Captain America: Super Soldier Review

By Kevin Kelly - Posted Jul 27, 2011

Despite their checkered past, SEGA delivers a solid comic book to movie to video game adaptation in Captain America: Super Soldier. The combat and story are satisfying enough to make you remember Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Chris Evans voicing Captain America ties it solidly to the movie. Well worth your time, whether you see the movie or not.

The Pros
  • Surprisingly good video game movie adaptation
  • Combat is smooth and Cap-tastic
  • Chris Evans as Captain America ties it all together
The Cons
  • Too much random item collection
  • Minimal usage of the Howling Commandos and Bucky

Captain America: Super Soldier Review:

Captain America: Super Soldier managed to come out of left field and completely surprise me. I’d been purposefully ignoring all of the previews and trailers for this game for fear that I’d have some portion of the movie spoiled for me. Although that’s pretty stupid, because Captain America boils down to “Small guy gets muscles, beats up Nazis.” You can read my review for the movie here, where the Nazis get replaced by Hydra, but you get it.
 

 

When Captain America throws his mighty shield

But that’s not the only thing that kept me away from the game. SEGA has a checkered past that includes games like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Thor: God of Thunder. Those tend to be the games that people currently reference when talking about bad video game comic book movie adaptations. I thought Captain America would suffer the same fate, especially since it was developed by Next Level Games, a company who has primarily worked on Wii titles and DLC games.

So, you can probably understand the hesitation behind diving directly into this title. I’m happy to report that all of my fears were misplaced, and that this game actually managed to surprise and impress me. It’s not quite Batman: Arkham Asylum, the gold standard in comic book video games (although it’s not based on a movie), but it’s not that far off.

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All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield

The game takes place in between the events of the movie, so it’s able to reference things like the Super Soldier serum, because when the game opens up, you’re already seeing the buffed version of Steve Rogers. This approach also allows the developers to reference the overall story of the movie, while giving the game something different. You’ll see several characters from the movie in here, with some actors like Neal McDonough, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan and J. J. Feild doing double duty as their characters in both.

The Red Skull only makes a cameo appearance here, as that’s the main adversary in the film. In the game, you’ll be going up against Baron Zemo and Arnim Zola (who also appears in the movie) inside Castle Zemo as you battle your way through countless thugs and machinations while trying to rescue prisoners and uncover secret plots.

As the game opens, two soldiers hunkered down in a trench in France are facing overwhelming odds, and scoffing about the “Captain America” they’re seeing in the newsreels. He’s not a real solider, they claim. But then who suddenly appears to save their butts? Well, duh. Cap himself. That’s where you take over the driving of this patriotic pugilist.
 

 

If he’s led to a fight and a duel is due

While the graphics make this game look impressive, the combat mechanics are what solidify it in enjoyable territory. Captain America isn’t armed with laser rays, spider webs, or anything other than his trusty shield. So he makes the most of his fists and feet in this game, while the shield initially is used mainly for defense. He can attack with it, but it’s not that powerful until you amp it up.

Cap’s attacks are fairly simple: punch, shield throw, grab, and counter. While a shield throw can stun an enemy (and in some cases, finish them off), it’s punching, grabbing, and countering that will do the most damage. You’ll build up power attacks that can target a single enemy for huge damage, and those attacks have four different levels ranging from a single attack, to “weaponizing” an enemy, to the all-out “Super Soldier” which overpowers Cap for a brief period of time, allowing him to deal out a lot of pain.

As you start collecting XP, you can use it to upgrade your attacks with things like the ability to deal more damage after a successful counter, or to upgrade your shield throw to bounce off of multiple targets at once. There are three areas to upgrade, and three different tiers of upgrades, and I found that the best plan was to always upgrade your shield first, because it quickly becomes your best friend.

Unlike the Cap in the film, this version doesn’t use a gun at all, despite the fact that his enemies do. Instead, he uses acrobatics, dodges, and counters to get up close and personal, and then his muscles do the rest of the work. The combat will remind you of Arkham Asylum, especially as Cap often faces several foes at once. That and the fact that Cap also throws a metallic weapon, just like the Dark Knight. Although Cap’s shield serves as a thrown weapon, he can also use it to deflect ballistic attacks back at the enemy, which is a skill worth mastering early on. There’s an onscreen indicator that makes this fairly easy, so get it down quick.
 

 

Then the red and white and the blue’ll come through

This game should almost be called Captain America: The Search For Information, because the collectibles in the game come in the form of dossiers, stacks of dossiers, briefcases full of dossiers, and film canisters. These items all give you varying amounts of XP, while you’ll also be chasing down ceramic eggs, statues, and other items to unlock film reels, concept art, and different Cap costumes (the Ultimates costume is my personal fave).

I’m all for putting exploration into a well-designed game, especially one this big and spread out, but having Cap chase down Zemo’s trinkets felt a bit forced. There are several puzzle-solving elements to the game, although none of them are that complex. Often they just involve figuring out how to acrobatically move Cap up to a higher level in order to pull a level to open a door, or to throw his shield at a target to drop a bar down that he can vault off of.

Although the game takes place in Zemo’s remote castle, the title does a good job of spreading out the different types of environments that you fight in, and in providing you with a logical shortcut system in the sewers to traverse the sprawling levels. Fighting occurs inside cells, outside in the courtyards, on the outer edges of the castle, and more. You’ll also encounter foes from Hydra soldiers to mechanics, to some of Zola’s robotic creations who are difficult to take down.
 

 

When Captain America throws his mighty shield.

If there is one thing this game suffers from, it’s that it leaves you wanting even more. The campaign takes roughly six to eight hours to complete, although that’s if you try and track down every collectible and max out your skillsets. There are challenge rooms available, but those are set inside several of the game’s own levels, and don’t offer any extra peeks into Cap’s rich backstory. I wouldn’t have minded some hints of the Avengers in there, or maybe a look at Doctor Doom.

Chris Evans does solid voice work at Cap throughout the title, and I’d recommend you see the movie first before diving into the game. It won’t spoil anything if you go the other direction, but it provides a more solid experience in my opinion. Writer Christos Gage, who has worked on numerous comic book titles, provides an extremely solid script for the entire game.

Despite all odds, Captain America: Super Soldier is a solid game, and represents the amount of work that should be put into any movie adaptation. SEGA could have churned out a quick moneymaker that was poorly made, but this game had a lot of love and respect put into it. While it won’t displace the Arkham Batmans as the best comic book game out there, it’s definitely among the top choices.