It would be very easy to brush Sega’s latest Marvel movie tie-in game aside. With a recent track record of Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor, Sega really hasn’t capitalized on delivering a worthwhile interactive Marvel experience yet. That’s why I had reservations going into Captain America: Super Soldier. Being such a huge fan of the character, I really wasn’t looking forward to Sega preemptively bursting my excitement bubble for the upcoming Captain America movie. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. This might be a back-handed compliment, but Sega’s latest spotlighting the Star-Spangled Sentinel really isn’t that bad. If you can get past the game’s technical issues, the combat and platforming segments make Captain America: Super Soldier an enjoyable ride, albeit a short one.
Since this game’s announcement there have been a lot of comparisons made between it and Batman: Arkham Asylum. In some respects, those comparisons are apt. Much like in Arkham Asylum, the entirety of the action in Captain America: Super Soldier takes place within the walls of a single compound. The story of Super Soldier is actually not a by-the-books retelling of the Captain America: The First Avenger flick, but is instead a standalone story featuring Cap infiltrating a Hydra castle to stop the nefarious plans of Doctor Arnim Zola, a character fans of the Captain America comics should recognize.
While most of the game follows a linear progression path to get from one story-point to the next, the entire Hydra complex is open for Cap to backtrack through at his leisure later in the game to collect goodies such as ceramic eggs, film reels, dossiers and Hydra intel briefcases (Seriously, Hydra goons leave these important documents in the most peculiar places). These items might unlock extras to watch or read, but it seems like their real purpose is to extend the longevity of a title that can be completed in a single afternoon, maybe within six hours, but don’t quote me on that since I wasn’t counting.
Captain America: Super Soldier also borrows influence from Batman: Arkham Asylum’s combat system. Much like Batman, Cap is quite agile on the battlefield, able to punch, kick, grab, somersault, dodge and downright kick the crap out of enemies without breaking much of a sweat. The hand-to-hand combat is actually one of Captain America: Super Soldier’s strongest assets. Once you get the hang of it, allowing the ebb and flow of the situation to dictate where you should move next, it can be quite exhilarating taking down an entire legion of Hydra cronies without a single one of them laying a finger on you.
But it’s not all about hand-to-hand with Captain America. You know, he does have that pretty, star-spangled shield just waiting to be covered in Nazi blood. Developer Next Level Games actually does right by Cap’s shield in Super Soldier. As you progress through the game you’ll be able to upgrade Cap’s abilities, which, of course, include his skills at tossing the mighty shield. By the end of the game you’re able to use the shield to cherry-pick up to five enemies with a single toss. There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction achieved when you throw the shield and watch it ricochet around a room and take out everyone in the blink of an eye.
Switching gears a bit, the second major pillar of the Captain America: Super Soldier experience is platforming. To continue to get across the point that Steve Rogers is a super soldier in peak physical condition, the platforming in this game is more an animation showcase that has a lot in common with the infamous quicktime event. Platforming isn’t about correctly lining up your jump and pressing a button to make it happen. Instead, it’s more about rhythm and timing. As long as your pressing the jump button at the correct time you’ll be able to sit back and watch Steve Rogers do all the work for you in an acrobatic showcase that’s as close as you’ll get to seeing a soldier do ballet.
While some might find this approach to platforming a step backwards that removes any sense of challenge, I actually dug it because it re-enforced the notion that Steve Rogers is a one-of-a-kind soldier with ridiculous abilities. The only noticeable downside to this platforming system is that it really limits where you can travel, since you’re only able to platform off specialty-marked objects in the environment.
After a bit of a detour to cover combat and platforming, I want to get back to the notion that Captain America: Super Soldier is the Marvel equivalent of Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s not. While the two games have a few things in common, there’s still one very important differentiator: technical prowess. Arkham Asylum was a game that rendered a massive environment and ran it smoothly and beautifully. Captain America: Super Soldier does not pull that off. In a nutshell, Captain America is plagued by horrendous framerate issues and graphics that suffice, but never wow. Character models, outside Cap himself, are also incredibly bland and look downright ugly when shown up close.
When it comes right down to it, Captain America: Super Soldier is a game I can recommend to folks looking for something as a primer to the upcoming Captain America flick. However, I wouldn’t buy it; it’s definitely rental material. The combat system and platforming make the experience an enjoyable ride, but it’s a ride that’s far too short with little to do after completion. The technical issues of the game also make it so you probably won’t want to play through it a second time. But when all is said and done, Captain America: Super Soldier is a step in the right direction for Sega.