This game ended up being a lot better than I expected. As we all know, movie tie-ins tend to be pretty bad, and superhero games tend to be bad, so this had 'stinker' written all over it; and yet, I always hope that just once...(ok, the Batman games were darn good, stop ruining my train of thought) a game will be worth playing and, well, fun.
Captain America: Super Soldier is firmly based in the continuity of the Marvel film universe, as opposed to the comic book one; Cap himself looks the same as he does in Captain America: First Avenger, and Chris Evans voices him (pretty well as well; there can be some very lazy voice actors out there who phone it in). The story is a pretty simple one, and one that follows the template of the Batman Arkham games by keeping Captain America in a single location. That location is Castle Zemo, which the Red Skull's Hydra organisation has taken over, allowing mad and bad scientist Arnim Zola to perform his freakish experiments under the protection of Madame Hydra, a Red Skull lieutenant. As you would expect, it is full of multiple levels of workshops, industrial locations, living quarters, courtyards, mansion wings, all those locations linear games love. The story is essentially a quest to uncover what is going on at the castle, and to destroy it, while taking down a whole load of Hydra goons.
Graphics wise, it's pretty good. Chris Evans likeness is well done, and all the locations and characters look good. Nothing exceptional, but for a tie-in game, that alone IS exceptional!You do have the option of playing in 3D, either 'real' 3D on a 3D tv, or 'imitation' 3D by wearing special TriOviz Inficolor 3D glasses; I have the glasses so gave that bash and although it is a fun novelty, I found it a little distracting and played most the game in normal mode. Nice option to have though. The central storyline is completely linear, so you go from one set-piece to another, although by unlocking the underground sewer system, this allows you to go back to previous areas of the castle if you missed any collectibles.
Speaking of collectibles, there are plenty to get, and they are pretty easy to find dotted around. They are worth looking for, as they help give some background to the main story; finding Baron Zemo's artifacts, for example, unlock diary entries about why the Red Skull wants the castle, find film reels showing Zola's experiments on his men and finding dropped Hydra dossiers gives you points that allow you to upgrade your skills and abilities. These type of games always have these side-quests to extend out gameplay, but at least here they serve a purpose in the story. That being said, I think they threw a few too many in!
The main component of the game is the combat, and I quite enjoyed it. The game makes excellent use of Cap's shield, and you'll have great fun flinging it around, or just using it a nasty club. Hey, they are all evil Nazis...er, Hydra....goons after all, let 'em have it. To do well against the stronger opponents, you do need to learn when to use your shield to deflect, when to throw, and when to just clobber people, as they all vary (Screamers, for example, must be defended against until their shields drop and then you can take them down). There are 9 combos that you progressively unlock through the game, giving you better and better abilities, though you have to fill up an energy meter before being able to use the best ones. The platforming aspect of the game (Cap is a super athlete you know) is average; you do a lot of leaping and jumping to find hidden areas, or just to progress, and it's all a bit of a chore to be honest.
So, under the hood, it is a typical linear, multi level game, with standard button mashing combo fights and the obligatory boss battles at the end of every two or three levels; the A.I on the standard 'grunts' is pretty poor, and only the higher level antagonists like Wardens and Screamers really latch on to you, as well as those pesky bosses. Yet for all that, I enjoyed it. Its bright, breezy, enjoyable, relatively easy to jump into, and nicely appeals to all; if you know nothing about Captain America you'll just enjoy the game, if you know some of the history and background of the character, there are quite a few nods and winks to Cap's history thrown in that you will pick up.
As a fan of the character, and the film, I enjoyed this a lot. It won't change the gamimg world at all, but it'll keep you relatively happy until the next blockbuster comes along...
The general consensus is that video-games based on films are awful. They are usually rushed out in order to tie-in with the release date of the movie and there is a sense of apathy towards the game's existence since it is purely motivated by monetary reasons, rather than originality. This isn't always the case however, for example, the recent Batman: Arkham Asylum was released shortly after The Dark Knight, and whilst not a direct movie-tie in, it managed to catch the attention of those who'd watched the movie, and yet remain its own creature without having to sacrifice its own creative vision to tie in to the movie's plot.
Unlike Arkham Asylum, Captain America: Super Soldier is clearly based on the movie, Captain America: The First Avenger. It shares the same voice-actors as the movie adaptation and takes place in events unseen in the actual film, so it has some freedom to stray from the movie's plot, although it does mean that the Red Skull is unable to be defeated, since this happens in the movie.
In terms of similarities, I would say this game is a hybrid of Batman: Arkham Asylum and X-men: Origins Wolverine. It combines simple RPG progression (a staple in most modern games) with basic action and exploration. There is a sandbox-element to Castle Zemo as you explore, with some areas off-limits until story progression opens them up. There are also hundreds of collectibles, each tied to unlockables in-game, which thanks to a simple map display are easily located and become rewarding rather than frustrating.
The fighting system is fairly simplified and is largely based around the shield that Cap slings towards his enemies. It's a mix of defensive moves, using the shield to deflect bullets, and offensive moves, using the shield as a weapon to hit long-distance enemies. The fighting itself requires an element of skill, rather than button-bashing, but it isn't quite as unforgiving as Arkham Asylum's near ballet-like precision needed to attack.
The graphics are fairly standard, as one expects with a movie-tie in. There is 3D capabilities, which improves the depth of the graphics and does look nice when you play, but after a few hours, I found myself switching back to 2D to avoid an aneurysm.
The boss battles are fairly straight-forward and involve repeating a successful string of attacks to deal damage, which makes them more formulaic than challenging, but it is better than having a random battle where a CPU controlled villain rips you apart with no real pattern to defeat him.
The game is an average length for an adventure game, clocking in at about seven hours gameplay, and that was with me collecting as much as I could. There is replay value in trying to collect the bonuses to unlock the hidden costumes & concept artwork. Seperate to the Campaign mode is a Challenge mode, which consists of timed combat challenges mixed in with some survival battles.
Overall, this is an enjoyable action-adventurer which manages to shake off the stigma attached to movie tie-ins. The use of the shield in combat is done well and encourages the mix of defensive and offensive attacks. I did manage to complete the game over a period of a few days, but I was enjoying it so much that I was playing it in big chunks. It would probably be best served as a rental, or a cheap second-hand copy, due to the time it took to finish, but it would be a fun few days if you did play it.
Review originally posted on my blog.