After the recent relentless slew of comic book movie tie-ins ranging from hideously deformed horrors to the dizzy heights of 'not awful', it's a great relief to be able to report we have a game we can call 'good'.
Captain America: Super Soldier borrows from all the right places, namely Arkham Asylum, and stuffs its world with hidden objects to find to appeal to the gamer's hunger to collect everything possible.
The game seems to run alongside the film rather than portray the same events. But you'll hear Chris Evens as Cap and see enemy soldiers resembling the movie ones. The story is simple fodder, Cap must clear the way in a Bavarian fortress for the good guys against the Hydra army. The setting is WWII, which provides plenty of faux-German accents. They're terrible and the dialogue is laughable but it all adds to the game's charm and will raise a wry smirk and even a laugh or two.
After Arkham Asylum, you had to wonder why developers persisted with shovelling out the same old dull combat into their titles, especially action film tie-ins. Finally, somebody has just said, ‘let's try to make it like Batman.’ There’s one button each for melee strikes, counters and grabbing. The animation has an admirable attempt at making the fighting moves context sensitive depending on how close you are to an enemy and if they are attacking you. It’s not as smooth as the combat flow of games like Assassin’s Creed II or Batman, but it’s a damn fine imitation, which we wish more games would be brave enough to adopt instead of the usual Square/Triangle button-mashing.
The Captain’s famous shield adds another layer to the combat, as well as smashing it into faces it can also be thrown. A double tap of R2 will bounce it off numerous enemies making for a great way to break up a huddle of troops. It can also deflect bullets at the last moment and ping them back at the shooter in an immensely satisfying moment. The movie may have shown the hero firing a pistol but the closest you get here is the turret sections or grabbing an enemy and forcing him to fire his own gun at his colleagues as one of your special moves. Your other special moves include devastating slow-mo punches that knock out most foes in one, super shield throws and a super soldier (rage) mode.
The visuals of the Bavarian castle, the surrounding mountains and underground caves might not be particularly impressive to look at, but you’ll spend plenty of time investigating every inch. Rarely do you poke your nose into a corner and come away unrewarded. The hidden items and dossiers all go towards levelling up your skills and become a moreish delight. Combine this rapid collecting with the fluid fighting and you’ll barely notice the over-familiarity of the missions involving beating up soldiers, bigger soldiers, planting charges and hacking door locks.
Exploration and progression will often require a mild bit of gymnastics. It’s clunky at first thanks to some shy leap/climb prompts at a section’s start, but once you’re going you can time your button presses just right to travel faster and to link moves together for an XP bonus. There’s no danger of falling but perfecting the timing becomes a matter of pride.
Other reviews have harshly picked at the ‘open-world’ map of the game. This game never portrays itself as open-world at all; it is linear in nature and constantly pushes you in the right direction. The only backtracking required is a two-minute journey for the final boss. The underground sewers, which act as an optional hub, are there to allow players to revisit any area of the game for the sake of picking up missing items from their collections.
At around six hours (or a couple more if you go Trophy hunting and finish the challenge missions), it’s not the longest of games and you might be able to clean out everything the game has to offer with one playthrough. Captain America: Super Soldier shouldn’t be treated with the usual mistrust of a film tie-in though.
- Fluid and stylish combat
- Lots to collect, even in the dead-ends
- Bad, but funny German accents
- Graphics are a bit average (far from bad though)
- First button prompt is a bit fiddly on jumping sections
- Not much replayability
The Short Version: Don’t expect Arkham Asylum; just be pleasantly surprised by a game brave enough to buck a trend. The combat works well, makes you feel good and tends to make you look like you’re doing more than your thumbs actually are. Plus the hoard of collectable items makes the game’s world a fantastic distraction.