Joey's Video Game Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: SUPER SOLDIER
Published: July 28, 2011 - 9:22am
If you're anything like me, you've probably spent a good amount of time daydreaming about what it'd be like to be a superhero. In these days of interactive media, the potential to experience the adventures of a comic book superhero makes the dream anything but impossible. Next Level Games attempts to fulfill our fantasies with Captain America: Super Soldier, and almost succeeds.
Loosely based on the Hollywood blockbuster film from Marvel Studios, Captain America: The First Avenger, the game starts out with Cap on the fronts lines in World War II. After saving some soldiers in a fight with HYDRA, our hero confiscates a film reel that unveils a sickening plot by Nazi scientist Arnim Zola to replicate the Super Soldier serum used on Captain America through the use of the Red Skull's blood. This begins the ordeal that takes players through a top secret HYDRA castle in an attempt to stop Zola and the Red Skull from perfecting their wicked experiments, all the while encountering a colorful array of villains, including the deadly mistress Madame Hydra and the mechanical Iron Cross.
Super Soldier's campaign mode makes up the entire game, but works hard to make up for the lack of a multiplayer mode with a campaign that logs a few more hours of game time than the average movie tie-in game. The game doesn't exist entirely out of the tie-in realm, though, as gameplay is almost completely linear, with players moving from skirmish to skirmish fighting small groups of enemies. While there is some variation among the common grunts, most of the scenarios are similar in nature and take very little effort to get past. Long missions with oddly placed checkpoints can make the experience somewhat dragged out at times, but players can expect a change in environment fairly often.
The visuals are as they should be in a game of this caliber. Settings are somewhat plain, but have enough definition so as to not detract from the overall feel of the level. Extra attention was given to the shield in this respect, though, as the iconic symbol of the character always gleams against whatever light source is in the general vicinity, giving it a refreshing polished look no matter where Cap happens to be.
Environments vary in size, and while most maintain a vaguely straightforward design, some larger areas will take players up, around, under, over, and through some fun layouts. This is mostly achieved with a feature which is best described as a clone of the acrobatic movement system found in the Assassin's Creed series, but not as complex and only available at certain points in the level. Cap keeps a good running pace throughout, keeping the exploration of the territory face-paced and interesting.
Some of the more mundane additions to the game include an extremely vast number of "hidden" items, used to unlock concept art and gain points for upgrades to Cap, which are, for the most part, unnecessary and can be easily done without. A couple Mass Effect-like "decryption" and "sabotaging" exercises are peppered throughout each level, but are so simple they serve no real purpose, and quickly become mere annoyances. Much of the cast of the movie lend their voices to the video game counterparts of themselves, but do not serve in any way other than deliver uninspired dialogue meant to aid players in completing humorously obvious objectives.
It's not hard to tell where most of the game's time in development was spent. The inevitably cookie-cutter campaign and mind-numbingly easy difficulty are completely forgotten when the action starts. If there is any reason to play the game, it is the hand-to-hand combat between Cap and his enemies. The fighting is ridiculously simple, but is no doubt the most entertaining of any brawler I've played before. Attacking, Cap goes through a series of punches and kicks before knocking out his foe with an exhilarating slow-mo roundhouse kick or shield smack to the head. Dodging is a perfectly executed series of jumps and rolls around the enemies, making combat a flawlessly choreographed dance of martial arts and skillful acrobatics. The deft combat mechanics are supplemented by competent use of the shield, which can block attacks in a stiff holding position that makes the tool not overpowered, or if timed correctly can deflect a bullet back at the gunman who had the misfortune of firing it (which, to my surprise, wasn't as easy as the rest of the game). No matter how much I tried, I could not get the combat to even once feel clumsy or give in to a common glitch, such as a punch not landing or a kick go through the enemy in an awkward deviation from the laws of physics, as is so common in other brawlers. Every single enemy is defeated in a visually appealing compilation of superheroic martial arts, ending with a satisfying finishing move slowed down to the perfect speed while never once compromising the fight. Players will feel the power and grace behind a hero like Captain America with each enemy defeated.
Captain America: Super Soldier is a game that puts a great character with great mechanics into a dull world filled to the brim with weak enemies and conveniently placed items that add nothing to the experience overall. Nevertheless, while playing through this laughably easy montage of video game cliches, I was all the while partaking in a seamless system of superhero combat taken right off the pages of a comic book. For at least a few hours, I was Captain America.