I’m not mad at Captain America: Super Soldier, I’m just disappointed. It isn’t like I expect all that much of video game adaptations of movies — I did play Thor: God of Thunder after all — but with Captain America you can see the frameworks of a good game there, but it just never comes together.
Captain America: Super Soldier isn’t a terrible game. You won’t wander aimlessly through generic caves (looking at you, Thor), nor will you be forced to save the same five citizens in the same way hundreds of times (that one is for you, all the Spider-Man movie games). There is a kinda fun brawler buried beneath the glitches and inability to step over a rail.
It is hard to really blame developer Next Level Games and publisher Sega, at least not entirely. The obvious issue with this game is just that it didn’t have enough time. If it had another year, or maybe just six months, this game could have been very good. Instead, it is just kinda meh.
That being said, there is still some fun to be gained from this game. For fans of Cap, it may be worth slogging through the somewhat bland levels with your one attack button and often sluggish controls in order to have the thrill of chucking your shield right in the face of Ratzi scum, and putting foot to ass for America and freedom and puppies or whatever.
In the long forgotten time of World War II…
There really should be an entire World War II section for video games. It would overshadow even sports games. Like the movie, Captain America: Super Soldier (CA:SS) is set during the height of World War II. The game begins without preamble, and you will not experience the transformation of scrawny Steve Rogers into a super soldier. You are already Cap, and you are the military’s top agent. Your goal is to fight Hydra, the advanced weapons division of the Nazi war machine, which is run by the Red Skull.
Really, that is all the setup you need. That isn’t a knock on the story because the game doesn’t need a deep story any more than any WWII game needs a deep story. You have missions and objectives that you must complete, as you make a pest of yourself in a Bavarian fortress deep behind enemy lines, and along the way you crack enemy skulls. The game all takes place in one area, but the area is sprawling and you can travel anywhere in it once you unlock the new sections. In some ways, it is like Batman: Arkham Asylum. Not in terms of gameplay, or graphics, or story, or compelling features, or special attacks, or fun, just in the way the areas available to you are laid out.
In relation to the movie, the game takes place in the same universe, but does not overlap. This is basically just another mission for Cap. You will see a few of the supporting characters, but they are mostly just there in passing. Even the Red Skull only has a brief cameo. You will also come across several of Cap’s oldest foes along the way, like Baron von Strucker and Arnim Zola to name a few, and many others are mentioned. The plot of the game will neither spoil nor ruin the upcoming movie, so you won’t really have to worry about which order you consume them in. The game is also very brief, and should take around six hours to complete if you want to push through it and skip most of the exploration — which you might as well since there isn’t really anything too impressive to see.
Chris Evans lends his voice to the character, which is nice, but sometimes the game seems to just not care too much about the character. In one loading screen it actually says “Cap likes drawing, teaching and riding motorcycles on less traveled roads.” Seriously? Does he also enjoy long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners?
Fear Hydra! Or just punch them in the face repeatedly.
While the map is huge and sprawling, the enemies are not. There are plenty of nondescript Hydra foes which then become nondescript Hydra robots that you can destroy by blowing up nondescript barrels while dodging around nondescript crates and boxes. Don’t expect a ton of variety when it comes to this game.
The enemies are also dumb, and possibly deaf and blind as well. If a guard is standing at the end of a street, he can be looking right at you and do nothing. You can then throw your shield and make a truck filled with barrels explode and cause a chain reaction of explosions, and when the smoke clears, the guard will still not have moved. Perhaps he is so battle hardened that a massive explosion mere feet from him doesn’t affect him any more than a light summer breeze. But if you take one step beyond the invisible and seemingly arbitrary line that the soldier is guarding, he will then spring in to action—just long enough for you to beat him to death.
Part of the problem is that the graphics are dated, so all the enemies just look unremarkable. Cap himself looks alright, and the shield actually looks cool with the scratches and dings in it… right up until he throws it. There seems to be a field of bad graphics surrounding cap, and once the shield leaves that bubble, it becomes a mess of polygons and glitches. Sometimes the animation looks fine, other times the shield will disappear inside a wall or just go squirrely before appearing back in your hand.
Cap is also extremely limited in his movements. Perhaps he was ordered not to do simple things like step over a railing or pull himself up onto boxes, and as a good soldier he obeys no matter how much easier it would make things. For a super soldier, Cap is easily defeated by a dreaded railing fairly easily. It kind of makes you wonder why Hydra didn’t just build a single rail around the entire castle.
Overall the look and effects of CA:SS are at best average, and sometimes just dull. The environments are usually uninspired, but the level design isn’t bad. You won’t find too many things that are impressive, but the areas at least look distinct. Sure you may not be blown away by the hunting lodge and its two tables, but at least you won’t have to go through eight identical hunting lodges. It ain’t pretty, but the areas are at least somewhat varied. The map and Cap’s tactical vision also help guide your way, but you probably won’t need to use it too often.
Eat justice, Ratzi!
While the levels and graphics are dull, the fighting is hit or miss (see what I did there?). Actually, it is the best part of the game. At times it can be frustratingly sluggish and hard to control, but when it works it is fun. You may be in the middle of serving a Nazi some sweet American chin music, when you will need to throw up your shield to defend yourself from an attack. If you are doing anything when you hit that button, anything at all, even walking, you will get hit. It is odd too, because you need to have good timing to swat away the odd bullet, but for some reason it simply won’t work during combat. Throwing the shield is also dependant on how you want to throw it. If you use the aim function, it is a pain, while the auto throw is useful, but often unpredictable.
Putting that aside, the rest of the combat can be a blast. You essentially just have a punch button, a grab button and a dodge button, plus you can throw your shield during combat. When you begin to wail on Hydra soldiers, you can grab them and introduce them to a taste of American fist, vault over them to take on the next opponent, then turn and throw your shield off of multiple enemies all in one fluid attack. You also have a special meter which unlocks devastating attacks, but it is tougher to fill up than it should be, and so most players will likely try to save it until they need it, which won’t be that often.
Then there is the upgrade system, which is both good and bad. The moves you unlock are helpful and fun, but to upgrade you will need to hunt for collectibles. You can still progress without collecting anything, but it is infinitely harder. But it isn’t just the odd collectible lying around, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of collectibles, and they are everywhere. If you enter a room or an area without at least one collectible, look again. So if you really want to power up, prepare to spend a whole lot of time walking around and picking things up over and over again. Sometimes they are movie reels talking about Hydra’s experiments, sometimes they are entries from Baron Zemo’s diary. Usually they are things like beer steins and unreadable dossiers. Yay.
The collectibles are obviously filler, and while they may appeal to the obsessive, most will grow bored by the overwhelming number of items to grab and the tedium that comes with that.
And then there are the acrobatic moves. Several times you will need to make your way through areas by making incredible leaps and swinging on poles, then following that up by running on a wall, or something similar. While this sounds intriguing, you do all that by hitting the jump button. And that’s it. You don’t even need to time it or control the direction, you can just tap the button until he moves. Sometimes the game will try to fool you into thinking you are dodging things as snipers shoot at you, but really, all you are doing is hitting the button. It is more or less pointless — greater emphasis on the “more.”
Captain America: Super Soldier could have been a really decent title with a bit more time spent in development. As it stands, the game has some fun moments, mainly in the combat, but even that is a bit flawed at times. The graphics are bland, the enemies are dumb, and the game is also short. But again, there are some fun moments.
Still, if you are a huge fan of Cap, the game at least won’t make you angry…much (yo, Thor, talking about you again). It won’t exactly blow you away, but there are worse video game adaptations out there.
Score: 6 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Sega)