar with Cap’s controls—that’s because the combat system and control layout is cribbed pretty directly from Batman: Arkham Asylum. The good news is that the control rip-off works in your favor, since controlling Cap in combat is the most viscerally gratifying part of the game. Punching those damned Nazis in their skulls was routinely enjoyable, and switching between targets during melee is pretty easy by aiming the stick in the direction you want to go while hitting the attack button. Fancy shield-moves can be worked into the action with relative ease, offering the chance to block enemies, fling the shield to whack up to five bad guys at once, or to deflect bullets (or even rockets!) back at attackers. At one point, I instinctively deflected what I thought was an oncoming bullet, managing instead to whap a missile back at a perched gunner. When he exploded, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
However, the game never tells you just HOW you’re supposed to execute the deflection move . This can be very frustrating during the boss-fight with Madame Hydra, which necessitates the move’s use. Needless to say, I died at least 12 times trying to figure this out (tap the “block” button just as she fires at you—don’t hold it down!), and there was a lot of me yelling “you gotta be fucking kidding me” to an empty apartment.
The other main component of the gameplay comes from Cap’s Tactical Vision—which, again, is very similar to Arkham Asylum’s Detective Mode—and his enhanced agility, which is reminiscent of both Assassin’s Creed and Enslaved. Turning on Tactical Vision lights up paths to access the next part of the area, allowing you to leap and swing around the stage via pipes, ledges, and whatnot. As enjoyable as these parts are, however, they’re kind of sloppily executed. Rarely does Tactical Vision actually give you any tangible advantage—it never tells you where your enemies are in a room, and doesn’t offer tips on defeating them. And the acrobatic skills you employ to get to different areas of the room are all pre-set: you’re basically “on-rails” during these sequences, and the absence of the free-roaming feel of Batman and Assassin’s Creed makes it seem like just another missed opportunity.
One annoying thing: collectible objects are scattered all over the Hydra base. These artifacts have little to no bearing on the gameplay, and their strangeness actually takes you out of the moment as you go. Riddle me this: why is Captain America collecting ceramic eggs? And beer steins? And falconry equipment? Dumb.
Overall, though, the great combat mechanics—and the super moves and acrobatics you pull off during encounters—really shine through as the game’s strongest selling point, and is clearly the part on which the developers spent most of their time. It’s fun enough that it overshadows the crappy egg collecting between fights.
The story is solid, if not particularly engaging. The creators of this game are in a tough spot, because they need to come up with something original yet tied to the movie, without just rehashing the plot of the movie itself. To do that, they hired Christos Gage, familiar Marvel Comics writer with a pretty hefty resume of TV and comics work, and he’s a good fit. His script puts Cap in standard, Hydra-fighting situations, like calling in air-strikes against tanks, sabotaging anti-aircraft guns, beating up Arnim Zola THREE TIMES (actually more fun than it sounds), and infiltrating a Hydra-prison. The story is solid enough to mix up the six or so enemy types in ways that don’t get too repetitive. The dialogue, too, is written well. You feel like you’re watching a cool TV movie featuring the WWII adventures of Captain America, though I should point out that the game never feels too particularly epic. It’s good, but not great.
The graphics are something of a mixed bag. The character models themselves look pretty good overall. Cap resembled actor Chris Evans pretty closely, and the Red Skull looks fantastic. In fact, all the boss-characters are very well designed, mixing the realistic, movie-based characteristics they’re meant to evoke while still staying true to their comic book counterparts. Even the Hydra foot-soldiers and other henchmen were cool looking, bringing to mind pulpy super-science type characters in their designs.
The framerate, however, is pretty jerky, and there were plenty of the dreaded “jaggies” around everything. It was a drag to see the good character models and decent environments go to waste by underperforming animation. Worse still, the cut scenes all seemed to be rendered in real-time, rather than pre-rendered video. The dialogue hardly ever matched up with the characters’ mouth-movements, and overall, the cut scenes are very “ho-hum.” They rarely add much in terms of graphical impressiveness, but serve instead just to move the story along between the action.
The game’s soundtrack manages to be solid and dynamic, with orchestral, action-movie-type bits that swell with some of the heavier combat situations, and take on more restrained tones when sneaking around. The voice acting is great, actually, with really good performances coming in from most of the cast. The legendary Mark Hamill delivers the goods as the Red Skull, though he’s in the game for too short a time, and Vanessa Marshall as Madame Hydra gives an excellent performance as the crazed German psycho-lady.
In fact, it’s Chris Evans as Captain America himself who delivers the least stirring performance, but I chalk that up to him also having about 75 percent of the game’s dialogue all on his own. His interior monologue offers plot points and guides you to the next task, so I get the feeling that at a certain point he probably just wanted his cash and to go home. I don’t blame the guy—but I was the one who had to sit there and listen to him.
Don’t write this game off for the many reasons you could. Because the combat is such an integral part of the game, you spend most of your time wailing on Hydra-lackeys. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t note how much better this game could’ve been if it’d had more time to cook, and wasn’t married to the movie license. For fans of the comics and the character, I can’t think of a good reason why you shouldn’t pick this game up. But understand that you’ll probably feel like it could have been so much more. Let’s hope the movie makes enough money for this game to get a sequel—where they manage to get everything right.
7.0 / 10