Captain America is a heroic comic book character, so there is a clause in his contract that he needs to make big entrances. In Captain America: Super Soldier, the WWII-era videogame tie-in for the upcoming Captain America film, our hero barges in on a Nazi stronghold by simply falling from the sky, then smashing through a roof unto unsuspecting Germans. It clearly sets the tone for a game that won’t be short on action, specifically in the brawler sense. Even with a brief hands-on session with Captain America: Super Soldier, we managed to see glimmers of a Batman: Arkham Asylum level of combat depth.
It is this kind of close-quarters combat gameplay that impressed me the most with Super Soldier. The Captain’s moves were fluid, and he had a ton of fighting animations. He even has an impressively robust set of defensive moves like rolls and dodges. The context-sensitive punches make the most out of simple button presses, but there are also many opportunities to pull off more complex (and all the while impressive) combos.
There's of course his shield, which is mostly used for taking out Nazis (sometimes in groups) and blocking attacks. Its boomerang functionality can also be used to activate hard-to-reach switches, which you’ll encounter regularly throughout the game.
One of the other appealing features is the game's counter system. When there's a rifleman nearby, there will be these two glowing parallel lines near the soldier. When the lines meet up, that's when you press the left bumper/L1, which will block the rifleman's bullet, ricocheting back at him. The other counter move is for up-close brawling. Counter opportunities are indicated when a glowing yellow circle is encompassing an enemy. Press one of the buttons in time to pull off the counter. Just don't take any chances against red circles; those can’t be blocked.
If this brief two-chapter demo is a solid indicator of the final version, expect to encounter a good deal of platforming in between fights. At one point, I was tasked with getting to a higher floor to destroy a generator console. Of course, there weren't stairs; that would be too easy! Instead I navigated Captain America through a series of beams and poles to jump across and swing through. Imagine those many indoor platforming areas in Assassin's Creed II and AC: Brotherhood, just dumbed down slightly. These sections weren't especially complicated, as all you really need to do is press the A button to jump and swing forward. You will get a technical bonus when you press A at specific times.
Fill up your technical bonus meter enough, and you’ll be able to execute a number of super soldier-like moves. Many of these actions involve what developer Next Level Games calls “weaponizing.” When enacted, the Captain subdues a Nazi from behind and uses the soldier’s own gun against his comrades. And while Captain America has been known to use guns in his 70-year history, he won’t be carrying one in the game outside of the weaponizing scenes.
Aside from the platforming and the Nazi beatings, Captain America: Super Soldier also features a few puzzle-based sequences. One reoccurring challenge involves decrypting codes in order to open doors. The initial decryption puzzle was pretty simple: it involved looking at two sets of numbers, finding the one similar number in both sequences and using both analog sticks to match the numbers together. These twin sticks are also used in Captain’s sabotage sections. When standing in front of a generator console, blowing up the machine involves moving two exposed wires close together, just enough to cause a short, but not too close to hurt Captain America.
As with any enemy stronghold, this Bavarian castle has its share of collectable items. Finding schematics is especially interesting, because it has practical implications on Captain America's success in combat. As a way of highlighting Captain's intelligence abilities, getting a schematic will actually change how the bad guys behave and perform, to our hero's benefit. The more schematics you find, the easier it is for the Captain to take out enemies. The rationale is that schematics teach him something about a specific opponent.
High Voltage Software, who has worked with Sega in the past with their Conduit series, has been tasked to develop the Wii version. It looks to deliver on the same fighting, platforming, and tactical features as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, although it will be a completely different game.
It was also pleasing to get hands-on time with the DS version, developed by veteran comic book adaptation game developer Griptonite Games. It wasn’t lost on us that the 2.5D side scrolling route they chose for Super Soldier wasn’t all that different from their DS work on Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, which actually isn’t a bad thing. Both games employ a fast and responsive Shadow Complex play style, just without the Metroid-like backtracking.
Sega’s move to rename the game Captain America: Super Soldier was a way to imply that the game’s story would be independent of the film, Captain America: The First Avenger, but it will be out on July 19, same week as the film. I don’t know as much about the film as I would like, but spokespeople for the game have confirmed that Super Soldier will be kept strictly within the World War II time period.