Originally a tiny man, Captain America is a superhero who rose to captivate millions. He’s one of the greatest fictional heroes ever scribed and is the subject matter of one of this summer’s biggest blockbuster films. As can be expected, a video game companion has been released to complement its big brother motion picture inspiration. Entitled Captain America: Super Soldier, it lets us gamers jump into the action-packed world, beating up tons of Hydra forces along the way.
The game doesn’t follow the film verbatim, instead choosing to go off on its own related storyline. It takes place in an open-world construct, as Cap explores the long-standing Zemo castle and what is hidden beneath. Background plot is given through unlockable Zemo diaries, which give players insight into exactly why Red Skull and his Hydra forces have taken up camp inside the archaic piece of architecture, plus its surrounding buildings and town. Reason being is that there’s a legendary metallic beast hidden beneath the grounds, named The Sleeper, who could give your evil adversaries ultimate power. Plus, as per the usual, the baddies also want your genetic mutation serum. Only you stand in the way of all of that, with your blue tights and vibrantium shield.
As can be expected, Captain America: Super Soldier is a third-person beat ‘em-up and action game. There are tons of enemies with which to dispose of and they replenish even after the credits roll. Anyone who is looking for some visceral combat will be pleased, considering the combat system allows for some visually impressive moves. Plow your way through just using standard melee attacks/grabs or save up energy to perform an extravagantly visceral rage attack which immobilizes an enemy in one jaw-dropping hit. Energy can also be left in reserve while you save up to use the titular Super Soldier move, becoming an unstoppable force for a limited amount of time.
The iconic shield is one of the stars of the experience, allowing Cap to stun enemies and even take some out, all at the press of the trigger. You can manually aim where the shield should go, in order to target progression-related items or switches as well as enemies. While using the energy bar, several enemies can be targeted to allow for one lengthy throw, resembling a pinball effect. It’s a very helpful tool that adds a lot to the experience, especially when the shield is shown during combos. Seeing it hit an enemy, with that well-known clang ringing out, is really one of the best treats this game has to offer. You really feel the power behind it.
Steve Rogers has been known to be more than just a physical brute, however. In addition to his special combat skills and manly muscles, he’s also very agile. Next Level Games took advantage of these abilities by adding a ton of different ledges and poles that must be swung on to reach new areas. A lot of the time, these are indicators as to the location of hidden items, as collectibles play a gigantic role in this experience. In fact, they’re pretty much the only way that you can earn experience to be used in the purchase of special combat upgrades. Only a limited number of upgrades are available, including some which can be quite helpful.
In-game collectibles take many forms, though most are pieces of the Zemo collection that were hidden away when the Hydra forces invaded his castle. Finding those specific sets will unlock the aforementioned diaries. The other hidden items take the form of Dr. Zola’s film reels, canisters and file folders. Each of the latter two are the most prevalent and are mainly used for gaining experience. Combat efficiency will earn you small packets of experience but finding a large stack of file folders awards the mother load. If you don’t like collectibles, then this may bother you because of how much it plays into the game’s structure.
The unexpected aspect of it all is how the development team decided to go for an open-world structure instead of something more level-based and safe. Every area of the world is accessible for more than one visit, with a small amount of forced backtracking being included into the story. A very small amount actually. The main reason to go back to the other areas you’ve previously visited is to look for missed collectibles or destructible AA guns. This mechanic is done quite well as there’s an underground sewer system with doors leading up to all of the major areas. It avoids confusion but, when the open-world aspects were introduced, I must say that it was a bit overwhelming. That dissipated though.
Adding onto the several hour long campaign is a challenge mode, featuring ten different tasks. Completion is ranked on a metallic scale of bronze to gold, based on time. These challenges run the gamut of types, including collectible, combat, survival and movement challenges. They last around three or four minutes on average, providing fun and reasonably tough tasks to complete. It’s a nice bonus that will keep some players coming back to try to get gold awards on each of the ten, though a lot of them can be mastered in a couple of tries. Game mechanics are put to pretty good use here, allowing for some nice diversity within the mode.
Going in, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. As we all know, licensed games are hit or miss at the best of times, though their average quality has improved noticeably over the course of this generation. In putting a lot of time into it, I became pretty impressed with what was on the disc inside of the console. Captain America: Super Soldier is a good game. It’s fun, features a pretty well-designed combat system and some other good features. Although, as with a lot of these types of games, it does suffer from camera issues and the odd technical problem, as well as a lack of enemy variety. The worst of those is the fact that there’s a near constant yet subtle frame rate issue. It doesn’t ruin the experience at all, but is noticeable.
The world of Captain America: Super Soldier has a nice amount of variety and detail within its locations. Each new building or area on the castle’s grounds provides its own character and designs. Visually, the combat and overall look of the game are also quite nice, especially during the slow-motion scenes where you can actually see Cap break an enemy’s face protector while knocking him unconscious. The lighting effects on his shield are impressive as it reflects each location’s lighting differently. Three-dimensional televisions can display the game in full 3D, but it wasn’t available for this review.
Chris Evans reprises his role as our titular hero, which adds a lot of great credibility to the whole production. He’s phenomenal in the role, during dialogue with familiar faces such as Peggy, Red Skull and Dr. Zola. The rest of the cast does a good job, as I really don’t have any complaints whatsoever about the voice acting. The original score is strong, though its sound effects are a bit mixed. In-game shield effects sound strong, especially when it’s used during one of the slow-motion combat finishers or energy moves. However, some of the explosion effects sound a tad muffled, without the same type of audio fidelity.
Being a fan of the hero and his moves over most of my life, I’m happy to be able to say that Captain America: Super Soldier is a quality product that is worth your time investment. Fans of the film and its comic book inspiration pieces will definitely enjoy plowing their way through Hydra forces as they explore the castle of Zemo. It provides an entertaining complementary piece to the film and is a nice stand-alone form of entertainment. However, some technical issues, repetition and an occasionally wonky camera mar the experience.
There’s a good six to eight hours here if you take the time to explore for collectibles, though there’s the chance to rush through if that’s more your style. The former style is certainly recommended. Finding collectibles unlocks new insight into the game’s back-story, as well as new suits and other items. All of which makes for a more fulfilling and complete run through the game. A nice aspect of it all is how you can reload a finished game to look for missed items, though there’s a lack of a new game plus option which may dismay some.
Check this one out, so that we can put an end to those ugly evil foes saying, “Hail Hydra!” America needs its red, blue and white hero for its sepia-toned 1940s era.
Captain America: Super Soldier was released on July 19, 2011.