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Captain America: Super Soldier Review

Steve Butts | 10 Aug 2011 23:00
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While videogames based on Marvel super hero movies aren't that rare, most of them are pretty terrible. I object to this, both as a gamer and a longtime comic book fan, so I was prepared to be disappointed with Captain America: Super Soldier, particularly so because I really enjoyed the movie. Happily, the game is not nearly as bad as most of the Marvel movie tie-ins. Though it does have some truly terrible moments, the fun and fast combat held my attention for the five hours or so it took me to complete it.

The best thing about Captain America is the combat. Much like Batman in Batman: Arkham Asylum, from which this game borrows heavily (and I mean heavily), Cap has one main attack, but it varies so much based on position, timing and movement that you can get a lot of mileage out of that one move. When you add in the dodges, counters, grapples and finishers, combat becomes a truly heroic affair. You really feel like you're a super soldier in this game, especially when you're surrounded by loads of enemies. Cap's trademark shield also has a tremendous presence in the game; you can throw it and watch it bounce back and forth among your enemies, or even use it to literally whack bullets back at your opponents. It takes a while to master all the skills, but once you get a handle on them, it's tremendously fun.

It helps that Captain America is richly detailed and full of dynamic animations. The punches, kicks and shield slams feel weighty, so when you see your fist smash into an enemy's ribcage, or hear the "clang" of your shield as you bash a technician's skull, you'll really connect with the character's strength and ability. The first time I broke a guard's faceplate with my fist, I thought, "Yes, more of that, please."

The rest of the gameplay doesn't quite live up to the standard set by the combat. There are acrobatic movement sequences like you might find in Assassin's Creed or Prince of Persia, but they're far too restricted for you to feel like you have any freedom and far too easy for you to feel any tension. The small minigames you play when hacking doors and short-circuiting equipment are equally shallow. Instead of providing a challenge, they just remind you over and over again that you are, in fact, just playing a game. The game even cops the "detective vision" mode from Arkham Asylum and it makes even less sense in this setting.

I don't want to review the movie here; we've already done that. But I do think the contrast between the movie and the game can help you understand what I don't like about the game a little better. The pivotal moment in the movie is when Cap decides to rise above his status as a sideline icon and do something truly heroic with his powers. Up until that point the movie is just an origin story, and it's a great one that really helps you understand who Captain America is and why he could be such a great hero. But once Cap embraces the mantle of Real Hero TM, the movie stops caring about the context of it all and just starts packing in loads of action. There's even a montage of missions where it's clear the filmmakers thought, "There's no real story here, but we think these shots are pretty awesome." Though the movie stops being real or authentic at that point, you don't really care because of all the groundwork laid at the beginning.

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