The Hollywood blockbuster season is once again upon us and this year marks the turn of the bravado and righteous retribution of Captain America: The First Avenger. Now a seemingly staple occurrence, a game has been developed to coincide with its cinematic release, yet does it fall into the common pitfalls that regularly plague such titles?
After a brief introductory level, Captain America and his team trace advanced weaponry being used across Europe to Castle Zemo in the Bavarian mountains. This medieval fortress, controlled by Hydra and his forces, becomes the focal point for the entire game as you seek to topple Red Skull and his subordinates.
Despite a voice cast that has clearly been aimed to add some authenticity to the experience, the game is initially marred by never truly allowing the storyline to ever gather any momentum. Even with his companions barely struggling to keep their plane in the sky amidst a continual barrage of Anti-Aircraft gun fire, Captain America finds himself tasked with cumbersomely navigating his way up a tower as he sets out to neutralise the threat.
Objectives are rarely imaginative, encompassing a repetitive formula in which you’ll regularly be required to head to X, Y and Z rooms to disengage/destroy machinery whilst fighting your way through duplicated corridors ridden with differing enemy types, that pose their own individual abilities to tackle, break the pace. The platform mechanics themselves are also simplified leading to an inevitable lack of challenge – a small white arrow discerning where the player is able to directly leap to, eliminating the danger of falling to your death and resulting in a more predominant focus on brawling against the legions of A.I. opponents that oppose you.
Combat itself is also a notable strength, if not a direct imitation of the ‘FreeFlow’ combat system implemented by Rocksteady Studios in the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum. Players regularly find themselves swarmed upon by a group of enemies, and are able to use the single attack button to begin stringing together combos that, as it builds, eventually allow you to employ some more impressive finishing moves. In order to do so you’ll also have to keep an eye out for enemies keen to knock you off-guard, the player able to respond to such instances by pressing Z when an on-screen notification to perform a counter.
Perhaps a shining glimmer of brilliance in Captain America: Super Soldier is the way in which the use of his iconic shield has been incorporated into the game. Serving a multitude of purposes the Vibranium-steel alloy shield becomes an undeniable necessity throughout, assisting in stunning enemies, triggering switches and enabling you to solve puzzles.
What makes its implementation even more engaging is that it can be utilised through two differing control methods. Whilst the C Button on the Nunchuk, or by flicking the attachment, can be used to immediately throw the shield at the nearest target, an enhanced level of precision is provided in allowing the player to use the Wii Remote to point on-screen to the exact location that they want to throw it to. The shield can also be used to deflect bullets, the pointer allowing you to re-direct them towards a chosen target.
This is then further heightened through an aptly titled ‘Shield Focus Mode’ entered by holding the C Button, in which you enter slow-motion, the camera whizzes behind you, and you are able to expend Focus Slot stars to select multiple targets to fling your shield at.
An Upgrade system, differentiated by Cap, Shield, and Combat types, is also introduced for which you gradually fill an experience meter by gathering stars found in crates and dropped by fallen enemies, but it fails to have the necessary impact for you to care about the choices you make.
With development of the Wii version headed by High Voltage Software, advocates that the system still packs plenty of punch and something they demonstrated with Conduit 2, the fact that the visuals are so immensely disappointing is a huge let down. It is well-known that movie tie-ins have shorter but game engines are developed to ensure that the industry doesn’t have to fall back on such an uninspired, hastily thrown together amalgamation of character models, repetitive environments and lacklustre effects.
One saving grace is that a majority of effort seems to have been made in ensuring that combat animation is as fluid and ‘kick-ass’, for want of a better word, as possible. It’s just a shame that such evident polish wasn’t spent sprucing up the entire package.
Beyond completion, following an underwhelming final boss fight, the majority of players probably won’t invest much more time into the game, but for those seeking to get their moneys worth a series of collectables and challenges will expand your experience. Red Skull Bombs and POWs are hidden in each level, their discovery allowing you to unlock an extensive assortment of concept artwork for the game. These are accompanied by Zola Challenges, also rewarding you with such artwork, that task you with destroying targets with your shield, gathering tokens, or neutralising enemies within a set time limit.
Ultimately the downfall of Captain America: Super Soldier is the unending struggle in which it fails to define its own identity. Successful imitation and clever shield mechanics save it from mediocrity, but a lack similarly intelligent choices in regards to gameplay diversity and engaging narrative progression hold it back from ever fulfilling its full potential.