Captain America: Super Soldier Review
Nintendo 3DSAlso available on Nintendo Wii
With every other Comic book hero getting their own film franchise, and subsequent rushed game tie-ins, Captain America now gets his turn to shine in Captain America: Super Soldier. As with all these quick cash-ins I was expecting the worst. However, rather than trying to follow the film too much, High Voltage Software have only loosely based the game off the plot of The First Avenger.
Set during World War II, Captain America takes it upon himself to bring down the terrorist organisation HYDRA. As someone who isn't familiar with the film or comic books, I have to say I didn't feel any particular engagement with the characters or plot, but then I suppose that for this type of game the developers are assuming you've seen the film or have at least a little knowledge of the titular hero. In any case, the plot is simply used to dump Captain America into various locations and have him defeat various enemies and boss characters.
The game is broken down into nine levels, most of which take between 20 and 30 minutes to finish and feature a mix of combat, puzzle solving and platforming. Every level is essentially a linear corridor, starting from the trenches of World War II and progressing through castles and prisons to the end. There is always a waypoint arrow that points the player in the right direction, although for the most part it isn't needed. Occasionally there are slightly more open areas as you need to locate several objective points, but even then it's usually pretty obvious where to go.
Combat is simple, perhaps a little too simple. Mashing the A button will be more than enough to deal with most foes, as the Captain automatically chains combos together and jumps around the room decking opponents. When an enemy is about to attack, a prompt will appear to press the X button to perform a counter attack, knocking the enemy down, and the Captain's shield can also be used as a boomerang-type projectile to momentarily stun enemies. Although most of the opposition can be beaten by mashing the standard attack button, there are more creative ways that the Captain can take out enemies. For example, the player can stun a gun-wielding enemy with the shield, grab him (using the counter move) and fire upon other enemies in the room. The shield can also be used for defense and deflect bullets back at enemies.
The platforming sections are both incredibly simple and occasionally irritating, thanks to the sometimes awkward camera. As long as the player is facing vaguely in the right direction, tapping the B button to jump will launch the player over onto the next section, as long as the arrow is pointing there. With the dodgy camera system and no real skill required,the platforming sections are simply there to break up the endless brawling sections. Sometimes minor puzzle sections will appear, although they rarely amount to anything more than deflecting a turrets gunfire to hit a switch or locking onto several switches and throwing the shield at them to open the next door.
Despite the game being pretty short, it is incredibly repetitive. Throughout each level you will enter room after room containing several enemies to dispose of, occasionally taking a break to finish a platforming section. Even during a level where the Captain must escape from a dungeon, the gameplay is still the same constant brawling, where there could have been an opportunity to provide a more stealthy approach without his shield. Piloting the occasional turret also feels quite redundant as waves of enemies are easily dispensed with the use of normal melee attacks. There are some distractions however throughout the levels you can disarm bombs, rescue P.O.Ws and locate relics. Unfortunately, performing these tasks doesn't offer much beyond unlocking conceptual artwork. Also littered throughout the game are yellow switches, triggering various challenges such as taking down a certain number of enemies, or being required to navigate an acrobatic course within a given time limit. There is also an RPG-like upgrade system in which you can choose to improve one of three skill trees, although beyond gaining more focus/lock-on slots there doesn't seem to be any real need to upgrade as the enemies remain largely the same until the game concludes.
Unfortunately, Captain America: Super Soldier hasn't been developed with the 3DS in mind, as the systems capabilities aren't really used to any great effect. Being a port of the Wii version, the use of the touch screen for manual shield aiming and throwing felt tacked on and unresponsive. Whilst the Wii remote may have proved effective at tasks such as reflecting bullets in a specific direction, having to press the R button and use your thumb to aim the reflection is quite awkward and uncomfortable. Fortunately, aiming the shield like the boomerang of a Zelda title has the option of using the analogue nub. Despite the fact you can't customise the sensitivity or choose to invert the controls it's a lot less hassle than using the touch screen.
Visually, the game looks quite rough, featuring weirdly-proportioned character models and blurry textures throughout the entire game. Being a tie-in with the recent film, the game has attempted to maintain a more realistic aesthetic for the most part. However, during the various flashier attacks the Cap pulls off, shooting stars burst from every punch landed. It's a little disappointing that High Voltage didn't attempt to create a more vibrant, comic book aesthetic that perhaps would have been better suited to the 3DS/Wii hardware limitations in comparison to the HD console versions. For the most part, the game runs smooth enough, but occasionally the frame-rate will drop for no apparent reason, as slowdown occurs both in more open environments and the endless amount of corridors. Chris Evans and several other cast members from the film have also lent their voices for the game, and do a decent enough job, even if the catchphrases the Cap spouts during battle do get a little irritating. The sound effects and music score however are fairly unremarkable throughout the game, lacking any real variety.
Overall, Captain America: Super Soldier isn't a particularly bad game. The core combat is quite fun, but through the sheer amount of repetition, the game loses its charm around halfway through the 4-5 hours it takes to finish. There's nothing particularly memorable about the game, with the endless corridors filled with enemies all blurring together. As far as quick cash-ins go however, it's better than most, as worrying as that is.
Note: Screenshots throughout this review are of the Wii version.