Review: Captain America: Super Soldier

After my last experience with the Green Lantern’s movie tie-in you’d think I would be a bit more hesitant to take on another such game so soon, yet here I am reviewing Captain America: Super Soldier for Xbox 360. Except this isn’t anywhere near as terrible as the other summer superhero’s game, in fact, I found it pretty enjoyable. Well, enjoyable for a movie tie-in anyway.

Captain America sees the player take control of the ‘original Avenger’ Steve Rogers as he tries to put a stop to the Red Skull’s new super-weapon plans in a mountaintop fortress. Before the Cap can get to the Red Skull however, he must deal with the rest of HYDRA’s agents. Thus ensues a quest that spans the entire fortress as the player tries to not only stop the Red Skull, but also Dr Zola’s reprehensible human weapons. The story is as light as a feather, but we’re not here for story, we want to crack some skulls!

The first thing that struck me about this game was just how pleasing the combat is. Obviously the shield plays a huge part in this combat, with it being used to block, deflect projectiles and as a projectile weapon in its own right. The athleticism of Rogers is conveyed excellently as he uses his acrobatics to seamlessly engage in combat with a room full of enemies. Also, the sound effects are really satisfying, with every finishing blow greeted with a meaty crunch or thud.

It isn’t just in combat that Captain America’s strengths are displayed, even navigating through the fortress needs a spot of gymnastics. In these acrobatic sections the player needs to time their button press to link together jumps and vaults around obstacles. What this amounts to is precise timing of pushing the A button in order to get to the next area, It looks nice, but ultimately it takes very little player input to pull off any of these impressive high-flying moves.

Littered throughout the game are a ridiculous amount of collectables, if you have any sort of collecting fetish then this game may be your thing. There are dossiers, documents, ornamental helmets, antique eggs and more all left in the most bizarre of locations to be picked up. If you, like me, wonder why important HYDRA documents are left lying about then one of the loading screens actually takes the time to explain this:  “Weary of carrying around reams of documents, the HYDRA resorted to stashing them in nooks and crannies.” Err ok, well at least they gave a reason.

Navigating around the areas can be frustrating, the lack of an onscreen mini-map or waypoints means that when trying to see where the next objective is located, the player must bring up the map screen and get their bearings. It sounds a minor gripe, but in later sections when Rogers must move through multiple areas to where he’s meant to be, it’s a real pain that could have been so easily rectified. Also a minor gripe with stairs, walking up them sees our hero’s feet often disappear into them, it looks bad and just lends credence to the idea that corners may have been cut to get this out in time for the movie.

The boss fights are well set out, with set patterns to work out and openings for counter-attacks to discover. One thing this game does have is a bit of variety, each enemy type encountered does fight differently. While just slinging the shield will work on one enemy, for another it has no effect. So players need to be on their toes and remember what works well for what enemy. It’s a little touch, but it shows how much thought has went into the combat.

A range of upgrades can be purchased to improve the shield and fighting technique of the Cap. These upgrades are purchased with points that can be earned through combat and picking up collectables. The upgrades definitely help with later enemies, but most can be dealt with comfortably with careful countering and use of the shield. As well as upgrades, theres a blue bar that fills as you deal out and take damage, once a section is filled then a “focus attack” can be performed that deals heavy damage. Fill all four sections of this bar and “super soldier mode” can be used which turns the screen black and white as Rogers (who is now invincible) can deal a crazy amount of damage by just hammering the punch button. In a boss fight where you might be struggling, this can turn the tide in your favour easily.

With almost everything in place to make Captain America: Super Soldier a game I’d readily recommend fans of the man himself to purchase, there had to be a drawback. Sadly it’s a pretty huge drawback. The main story mode is ridiculously short, so short in fact that I finished the game on the Monday evening, when I had only started on the Sunday afternoon. Granted, I played for a good few hours but even so I think I was lucky to get about five or six hours of play. For something with a great multiplayer mode then six hours may seem ok for a story mode, but when story mode is pretty much all you have, it’s a huge deal. There is a challenge mode, but it’s merely different combat scenarios laid out as missions.

Fans of Captain America should give this a rent, even gamers who just want a decent brawler-style game to distract them for a weekend should rent this. Everything was in place for Captain America: Super Soldier to be a surprisingly solid movie tie-in. It was never going to be a triple-A game, but what is here is commendable. Sadly the extreme lack of longevity means this short ride is resigned to only being worth a rental.

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