Some movie-based video games seek to recreate the plot of the movie itself, which I feel is dangerous ground to tread. Some tell a story completely separate from the movie, which, as long as it doesn’t contradict the movie it’s based on, can be good. Some tell a story that bridges the gap between one movie and another, which can provide a great deal of fill-in, which is always entertaining for a geek like me. Some tell a story that fills in gaps in time within the movie itself, which, when pulled off correctly, can be more entertaining than the rest, because you get a more complete story than just one or the other. Captain America: Super Soldier is a game that takes place during Captain America: The First Avenger, as one of the montage-missions to destroy Hydra bases during WWII. Did SEGA and Next Level Games manage to pull it off, or is it just another in a long line of disappointing comic-movie game adaptations?
My first praise for this game will be for the decision to place it firmly within the movie’s timeline, but not directly repeat any of the movie’s events. In Captain America: The First Avenger, you get a montage-like scene that shows Captain America and co. destroying Hydra bases and generally foiling and continually delaying the dastardly Red Skull’s plans. A considerable amount of time passes, and in that time you see glimpses of the progress that Captain America and the U.S. Army are making against fascism and lunacy. Captain America: Super Soldier fits neatly within that montage, fleshing out some of what you see in the movie, and creating a more rich experience. Also, putting the game withing the WWII timeline was, I believe, the correct choice for Captain America. He fits in that era so well, and it really makes the game more entertaining.
If you don’t see where this is going yet, let me give you a sneak peek: Captain America: Super Soldier is really good.
Combat is eerily reminiscent of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Standard melee combat is fluid, but strong. There is a definite sense of strength and agility when watching Cap fight Hydra’s footsoldiers that really relates his ability and prowess. The real strength of the combat is the fluidity of it. Cap can go from enemy to enemy smoothly, taking on an entire group of enemies with ease. Dodging, shield throwing, bullet deflecting, and melee combat can be strung together smoothly, creating a veritable dance performance of ass-kickery. It’s almost artistic to see Cap in the middle of a group of enemies throwing his shield, then rolling into an attack, spinning and attacking again, grabbing his shield on its return, finishing a combo with a hard shield melee, then throwing a ricochet shield shot that dispatches the remainder of the group with no break in motion or activity. Captain America’s shield was incredibly well implemented for both combat and tactical use. Timing a block just right against a projectile can result in it being returned to its origin, double tapping your right trigger can result in a chain of multiple ricochet enemy hits, entering Focus aim mode for the shield can result in instant KO’s on multiple ricocheted targets, and aiming your shield can result in precision single hits. The shield is also used in combat as a heavy melee attack at the end of a successful combo chain, usually resulting in a knockout. There was a satisfying clang at the end of each of those combos, accompanied with a rumble in the controller that made me really enjoy this game on a visceral level.
I mentioned Focus aim mode for the shield, but there’s more to it than just that. A separate meter, called the Focus meter, is replenished by successful dodges and attacks. The Focus meter is used for special attacks for both your shield and in melee. Shield Focus allows you to enter a kind of bullet-time that allows you to aim your reticle and select multiple targets. Once you’re done selecting targets, you let your shield fly. Super Soldier mode is like the 1940’s version of Red Bull, I suppose, resulting in a Captain America that gets one-hit KO’s for a limited time. A standard focus attack is a high-impact, high-damage attack that does a great job in cutting away at boss health meters and KO’ing pesky peons. Each focus ability uses a different amount of your focus, so there are times when they need to be used strategically. They are, however, very useful, and very satisfying.
There are platforming elements to the game that remind me of a watered down, and slightly unpolished Assassin’s Creed. There is no real direct control of vertical platforming like there is in Assassin’s Creed, but when executed properly, it looks very smooth and fluid. All platforming consists of pressing the “A” button at the right time, which can get repetitive for most, but doesn’t get in the way of the game at all in my opinion. True, the platforming could have been a bit more open and fleshed out, but this is hardly a failure. It gets Captain America where he needs to go in a more entertaining way than just walking there.
There is no mini-map in the game, and the slightly confusing full-map isn’t much of a help when it comes to large scale navigation. A mini-map with an objective pointer would have gone a long way in helping Cap navigate the castle. On the plus side, all of the major collectible items (not dossiers, etc., but film reels, schematics, and heirlooms) are listed on the map, so you shouldn’t miss any of the major items if you’re paying attention.
There are two gameplay mechanics used in certain cases that you can’t avoid, and they are the decryption mechanic and the wire shorting mechanic. Some people will get bored at the perceived monotony and repetitiveness of these mechanics, but I enjoyed the scaling difficulty they contained. The decryption mechanic involves two sets of letters and numbers (each controlled by one joystick), finding the one matching letter or number that appears in both sets, and superimposing them on each other. As the game progresses, the sets become more complex and cluttered while the time gets shorter. The wire shorting mechanic involves both joysticks again, and involves slowly moving them towards each other to create an electric arc between two live wires. Too close, and you shock yourself, so precision and patience are the keys to the wire shorting mechanic.
One of the biggest strengths in this game is the way the collectible items within the game world unlock more story background and information. Film reels can be collected throughout the world which contain highly sensitive records of Dr. Zola’s experiments, and provide the player with some insight into what may be coming up. They are all narrated by Zola and highlight various elements and enemies you will come across in the game. Heirlooms of Baron Zemo can be collected as well, which each unlock 1 of 31 diary entries detailing Zola and Red Skull’s arrival and subsequent capture of Zemo’s castle, where the game takes place. Everything you get from both the diaries and the film reels serves to provide you with a better understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes, and why things are the way they are. Schematics can be found throughout the game world, each of which gives Captain America more insight into the types of enemies he fights. This insight provides Cap with bonuses against each enemy type, so make sure you don’t skip a schematic.
There are various other mementos and collectible items hidden throughout the game world, but most important are the dossiers. Dossiers can be found anywhere. You are just as likely to find one on a desk, table, or other seemingly appropriate location for a folder of sensitive information as you are to find one on the ground in the middle of the street. Dossiers unlock two alternate costumes (Classic Captain America and Ultimates Captain America, each of which provides a different stat bonus to Captain America in gameplay), multiple challenge modes (in which you complete objectives within a time limit for gold, silver, or bronze medals), and provide you with XP (which can be used to level up certain of Captain America’s abilities). There is gameplay beyond the campaign, and that is the search for unlockables and the battle through the challenges.
SEGA’s reputation for publishing current generation video game adaptations of Marvel superhero movies has been…spotty, at best. Neither Iron Man nor Iron Man 2 were very good, Thor was lackluster, and The Incredible Hulk was forgettable (because I totally forgot about it). Captain America: Super Soldier is the c-c-c-combo breaker in this string of disappointment, delivering an extremely entertaining action game that, at its conclusion, left me disappointed that there wasn’t more. Yes, the game is short, but it’s also fun. Take into consideration the collectible items to find in the game and the challenge mode, and you have an extended gameplay value beyond the single player campaign. Is $59.99 steep for a short game? Not as long as it’s a great game, and Captain America: Super Soldier is, in my opinion, a great game. The highest praise I can give it is that I was sad when it ended, because I wanted more.
|Excellent combat and shield mechanics|
Plenty of collectible items
Entertaining challenge mode
Platforming could have been more fleshed out
No mini-map for easy navigation