Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tommy's Take on Captain America: Super Soldier

Something I haven't done in a while (since Zombie Pirates): A full-fledged video game review...Captain America: Super Soldier for the PS3.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Captain America: Super Soldier is a multiplatform game (PS3, XBox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS). This review deals explicitly, and entirely, with the PS3 version. Captain America retails for about $50 brand new, $10 less than your typical PS3 game, and I pre-ordered from Amazon for about $37, which seemed really hard to pass up.

The game is based off of Captain America: The First Avenger (even featuring the voice talents of Chris Evans, Hailey Atwell and other cast members, notably excluding Hugo Weaving as Red Skull), though the story is set during the middle of the film, with Captain America and the Howling Commandos assaulting Castle Zemo, which has been taken over by Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Baron Von Strucker, Madame Hydra and Iron Cross...(comic book writer Christos Gage crafts a very nice backstory for this which is unraveled through a series of diaries Zemo has left around the castle that Captain America can find).

Gameplay is reminiscent of Arkham Asylum, heralded by a great many people as the greatest superhero game of all time, with "free-flowing combat" as Captain America moves from Hydra goon to Hydra goon.  Captain America also has "Tactical Vision" which is reminiscent of, but not identical to, Batman's "Detective Mode". Shield control comes in two forms of attacks, a straight up, computer targeted attack, and an "Aimed" mode for finer targeting, which can be further refined by spending bars from your Super Soldier meter to "lock on" to multiple targets, ensuring that your shield bounces to each of them.

While you can go back and revisit every other section of the castle, the story is very linear, not a lot of choosing your objectives at all. As you gain Intel Points (by defeating enemies, finding intel files in the castle, etc), you unlock viewable extras, Challenge Maps (which can be completed for more Intel points), and Combat Upgrades, which include stronger counters, the ability to ricochet the shield off of more targets and specialized shield maneuvers.

You can also unlock Ultimate Captain America and Classic Captain America, complete with the ability switch costumes before you load up your game, although unlocking Classic Captain America requires enough Intel points that you will not do it before you complete the game unless you spend a fair bit of time on Challenge Maps (you can use the unlocked costumes on Challenge Maps, and in the free-roam mode that is unlocked after you beat the game, allowing you to finishing finding the remaining Zemo diaries, Zola films reels and the like).

Another nice tidbit is finding Hydra schematics around the Castle, which allow Cap to exploit weaknesses in the various Hydra troop types.

WHAT WORKS: The combat feels very much like Captain America, allowing you to wipe out whole squads of Hydra mooks hand to hand or with your shield as you see fit. The dialogue never felt repetitive, and Chris Evans sounds like a very authoritative Captain America. Christos Gage provides a script that hews very closely to the moral of the Captain America film, and doesn't actually contradict it, even when it seems to (notably with certain plot developments involving Arnim Zola). The Challenge Maps provide a lot more variety than Arkham Asylum does, for the most part, in large part because the various enemy types in Captain America provide more variety than the Joker mooks in Arkham Asylum does. While the various mini-games (such as decrypting codes) are repetitive, they are quick enough to not slow the game down to the point of annoyance.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The game feels pretty short. I got it in the mail on Wednesday, beat it on Sunday, and had no "marathon" sessions with it. The animation is stiff at points, especially when people are talking, and the lighting effects also get strange, especially with Captain America's shield at certain angles. Not being able to carry over the costumes to a new game is very disappointing, as I'd be willing to give it at least one more playthrough as "classic" Captain America.

CONCLUSION: Captain America's not a long game, but it is the best in-game representation of Captain America I have ever seen, and one of the best movie games I have ever played. The story isn't some deep, complex affair like you're going to get from, say, Dragon Age or Heavy Rain, but tapping Christos Gage to write Super Soldier was a great idea, though I am a bit biased, being a big fan of his work. The game borrows from ground laid by Arkham Asylum while tweaking the formula enough to make it feel like Captain America and not like Batman in red, white and blue. Personally, I was very pleased with the purchase.