Captain America: Super Soldier is set in the universe of the upcoming "Captain America: The First Avenger" movie, although it's important to note that it isn't a movie-themed game. The entire sequence of events takes place separate from the events of the movie. It's a movie tie-in game but still has its own distinct story. The game centers on a castle being held by the evil HYDRA forces during World War II. Cap sneaks in through the not-so-subtle method of airdropping right in, and he doesn't even need a parachute. Unfortunately, taking out the castle isn't as easy as it looks. Even after taking out the antiaircraft guns and calling in reinforcements, Cap is forced to contend with the evil forces of HYDRA and its leader, the malicious Red Skull. The story is being penned by comics author Christos Gage and even features the voice acting talent of Captain America actor Chris Evans.
It's going to be difficult to discuss Captain America: Super Soldier without comparing it to Batman: Arkham Asylum. The similarities between the two games are many, and it's clear that Super Soldier was heavily inspired by Rocksteady's own superhero game. Unlike many clones, Captain America: Super Soldier seems to have a pretty firm grasp on what made Arkham Asylum enjoyable. The result is a game that does not feel particularly original, but it's shaping up to be a lot of fun.
Captain America uses roughly the same smooth-flowing combat system, although perhaps it's a bit less smooth than Arkham Asylum. One button attacks, another button counters and another dodges, so it's all quite familiar. Cap can do a few things that Batman can't, as a large part of combat is built around his shield. He can block attacks with the shield, and although it's less effective than countering, it allows him to avoid damage with a less precise button press. He can also throw the shield, either with precision targeting or by tossing it quickly so it bounces from enemy to enemy. It's pretty similar to Arkham Asylum's Batarangs, which were useful for disabling an opponent but not great for defeating them. Proper use of your shield means that you can easily take out multiple enemies. The catch is that throwing your shield leaves you vulnerable to certain attacks for a moment, so you can't spam it endlessly.
Also like Batman, Cap can unleash special moves by building up his combos. Performing lengthy combos fill up a bar that allows Cap to perform Crippling Strikes, which are powerful moves that have the potential to massively damage or instantly disable a foe. Depending on the enemy, your Crippling Strike can instantly win a battle or at least turn the tide in your favor. Cap also has access to a few special attacks; he can swing his shield to perform a heavy blow, which is useful against heavily armored enemies. He can also slam his shield into the ground to perform an area-of-effect attack or hold his shield up to charge at foes.
An area where Captain America differs fairly heavily from Arkham Asylum is in having more traditional boss battles. As Cap progresses, he encounters Baron Strucker, who is like a regular enemy but much more dangerous. His electric arm could do serious damage to Cap, and he had a variety of moves that utilized it. Some could be countered, which would trigger a brutal scene where Cap and Strucker tussled. The not-so-good Baron was also less vulnerable to Crippling Strikes than his goons. Activating one does a very cool sequence where Cap deals serious damage to the boss, but it was far from the one-hit knockout that you'd imagine. Even after taking down Strucker, he wasn't down for the count and showed up later to bother Cap at the worst possible time. I was forced to beat him within a time limit … and this time, he had guys with guns helping him.
It should be noticed that guns are not quite as big a problem for Cap as they are for Batman. Cap's unbreakable shield can stop a bullet just as easily as a punch. When an enemy with a gun is nearby, a small indicator appears on the side of the screen, letting you know they're targeting you. If you block at the proper time, you'll either defend against the bullet or, if you have really precise timing, reflect it back at the enemy. Regardless, it means that while gun-wielding enemies are dangerous, they're not as dangerous as they might be. You simply have to fight them in a different way.
Also worth noting is that Cap is a heck of a lot more agile than Batman. Although the good Captain lacks Batman's grappling hook, he has agility at the peak of human capabilities. When you reach a place where Cap can climb or swing, you'll enter a sort of minigame. You're tasked with pressing a button at exactly the right point. This isn't quick as a QTE, so you're not going to live or die if you press at the wrong time. The correct rhythm of button presses allows you to swing through environments much faster. In turn, this grants bonuses and will come in handy if, say, Cap is being targeted by gun-wielding bad guys while he tries to swing across an area. It's a minor thing but adds some extra strategy to what would otherwise be a straightforward button-pressing sequence.
When you're not beating up bad guys or swinging through rafters, you're exploring the castle to find information on the bad guys or foil one of their evil plans. Once again, this is pretty much identical to Arkham Asylum, although perhaps with slightly less stealth. Scattered around the castle are dossiers and film reels, which reveal more of the story's metaplot and provide history and details on the game's various characters. You can also find hidden items or rooms by using Cap's "tactical sense," which can highlight important objects in the environment. We didn't get to see much of this exploration, but one can assume it will play a pretty crucial part in the game.
It's tough to deny that Captain America: Super Soldier is not a shameless Arkham Asylum clone. What's surprising is that it's pretty darn fun, at least from what we've got to play. It borrows many of the best aspects of Arkham Asylum, and while the gameplay and presentation are less polished, there are still a lot of strong elements there. It may not hold up in the final game, but what we've seen of Captain America: Super Soldier looks good. It's not a groundbreaking or original title, but it looks like a really fun superhero game.
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