Captain America: Super Soldier might
actually be the first movie tie-in game that doesn’t suck. At least
not as badly as some of its predecessors have.
It’s not long on any introductions which might confuse non-fans that pick it up and then find themselves in some kind of alternate WW2 setting, though that’s exactly where they should be. This is Captain America at the beginning of his career as the world’s first avenger, facing off against the nefarious forces of HYDRA and the Red Skull. This is a side story to what happens in the movie, one of Cap’s adventures before his big showdown with the Skull.
HYDRA is, in the Marvel-verse, working for the Third Reich though you wouldn’t know it with nary a swastika in sight. The Red Skull is also working for the Nazis, though he’s got his own ideas on world domination which probably explains why there aren’t any around him other than his private army equipped with exaggerated German accents.
It helps that it borrows from Rocksteady’s meaty melee mechanics from their game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, turning every thrown fist and booted foot into a cavalcade of acrobatic savoir faire. Hitting enemies felt satisfyingly seamless, thanks also to the over-the-top physics, as I guided Cap’s hits from one soldier to the next, bound him over huge enemies, and even deflected bullets back to who pulled the trigger.
By bashing the faces of his foes and performing timed stunts right on cue, Cap also earns focus for cinematic smash-ups whether it’s smashing an big enemy’s chin with a slo-mo boot, commandeering another’s weapon to turn him against his enemies, or tapping into his Super Soldier persona for a limited time to mete out brutal hand-to-hand justice. He doesn’t use weapons himself in the game – his fists, feet, and his trusty shield are all that he needs. He’s that tough, though I wish that he could actually run around instead of trot about at his default speed if he’s that good.
Little extras, like movie reels narrated by mad scientist, Arnim Zola, Baron Zemo’s diary entries, unlockable costumes with different benefits, and unlockable art gallery pieces add to the overall presentation especially because of the solid VA work. Even though I don’t follow the comics, a lot of this stuff was fun to wade through. Hidden documents, film cans, and briefcases provide extra experience for Cap outside of busting heads, allowing him to upgrade his skills tempting the player to go out there and take the time to explore Zemo’s castle.
There are also challenge modes with timed events to test the player’s punching skills in a race to earn more valuable experience points. Developer Next Level Games’ funny bone had a field day with the fiction introducing these, though when you’re done with them, that’s all that there is to the game.
Outside of the pugilism and presentation, though, there’s not much else for Cap’s fans to whinge their shields at, such as a few encyclopedia entries to help fuel interest in learning more about his comic past or that of the villains. A short list of upgrades and a relatively short game make it hard to recommend despite how decent it is compared to other movie-tie ins.
My expectations were already low going into this, and for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised by how the game actually pulled off some of what it did. If it had stayed in development and ignored the movie, it’s easy to see that Next Level Games could possibly have turned Captain America into a WW2 version of Batman with Baron Zemo’s castle as his own Arkham Asylum.
As it stands, that also works against it. It wants to pull you deeper into exploring the castle and finding out more about Captain America and his world, but only focuses on its silver screen coattails. The boss fights, in particular, look cool but won’t be much of a challenge to anyone with any sense of timing.
Even though it’s not being sold at the customary $60 price point for debuting at $50, unless you’re a hardcore Captain America fan, paying full price for this game is still a hard sell. Signing up as a temporary super hero over the weekend is probably what it weighs best against, though it’s also regrettable as decent as it is considering other movie tie-ins.
Yet if you do set out to save the world from the Red Skull, and with an arcade classic like Captain America and the Avengers conspicuously missing from today’s roster of downloadable fun, it’s not a bad way to go.
Captain America – Super Soldier
Sega / Next Level Games / High Voltage Software / Griptonite Games
Xbox 360 / PS3 / Nintendo DS / Wii (reviewed on Xbox 360)
Rated: T for Teens