PS3 Review: Captain America: Super Soldier



Two superhero movie tie-in games in the space of a month and they’re both actually – Gulp! – good?! Despite the near-scientific certainty that games based on films are destined to be cheap, shoddy and amnesia-inspiringly forgettable, Captain America: Super Soldier, much like Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, defies all laws of logic to be a surprisingly enjoyable and worthwhile tie-in game. And while it’s not quite as creative in its action mayhem and gameplay as Hal Jordan’s recent console adventure, Super Soldier is still a rock solid, incredibly fun third-person action brawler.

Thankfully avoiding a complete rehash of the movie’s plot (and thus not spoiling the film, since it isn’t actually out until a couple of weeks after the game), Super Soldier takes place an indeterminate time after meek, frail young army recruit Steve Rogers has himself turned into rippling-muscled super soldier Captain America thanks to some military science experimentation. Now an established and invaluable asset to the military, Cap is hot on the trail of Nazi ne’er-do-wells Madame Hydra, Arnim Zola, Baron Strucker and The Red Skull, whose terrorist organisation Hydra is cooking up devastating next-gen weaponry in an effort to turn the tide of war in their favour.
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Where Rise of the Manhunters owed a colossal debt to God of War for its gameplay, Super Soldier takes its inspiration from Prince of Persia, with a generous helping of Arkham Asylum’s combat system and level design. With superheroic strength and dexterity, Cap can pummel foes with ease, leap and wall-run along precarious ledges and platforms or boomerang people to death and deflect bullets from afar with his indestructible shield.

The acrobatics are firmly in Prince of Persia’s wheelhouse as you run across broomstick-thin beams, somersaulting and hopping from beam to beam, dashing along walls along the way. Timing your jumps by tapping the ‘X’ button the moment your foot lands results in more fluid parkour performance, a nice little combo and, in some instances, fleet-footed platforming will keep you from getting hit by enemy bullets.
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While the platforming is solid, if a bit too simplistic, it’s the fist-meets-face action that comprises the bulk of Captain America’s gameplay. Cap can brawl with the best of them, and it’s not hard to see Arkham Asylum similarities as he strings together counter-attack combos, vaulting over the back of an enemy to slug the next, all with the speed-ramping slo-mo flourishes of a Zack Snyder movie.

Land enough successful blows and you’ll fill up a four-tiered ‘focus meter’, to be cashed in for skeleton-rattling, shield-assisted special moves, counter-attacks and finishers – even turning heavier cannon-wielding enemies on their pals. It’s fast, brutal and immensely satisfying fighting system that relies more on natural timing and counter-attacks than an overly complicated combo list. As a result, it’s simple, fluid and incredibly fun, and brawling your way through countless levels of Nazi goons and imposing-looking robotic bosses never gets old.
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The shield naturally comes in handy throughout; as well as flattening an enemy’s face with it, you can kill Hydra soldiers with their own deflected bullets and mortars if you time it right, or target foes and certain sections of the environment to open up new routes for platforming. If you’re ever unsure of where to leap or which door to open, hitting up on the D-Pad calls up Cap’s Tactical Vision – unsurprisingly reminiscent of Batman’s Detective Vision ability – which highlights all the interactive and climbable spots around the environment.

The Tactical Vision adds a little visual style, but it’s a strangely redundant feature; even without using it, you’ll never be in any doubt as to where you need to go or what you need to do and will encounter hardly any challenge along the way to build on the solid, fun fight mechanics. Which is one of the big problems inherent in the game – there’s too much hand-holding and not enough challenge or quite enough variety. Collectibles are clearly marked on the map, alleviating the frustration of getting to 100% completion, but taking the challenge out of the accomplishment, boss fights are entertaining but a little too samey and never really the tough, epic and memorable set-pieces that they should be, and you can easily make it through the lengthy game without dying once.
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Even so, while Captain America: Super Soldier could benefit from more diversity, scope and challenge, it’s still great fun throughout, and only made more enjoyable by a thoroughly entertaining story. While it wouldn’t stand toe-to-toe with any great narrative-focused games, there’s been a lot of effort to tell an engaging standalone story that’s miles better than the majority of movie tie-in games. The cast of the movie provide vocal work, and rather than phone it in for the paycheque, Chris Evans provides an incredibly likeable performance.

Sadly the excellent voice work and enjoyable storyline is let down by some rather ropey-looking cut-scenes, which showcase awkward likenesses and visuals that are average at best. The game proper fares a little better, with Cap’s costume looking great and the vibranium shield strapped to his back giving off an impressive-looking reflective sheen, but whenever there’s a break to tell the story, it’s a little undermined by the drop in visual quality. There’s full stereoscopic 3D support if you’ve equipped for it, though at the time of review I didn’t have access to a 3D TV, so can’t comment on the quality.
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There’s a pretty substantial amount of play time to be found in the game, with the core story clocking in at around 8-10 hours long. And – taking another page from the Arkham Asylum playbook – there’s some limited free-roaming to be done as you can re-explore each section of Zola’s castle via an interconnected sewer system to snag any of the array of collectibles you might’ve missed (you can do so after you’ve finished the game, too). There’s also a stack of Challenge Modes, which see you facing off against waves of enemies, staying alive for set amounts of time or picking up collectibles while fending off Hydra troops under time constraints. Like the core game, there’s sadly not too much challenge to be found, but it gives you a little extra bang for your buck.

Despite borrowing heavily from it, Captain America: Super Solider never fully manages the same A-grade open-world superhero action as Arkham Asylum. But while it could really use a more diverse and challenging variety of gameplay and enemies, along with some more polished and refined cinematic scenes, it benefits wildly from a refreshingly good story along with some incredibly fun, fluid and satisfying fight mechanics that never grow old. It’s not the top-tier title it aspires to be, but like its lead character, Captain America: Super Solider is a solid, no-nonsense old-fashioned brawler that does exactly what a movie tie-in game should: Delivers an entirely enjoyable gaming experience that leaves you pumped with excitement to see the film.

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Captain America: Super Soldier is available to buy on PS3 and Xbox 360 now.
Click here to order it from Amazon.co.uk.