Captain America: Super Soldier
I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t exactly itching to play Captain America: Super Soldier. In my mind it was yet another run-of-the-mill third-person action title, whose release just so happens to coincide with a summer blockbuster of the same name. In other words: meh. After playing the game, however, I’ve had to change my opinion. Not that much, but still.
The game doesn’t make a very good first impression. After an underwhelming intro cutscene, you find yourself in trenches during WW II for a tutorial level. You beat up some Hydra soldiers and progress through narrow corridors until you find some more baddies to plant your knuckles in. It’s a strictly linear affair, as all possible sideways are properly blocked by ammo crates and other invisible walls. A sense of freedom is severly lacking in the beginning, as are excitement and -more importantly- simple fun.
Luckily, that all changes in your first real mission. Captain America is paradropped behind enemy lines to infiltrate an enormous castle and thwart the Red Skull’s plans. The fortress is divided into several areas (communication arrays, labs, ammo depots, motor pools,…). The areas are interconnected and you can freely travel between them, in a way that is reminiscent to the unparallelled BioShock.
The levels are well-structured and contain a lot of different environments. It’s just sad there’s so little colour in the game. Super Soldier’s colour palette ranges from brown, over beige, to gray. While that’s certainly a problem more than half of the Unreal Engine 3-powered games seem to suffer from, it shouldn’t count as an excuse. Dear designers all over the world: do something about this! The choppy framerate only makes things worse. As you can see from the screenshots, this game doesn’t exactly have the world’s most detailed textures, which makes it even more mind-boggling why the game stutters this much. There also aren’t that many special effects to speak of and you’ll only rarely find yourself battling more than five enemies at once.
The combat is the highlight of the game. Captain America moves smoothly and easily strings together numerous melee combos. The free-flow mechanics are very comparable to those of Batman: Arkham Asylum. I believe there are worse references. Cap also has a wide variety of grapples and counter-moves that add extra spice to the action. And of course, he can rely on his vibranium shield to block incoming attacks, reflect bullets and even take out enemies from a distance. To round things off, Captain America has some special moves, such as a super strike and a ramming attack. Using special moves depletes the Captain’s energy bar, that can be refilled by pulling off fluid combos.
You unlock more abilities by gaining experience points. Those can be earned by completing your objectives and finding hidden files and film reels. And by hidden, I actually mean scattered all over the place. You can honestly find those documents everywhere: on desks, but also on dining tables or even on the street. If the Germans really were this sloppy with their intel, it’s no wonder they lost the war.
There is some platforming, thrown in for good measure. It’s actually more like platforming-on-rails, since the only thing you have to do is press the X button repeatedly. It’s even easier than in the cell-shaded Prince of Persia, since it’s impossible to fail. Don’t let that fool in thinking the rest of the game is more difficult, because it isn’t. I played through the game on normal and I barely died four or five times. The fact that all the Hydra goons have the IQ of a frontally lobotimized goldfish only makes matters worse. On multiple occasions, the enemy didn’t even bother to respond while I was blowing up fuel barrels, barely ten yards away.
For those of you who care: the characters in the game were voiced by the original actors, but the difference between them and third-string voice-actors isn’t clear to me. Super Soldier’s script and dialogue are so clichéd, predictable and corny that not even Chris Evans, Hayley “can call me anytime” Atwell and the others ecan right this mess. The music is an overly bombastic fare, like you’ve heard it before in countless other WW II games.
Captain America: Super Soldier can be described as the Walmart version of Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s definitely not the worst movie tie-in I’ve played, but the decent gameplay can’t make up for the stunning lack of original ideas or the depressing graphics. In a few months time, however, when the price has dropped, Super Soldier might be worth a look.