Should I Buy? – Captain America: Super Soldier

I’ve been on a bit of a Marvel binge recently, what with all the excitement the Avengers film is kicking up in me. In the past month, I’ve started reading Marvel Ultimates, watched Captain America: The First Avenger and yes, played Captain America: Super Soldier, the tie-in game to the film.

I’m aware this review isn’t exactly timely.

Marvel’s recent glut of great films (and the awesome X-Men: First Class by a different studio) have found their success with lesser known characters by focusing on what really makes that character who they are, building up believable character relationships and finding a comfortable compromise between accessibility and fidelity.

Can Super Soldier  do the same? Not really. The problem is that it’s too indecisive. Oh, by the way, while this game is a tie-in to the film and its design and characters are that of the film, I wouldn’t call it official Avengers film continuity. It seems like it should slot in between the first time Zola & Red Skull encounter Captain America, in that whole montage-y bit of Cap and the Invaders fighting HYDRA.

Oh yeah, so the game has Cap fighting HYDRA in Castle Zemo with the Invaders squad pitching in offscreen. Because the Red Skull is the villain of the film, he’s just a side villain making a cameo while the primary antagonist is Dr Zola. You know, the put-upon, slightly pitiable research guy the Red Skull bossed around.

Obviously, that Zola wouldn’t work, so here he’s much more arrogant and psychotic and has Ubermensch dreams of his own. Normally, this would just make him a fairly generic villain, but it’s at odds with his on-screen persona which I really don’t feel would be that hard to translate.

HYDRA’s forces don’t just use guns now, oh no. They come with stun batons and shields and a few variety of beefy dudes, each with their own counter measures while Cap gets by with a non-lethal projectile and a hit-dodge-counter setup.

So yes, the combat’s ripping off Arkham Asylum. But Batman was almost magnetically drawn to his foes. So long as you pressed attack while being near a guy and pushing the analog stick in vaguely the right direction, he’d strike with bone-crunching accuracy. But Cap’s a bit slippery when moving about, and his shield will NOT auto target people unless they’re pretty much straight in front of you.

Also, the button combinations used for the different counter techniques are often in the fashion of “hold down one button and press another” and more than once I took hits because when I saw a counter icon I got flustered over which move that particular icon meant I should use. Especially when some of the big beasty baddies have follow up button mashing Quick Time Events ad which button it is changes every time and some attacks let you get away with pressing the wrong one first and some don’t…

What I’m trying to say is that in trying to mix up the core gameplay mechanic, it deviated too far from its simple basis and ended up floundering. Really, I could have forgiven the slightly sloppy controls and glut of counters and such if the game had done a better job of teaching me.

It’s too concerned with trying to compete with the First Avenger and Uncharted/Prince of Persia style cinematic acrobatics and Arkham Asylum combat/doodad collection time to slow the hell down. Remember how in Arkham Asylum the Joker trapped you in a room and poured in waves of thugs so you could practice the attack/dodge/counter options before it even told you you had Batarangs? That’s the kind of thing Super Soldier is lacking. The appropriate button presses and what they do flash up at the top of the screen from time to time, but it’s not enough.

Especially seeing as the on screen text is clearly not optimised for a small, non-HD TV like, I dunno, a significant portion 14-20 year olds have. And it’s not like 14-20 is THE single biggest gaming demographic or anything…

Now, while Asylum mixed up its battles with the visceral and enjoyable stealth sequences, Super Soldier only has these limited acrobatics. It’s really just a case of pressing A at the glowy objects until you reach your destination. These have that basically satisfying cool look to them like similar sequences in Uncharted or Prince of Persia, but the only “skill” is in pressing A just as you land so you move faster. This is supposed to be how to avoid snipers, but they so rarely show up when you’re doing it, it’s redundant.

Really, systems only seeming half implemented because there’s such a limited amount of content (seriously, about a 6-8 hour campaign) is a recurring trend. There’s an upgrade system that gives new moves that vary from fairly useful to completely obsolete. And even though there’s only nine, the game’s so short I don’t think I actually bought anything from the third tier.

It can’t even fall back on the gadget-y puzzle thing Arkham Asylum did, because Cap only has access to his shield. Well, there’s two very simple “puzzles” that you use to open doors/blow things up. Now, this shield does work well as a weapon, the CLANG as you whack people is particularly satisfying.

But all there really is is the good-but-not-great combat and style-over-substance acrobatics. The collectable doodads also fall short of the mark, leaving aside the fact that you can find top secret dossiers in the sewers, of Zemo family heirlooms in the mess hall and at one point, a giant ceramic rooster behind the most securely locked door in the game, isn’t what bothers me. What bothers me is that they’re set out really weirdly. You may go several chapters without finding a single heirloom, but then find two or three in five minutes of each other.

Also, if this is Baron Zemo’s castle, and we can collect his family heirlooms to find out his involvement with Hydra, why doesn’t he appear? We get a smattering of what I assume to be other Captain America villains like Madame HYDRA, Iron Cross and Baron von Schrofen, but not Zemo?

Also, the villains fall flat. None of them do anything as memorable as Joker’s speeches or Scarecrow’s nightmare sequences, and if you don’t know who they are, you’ll only get a few brief references to who and what and why they are.

The reason I’m being so hard on this game is because it really did have a solid foundation and could have truly rivalled the Goddamn Batman. But in the end, I imagine the strict time limit imposed on the studio to get it released to capitalise on the film meant they couldn’t make this big, epic game they seem to have planned.

So that’s Super Soldier. It’s short, it’s a bit sloppy, but it has a rough charm and is a fun game. Now that’s it’s a damn sight cheaper than its original full price makes it worth a look, but you’re not missing anything spectacular if you pass on it and if you’re looking for a great superhero game, just play Arkham Asylum or Arkham City instead.


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