Captain America: Super Soldier Review

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: July 19, 2011

In Batman‘s academy of Punching and Kicking Dudes in the Face, Captain America was in the front row of every class. He studiously took notes every period and was early to every class. Despite his efforts, ol’ Cap didn’t pass with flying colors, but more of a C average. Stupid metaphors aside, this is basically how Captain America: Super Soldier is linked to the classic Batman: Arkham Asylum. Captain America: Super Soldier may try to its hardest to emulate the best, but even with a solid effort, it doesn’t get as close to the base material as it would have wanted.

As opposed to other comic book hero games, Captain America’s story isn’t a complete waste of time. The Hydra (which are Nazis in everything but name) have a sketchy base of operations and Captain America has to bring the apple pie and hot dogs to this German bake sale. This “German bake sale” is a gigantic castle rather, housing the latest experiments for the Hydra and Red Skull and the “apple pie and hot dogs” are the red, white, and blue fists of justice. Predictably, events start out bad, then get worse over time, raising the stakes and have Cap having to stop it all. This is comic book affair through and through, with all of the same weaknesses. No villains ever die in these games because they “have” to be around for a sequel, meaning you rarely get to give the business to the ultimate bad guy. Other adversaries don’t show their face enough or are just plain annoying. You do get to pummel one of the opponents through a rather boring, stupid boss fight, but that wasn’t enough.

Captain America, however, is a good, patriotic character. His confidence and sense of honor carry him well throughout the game, making him a standout character. I wanted him to succeed and meet his goal. Everyone else is pretty forgettable. I don’t know Captain America’s lore or backstory, but characters should stand on their own two feet. I didn’t hate any of the characters (not even the redneck with the admittedly sweet mustache), but just about everyone was a generic blur.

Captain America speaks well with his mouth but better with his fists. Punching and roundhouse kicking happens frequently as enemies gather in Cap’s vicinity and the mechanics involving combat are mostly solid. Attacking, grabbing, and dodging are responsive and the special moves are brutal, enhanced with slow motion to better the satisfying effect of breaking a poor sap’s jawbone. Bullets can even be deflected with a well-timed button press and the signature shield can be tossed with a deadly accuracy making ranged defense and offense an effective strategy.

Distanced fighting seems fair, but unfortunately close up battles seem poorly balanced. Every grunt enemy dies within one to three hits, making every combative sequence short and almost unsatisfying because of it. Few meat bags live long enough for you to execute long, flawless combos, giving fights a frustratingly abrupt feel. Foes also seem reluctant to strike Captain America, leading to a group of guys just waiting around to get their face bashed in. A counter button is in the game, but sadly it doesn’t get much use because of the patient opponents and the fact that the counter animation doesn’t interrupt normal moves. The core combat has so much potential that it infuriates me that it wasn’t given all it needed to become addicting. Captain America is a badass, there is no getting around that, but he just needs enemies that aren’t scared to hit him.

I wasn’t alive in the 1940’s, but I hope it didn’t look this boring. Nothing looks completely abysmal, as just about everything retains a flatline of blandness. Environments look pretty boring and overly brown with not much attention to detail or interesting looking textures. Cap’s shield is one of the few sharp looking items. Light reflects so beautifully off the red, white, and blue death disc that it makes all other objects look all the more boring in comparison. Enemy designs are admittedly cool, looking like steampunk robot men, but the visual package could have greatly benefited from a stronger art direction.

Maybe you won’t noticed the blah-ness of the castle because you’ll be staring at the scads of collectibles. Gathering items has been in almost every game but here, it takes on a whole new level of stupidity. There are eggs, falcon cowls, statues, documents, stacks of documents, a rooster, steins, and other items within those levels of stupidity. I wish I would have seen the look on my face after I opened up an encrypted safe to find… a ceramic fucking rooster. None of these items seemed relevant and the sheer quantity of these useless doodads detracts from the experience a bit. Captain America may be every Boy Scout’s idol, but that doesn’t mean he should glorify scavenger hunts.

Almost immediately upon finishing Captain America: Super Soldier, I popped in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I was quickly reminded of what this game tried to be, and was even more frustrated that it could have come somewhat close. Captain America still has some combative thrills to be had, but they’ll always finish after the Caped Crusader. I guess it’s true what they say: Once you go bat, it’s hard to go back.

+Core combat is serviceable
+Interesting mechanics in combat
+Hits feel pretty brutal
-Tons of stupid collectibles
-Drab graphics
-Enemies die way too easily and don’t attack often

Final Score: 7/10

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