Captain America: Super Soldier (360/PS3): Fighting for freedom

August 3, 2011

Sega’s recent releases based on the latest Marvel movies have been less than great. From the two Iron Man games to this year’s Thor: God of Thunder, it was safe to assume everyone’s favorite spandex-wearing American soldier would get a similar treatment. Thankfully, Captain America: Super Soldier surpasses those lousy expectations and stands out on its own a truly fun, albeit unpolished, adventure.

Like with Thor, the story does not directly follow the events of the film. You find yourself in an unnamed European city attempting to dismantle more of Hydra’s operations and stop Dr. Arnin Zola, the right-hand man to supervillain The Red Skull, from creating an army of super soldiers and doing other essentially evil things. You won’t play this game for the story though, but it is nice, for those who have seen the movie, to catch all the references to the film.

The main draw of this game is the combat, which borrows heavily from Batman: Arkham Asylum. You have one attack button combined with the right stick to point to which enemy you want to fight all meanwhile you dodge and counter them just as they attempt to attack you. This is the game’s strongest point and it is done very well here. You also have the use of Cap’s trusty shield, which can deflect bullets back at enemies with the right timing. Combine that with a number of finishing moves and you have a great combat system that is well-suited to the character.

The shield itself is a small, but very significant mechanic that adds a lot to the flow of battles. Not only can you use it in direct combat, but you can throw the shield at any time to knock enemies out. Eventually, you will learn a skill that will allow you to select multiple enemies at once before tossing the shield into a crowded room, giving you the opportunity to strike first. It’s a mechanic that feels exclusive to this character and it was clearly handled with care.

The rest of the gameplay isn’t as fun, but it’s still solid. There are platforming mechanics that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Prince of Persia game, but are more like quick-time events than anything else. They’re not bad, but they don’t do enough to stand out and are relatively consequence-free. There are also mini-games to be completed, including a code breaking mini-game that allows you to open doors, some of which lead to secrets. You also have an upgrade system, but there are only nine total and they simply teach you new moves to perform during combat.

Outside of the main campaign, you also have a selection of challenges you can complete. These challenges range from defeating a group of enemies in a certain amount of time to collecting items scattered through a maze. They offer a nice diversion from the main campaign and they, specifically the combat challenges, can be pretty enjoyable.

The game is far from perfect, though. It’s clear that it was a bit rushed, as it all feels unpolished. You’ll often find yourself getting caught on small things in the environment (a bit ridiculous for a super soldier) and Cap’s shield, while cool as a gameplay mechanic, has some technical issues of its own as it often clips through his arm or back.

Technical issues aside, the developers added collectibles, which feel completely out of place. You are tasked with collecting not only dossier files and schematics, which makes sense, but you also ceramic eggs and other Hydra trinkets.

The collectibles get ridiculous too. At one point, you will complete a fairly difficult hacking puzzle to unlock a door that leads to a large ceramic rooster. Captain America, without question, takes it and puts it in his pants with the rest of his dossier files, film canisters and beer mugs.  It’s weird that a symbol of hope and freedom is reduced to stealing and pillaging.

There is a distinct lack of variety in both the locations you visit and the gameplay as a whole. Outside of the occasional turret sequence (yes, they added turret sequences) and boss battle, you mostly find yourself doing the same things throughout the majority of the game. It never becomes dull, but you might grow tired of it by the final chapters.

Despite these problems, Captain America: Super Soldier is a fun time. The developers clearly understood the character and managed to add some neat new mechanics to an already proven formula. With a little more polish and some extra variety, this game could have really stood out among the best of the superhero video games.

Pros: Combat is fast, fluid, and fun; shield mechanics add a lot to the combat; challenge rooms are a fun diversion

Cons: Plagued with technical issues; serious lack of gameplay and environmental variety in the campaign; collectibles feel out of place

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.