This isn't Captain America's first video game. Aside from appearances on several of the Vs. fighting games from Capcom, the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance series, and the Marvel Super Hero Squad series, Marvel's patriotic hero has also been starring in games alongside both Spider-Man and his own superhero team, The Avengers. This is, however, the first video game since the 1987 Commodore 64 game, Captain America and the Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann, where the good captain has gone solo. This is also the first game starring the hero produced by Sega who, after having disastrous showings with the Iron Man games, picked up things again with the recent Thor: God of Thunder. Will Captain America: Super Soldier continue the march toward solid entertainment, or will it bring the company back to the depths of mediocrity?
The game's plot is interesting in that it takes place during the middle portion of the film. During a mission to wipe out one of the many HYDRA bases, Captain America stumbles on to an interesting find, as the Third Reich is now developing experimental weaponry the Allied forces haven't yet researched. Even worse, the HYDRA scientist Arnim Zola is trying to replicate the same super soldier serum that helped create Captain America and Red Skull. It's now up to the First Avenger to destroy the weapons cache and stop the serum from being made before the tide of war can turn in the Reich's favor.
The plot isn't exactly the most memorable or most exciting, especially when you consider that it takes place in the middle of the movie. Any instance where a team member is in peril, for example, is trivialized since you know the outcome if you've seen the film. It's serviceable, and with appearances by some other notable villains like Iron Cross and Madam Hydra, comic fans will get something from the story.
As with Thor, this game is something of a brawler with light platforming elements. With just about everyone you meet, you'll be letting your fist and feet do the talking as you punch, kick and throw enemies around until they're defeated. At various times, you'll use your shield to hit faraway switches and explosives or knock down and stun enemies. In between all of this, you'll get the ability to perform some acrobatics and level up some of your combat abilities.
After playing the game for a while, you get the feeling that most of it was cribbed from Batman: Arkham Asylum and, at first, you would be correct. The fighting system is sort of a free-form one designed to work well with large crowds of enemies. When surrounded, you can easily go from one enemy to another, smoothly unleashing attacks and counterattacks, which are accomplished through the use of one button each. As a result, there's no need to memorize complicated button combinations. Other similarities include the presence of side challenges courtesy of Zola as well as a semiautomatic jumping system that ensures you don't miss a platform when leaping.
Of all the games to borrow mechanics from, Batman: Arkham Asylum is a good choice and makes for a Captain America game that isn't exactly a by-the-numbers experience. The combat is quite fulfilling, and while it is very gratifying to beat in people's faces, there is a hint of strategy involved in that some enemies require certain techniques to take down. You can still get away with some button-mashing here and there, but it feels a bit evolved.
Despite the comparison, Captain America for the Wii doesn't take everything from its inspiration, and in some cases, it even omits elements that were included in its next-gen siblings. Though you can take out people by sneaking up on them and knocking them out with one shot, there aren't really any stealth mechanics built into the game. You can occasionally walk up to someone and knock him out, but expect full-on fights to occur more often.
Zola challenges require you to beat up thugs in a certain amount of time or race to get icons before time expires so don't expect anything more cerebral than that. You can reflect gunfire with your shield, but you can't perform such feats with expert timing. It's sufficient to hold down the Z button to bring up the shield and point at the direction you want the bullets to go. Also, when it comes to the jumping, you can only successfully jump from one object to another when you see an icon informing you that you can make the jump. Trying to leap without this icon visible results in a very short jump, which is very uncharacteristic for a superhero.
There are other complaints to be levied against the title. The level designs aren't bad most of the time, but you can quickly figure out the game pattern. Most of the game is spent in a room corridor pattern where you encounter resistance in a room, clear it out to gain access to the next area, travel down a corridor to catch a breather, and then enter another room to repeat the process. It's a predictable pattern that is broken up with a few switch puzzles and acrobatic sections now and then.
Once you gain enough stars to level up or activate a Zola challenge, the game hits a long pause that can disorient you during a fight and make you wonder if it has crashed. The shield can easily latch onto non-lethal objects, and that gets annoying since you're limited to targeting a certain amount of objects at a time. Finally, once you complete the game, there's nothing else to do. You may be tempted to go back and complete the side activities, such as looking for Red Skull bombs or finding injured soldiers, but unless you want tons of concept art, there's no reason to play. Of all the things this game picked up from the competition, the presence of challenge rooms separate from the main game would've been very welcome.
As one has come to expect by now, the graphics on the Wii version go for more of an animated route than a realistic one. Character models are slightly disproportionate, with forearms, hands and feet appearing to be much larger than their other body parts. Their facial expressions can be read well mostly because the movements are exaggerated. They move well enough, though the large strides are initially off-putting. The color scheme is on the bright side, which offsets some of the muddy textures for the characters in some cut scenes. The bright colors also serve as a contrast for the muted colors of the repetitive environmental backgrounds. Though you visit different parts of the castle during the bulk of your journey, they look too similar, giving you a constant sense of déjà vu in every level. The environments are mostly pixelated, while some textures look unfinished. The particle effects are cartoonish; it's humorous to see bolts come out of radios and speakers to illustrate speech and the colors of Old Glory appear when you land the final blow on an enemy.
The audio both helps and hurts the title. The musical score almost sounds like it could have come from the film, and while it doesn't play constantly, it is fitting when it does appear. The voice work is well done, and while it seems like most of the lines aren't special, there are a few funny ones that play through the loudspeakers every once in a while. It's nice to see that the performances aren't phoned in, especially when some of the movie cast, like Chris Evans, reprise their roles. However, there are times when the voice volume clashes with the music, making them difficult to discern. Other times, the voices coming through the radio transmission are too low in comparison to the voices in the room. There are even a few instances when Captain America's voice unexpectedly changes tone, making you wonder if a substitute voice actor was called in at the last minute for a few lines. This, coupled with the absence of music and sound effects in a few of the menus, hurts the final product a bit.
Despite the flaws, Captain America: Super Soldier is actually a decent game. The combat system is done well, and while it may not have the depth of its Xbox 360/PS3 counterparts, let alone the Batman games, it remains a unique offering for the Nintendo Wii. It controls well, despite the jumping issues, and is technically good enough for the console. It's a mostly fun game that suffers from being too short and having a forgettable story. Fans of the movie and of Marvel's hero will have some fun playing this game, as will those who only own the Wii as their primary gaming onsole.
More articles about Captain America: Super Soldier