The world of cinema is Marvel crazy at the moment. The imminent release of The Avengers means that there are plenty of Marvel superhero films on offer as cinema goers are introduced to each member of the Avengers. This has had a knock on effect to gamers as our world has become flooded with Marvel movie-ties which aren’t particularly any good, Thor anyone? Having a newborn in the house has seen my gaming take a more casual turn and so when Captain America dropped through my door I was actually quite excited to play it, not only because it is doubtful that I will be able to get to the cinema anytime soon or because the game is in 3D, but because I’ve found of late casual games can be good now and again as a brain number, then again it is a movie tie-in!
Captain America Super Soldier is another Marvel game from SEGA and sees you stepping into the shoes of one of Marvels most iconic characters to battle the infamous Hydra army and the evil Red Skull during the Second World War. For anyone out there familiar with the Cap and his many enemies, the prospect of fighting the Red Skull is something to get excited about, well don’t get too excited because although he does make a cameo appearance in the game, your main nemesis is a professor by the name of Zola.
Captain America is set within a Wolfenstein-esque castle. The setting is traversed as the game unfolds, sewers provide access to any part you have unlocked enabling you to wander off at any time, or to backtrack at the end of the game to mop up some achievements. Sound familiar at all? Batman Arkham Asylum is one heck of an influence here, they may as well of just reskinned Arkham Asylum for all the similarities there are! Captain America is pretty much a copy and paste game, with many set pieces having a sense of familiarity to them, but then this is a welcome break from the somewhat mediocre Marvel games that have been appearing of late.
It’s not just the setting that will instantly remind you of Arkham Asylum. The Cap also has Bat vision by the name of tactical vision. tactical vision can be tweaked in the options, you can turn it off completely or have it on for combat or exploration only. The effect only lasts for a short time, but it will highlight any objects you may interact with. Unlike Batman, the Cap is very restricted in where he can go making the game feel less like an open world that you are free to roam around in. Whereas Batman had the freedom to hop around levels to pretty much any point, the Cap is held on a leash preventing him from truly reaching out to his full potential.
Levels feel linear and uninspiring and are further hindered by platforming that basically consists of a set of button presses. By pressing A, Cap can leap out to a ledge or pole and a further button press will see him launch to the next one, but really there is only one path available to take making for some pretty tedious platforming and is a severe hinderance to any wannabe explorers out there.
Another addition to the tactical vision and similar to Batman’s is combat awareness. When enemies are about to strike an orange ring appears around them which gives you adequate time to decide whether to counter or roll out of their way. A red ring means a uncounterable attack is coming and you need to either dodge or block the attack. Blocking is done with the Cap’s trusty shield and with the LB button. Projectile attacks can be blocked and sent back at the perpetrator by pressing the block button when the onscreen indicator lines up. It’s all very smooth and makes for some satisfying blocking and countering, coupled with a very tight combat system and the Cap has something to hold his head up to the lofty heights of Batman’s. Stringing together attacks, blocks and counters will fill up a four stage focus meter which can then be used to pull off special moves which will pretty much destroy any opponent you unleash them on with the exception of bosses, it also replenishes some health you may have lost during combat, when not in combat it will replenish naturally.
Like Batman (see a pattern here?) Captain America also has a pretty concise map which is accessible by pressing the back button. It shows just about every detail you could want to know about, in fact I think it shows too much – the game is littered with collectibles and bar a few types of collectible, like the ceramic eggs, the map has them all marked which kind of defeats the object of hunting them down through exploration.
There are also several “puzzles” throughout the game but these are extremely simple. Enigma machines need to be hacked so you can pass through doors, simply find the common number in two numeric patterns and align that number using the left and right stick. The other “puzzle” is shorting out circuits by moving the left and right stick together to the sweet spot and holding, push to far and you get a nasty shock. It’s all a bit half arsed, lots of neat ideas that are either hindered by poor execution or have been done better by another game before it.
Graphically the Cap is resigned to a traditionally bland WWII colour palette that is all too common amongst games in this time period. The Cap himself looks great and his shield looks fantastic, with a lovely metallic sheen as light bounces off of it as you run through the castles many corridors. In fact it’s a shame they didn’t go the whole hog and copy Batman and have the Cap’s outfit take damage and tear in places as the game unfolds.
The sound is pretty good especially as Chris Evans himself voices the Cap. The fight SFX are particularly great as the crunch of bone and flesh can be heard and almost felt as the Cap’s fists pummel the many grunts you put down. Even better is the awesome clang the shield makes as it meets someone’s face – this only accentuates the awesome combat making for some very enjoyable fight scenes. 3D wise the game is great and I really enjoyed the scenes that looked out over the castle, it gave real depth to the game and unlike other games I’ve played in 3D, the picture didn’t ghost at all.
Throughout the game you come across several boss battles including some famous characters that fans will be familiar with, but compared to the whole host of villains that Batman has the Cap comes up short again, Batman had some very memorable characters and the Cap just can’t compete – the game does however have a pretty good story to follow, it’s just unfortunate that it can never step out of Batman’s shadow because it is a very enjoyable game and it’s certainly the best Marvel game you can hope to play on the Xbox (albeit a backhanded compliment). It’s all too easy to bash this game with the movie-tie in stick when really it’s a fair stab at a standalone game even if it is a set of copy and paste ideas that never quite stands on its own two feet to carve out some originality.
Saying that, the final nail in the copycat coffin is the length of the game, the Cap just has no stamina. I played this on normal, died five times (against bosses) and even with a bit of exploration picking up the majority of collectibles, I still managed to complete the game’s 19 chapters in just over 6 hours. Any free roaming is resigned to an afterthought through using the sewers either during or more likely at the end of the game and that’s only if you can be bothered to backtrack through the castle to locate items or destroy any bonus objectives (like AA guns) you may have missed the first time round or to mop up some achievements.
Outside of the main game the only other activity is challenges, surprise surprise, another Batman inspired mechanic. Like Batman, these are combat challenges, you take on tougher groups of enemies pitting your combat abilities to the maximum in pursuit of gold and a few more achievement points, the Cap does attempt to break the mould and step out on his own but these are through a few short-lived challenges – one sees you on a collection run in a top down PAC man style gamemode, collecting the “power pill” will allow you to dispose of your pursuers as you try to collect all the items within the allotted time. The other challenge mode is a straight test of your gymnastic ability or rather your ability to press A to make the jumps quicker and smoother. Overall the challenges are far to easy and like the campaign somewhat lacklustre. It’s all rather a missed opportunity, but at least it’s a fun one rather than some of the Marvel games of recent time, I’m looking at you Thor!