Captain America: Super Soldier Review
Super Soldier presents a bland-looking world with a bevy of mechanical problems, but beating down foreign aggressors still delivers patriotic fun.
- Detailed animations give your attacks serious weight
- Stringing together long combos is satisfying
- Good variety of objectives.
- Sluggish moves lead to frustration
- Automated platforming lacks excitement
- Tired visual design
- Dull story.
Captain America really savors a good beatdown. Once locked in a hand-to-hand fight with the foreign soldiers who threaten his patriotic ideals, he unleashes every punch, shield bash, and thunder kick in slow-motion to relish his physical superiority over his non-super adversaries. In Captain America: Super Soldier, you tear through opposing forces with xenophobic glee, and the exaggerated manner of your attacks lets you appreciate Cap’s athletic prowess and diverse move set. But the fine animations come at the expense of speed and flexibility. Defeating even low-level enemies takes much longer than you would expect from the likes of The Star-Spangled Avenger, and his lethargic attitude becomes downright frustrating when you face off against large groups. Captain America: Super Soldier encompasses heroic highs and human lows, resulting in an uneven stroll through hostile Germany.
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Comic book detractors have been known to levy all manner of criticism at the medium. From saying that comic books embody adolescent power fantasies to claiming they distort the view of female anatomy, there are many ways to disparage these visual stories. But rarely do you hear that they are boring. Captain America: Super Soldier unfortunately embraces this last descriptor. Red Skull’s single-minded quest to form an army of super soldiers is told in such a dispassionate way that it’s difficult to follow along with the twists and turns, let alone care about them. Sleepy voice actors that yawn trite lines hide motivations, and there aren’t many noteworthy events to grab your attention. Presentation issues carry over to dull visual design. Captain A tramps through a variety of similar-looking environments, and the unrelenting march of browns and grays dampens your spirits even more than the opposing army.
Once you look past the oppressive atmosphere, Super Soldier becomes a lot more respectable. Combat is your main means of interaction, and dispatching foes with panache gives you a warm appreciation for this well-muscled patriot. Although there is only one button dedicated to up-close attacks, Cap has a wide assortment of moves in his repertoire. Combat blows are randomly triggered based on who you’re fighting and the length of your current combination. You might punch a German soldier in the belly, slam his face into your knee, or perform a rising dragon punch complete with red, white, and blue fireworks. Each individual animation is well crafted and lets you feel the pain as you beat down silly chumps. Counterattacks let you cover your backside when you’re busy smacking another dude in the chops. Obvious button prompts warn you of an imminent attack, and you can chain long combos together by mashing your attack and counter buttons at the appropriate time.
In the early stages, combat is a strong point. Stringing long attack sequences together carries with it a heroic thrill, and making smart use of your agility ensures you don’t suffer retaliatory blows. But by the time you reach the midpoint of the game, your carefree fun is stymied by this inflexible system. Enemies come in a variety of forms, and many of them require specific techniques to defeat. For instance, one wily robot shoots missiles your way, and you have to catch them with your shield and then throw them back to cause a debilitating explosion. But floaty controls make it tricky to block when you’re surrounded by aggressive enemies, aiming your shield in first-person mode is a time-consuming task, and singling out a specific assailant isn’t always possible. Furthermore, your animations take so long to unfold that it’s possible to get caught in an inescapable explosion. Knock-back attacks derail your fun in a hurry, resulting in tiring ordeals as you struggle to right the wonky camera, aim at the appropriate enemies, and avoid offscreen attacks.
Despite these late-game issues, combat is still the best part of Super Soldier. When you do find a good rhythm, there’s an inherent satisfaction in shoving your nationalistic superiority down a nonbeliever’s throat, and periodic unlockables inject you with new powers to keep things fresh. And though the blue-clad Captain isn’t known for his intellect, puzzling traps do a good job of mixing up your objectives. These conundrums frequently entail smashing the appropriate electrical box, though you have to pull off some fancy maneuvers to expose its feeble circuitry. Your shield–so sluggish in combat–is instrumental in these circumstances. You may have to ricochet gun blasts around a wall or nail a number of switches with one smooth throw, and figuring out what needs to be done and then executing it perfectly does embolden your cerebral side. Straightforward level design ensures you always know where to go next, though a number of optional objectives give you a chance to tinker around if exploration is your thing. Elective puzzles, breakable walls, and other distractions help to immerse you in the world of international sabotage.
The most devious of your secondary goals are challenges that provide difficult tests in your adventure. These time-based missions present you with specific duties, and you need to master your combat skills and movement abilities to pass with flying colors. These take an assortment of forms, including puzzle-solving, platforming, combat, and every combination thereof, which injects a healthy variety into your skull-bashing hijinks. However, certain scenarios fall flat because of mechanical limitations. Quickly defeating enemies is not The Captain’s strength. Beating down enemies like you normally would (or countering their attacks) takes far too long, and even winging your shield and then finishing them off with a ground stomp doesn’t always work. Cap focuses on the strongest enemy at any given time, so you may stand over a fallen foe and still not attack him. Challenges in which you aim for targets with your shield also have issues. Rotating the camera is inconsistent when pointing at the screen, and it’s easy to accidentally lock on to the wrong target when you’re trying to move quickly.
Not only is Captain America superstrong, but he also has superior agility. Unfortunately, the moments in which you must scale your environment are the weakest parts of this uneven game. Jumping from platform to platform is mostly automated. As long as you’re holding the analog stick in the correct direction, Cap lands right where he should. This removes any semblance of challenge in making impressive leaps, and subsequently, much of the fun drains away. Without the fear of failure, you dutifully go through the motions without any emotional investment. Despite the win-button approach to jumping, seeing Cap hurdle gracefully through the air still carries with it some excitement, even if you don’t have much direct control over the proceedings. However, later on, the game takes a serious turn for the worse. Sliding rails demand you leap off at exact moments, and the gravity holding you to these beams doesn’t always kick in; thus, letting you fall back to the ground. The camera also makes it difficult to see which way you need to go at times, resulting in tedious sequences where you try to figure out where the exit point lies.
The different elements are showcased in boss sequences in which figuring out what to do is more challenging than actually doing it. There’s a good variety, but many sequences fall back on tired quick-time events, and the controls aren’t responsive enough to make these enjoyable. America’s greatest patriot deserves a more robust and thrilling game, but there’s still enough engaging content in Super Soldier to satiate any longtime Captain America fan that is thirsty for a digital offering of his fascist-bashing adventures.
By Tom Mc Shea