SEGA and High Voltage Software’s Captain America: Super Soldier for the Nintendo 3DS comes a cropper about three levels in, when you realise that the formula of stomping through corridors, reaching a large room full of scaffolding, taking out a group of bad-guys, climbing scaffolding and fighting a boss will be a rinse and repeat process until the final credits roll.
It’s an exhausting game to play; repetitive action coupled with a camera that should really have had top billing as the game’s villain conspire to turn every patriotic footstep into a teeth-gnashing chore.
If Captain America: Super Soldier were to be judged solely on the sum of its parts, then what we have here is a resounding success story. A third-person action-adventure that sidesteps the plot of the recent (and actually quite good) movie, offering nine levels of varying interest with objectives, side-missions and challenges, as well as plenty of enemies to dish out justice to.
When it came to creating something palatable with these ingredients however, it would appear that High Voltage Software wasn’t quite in the mood to create a carefully layered trifle – pleasant to look at, with each bite granting a new sensation – and instead took a blender to the lot of it, pouring it into a pint glass and whacking on a price tag. The only garnish is a red, white and blue cocktail umbrella that seems to say, “Look at me, I’m a super-hero game, and therefore good!”
Actually boasting of super-heroism in a video game, rather than mumbling it embarrassingly then quickly changing the subject is a fairly new trend thanks to the critical and commercial success of a certain Dark Knight and, to a slightly lesser extent, Spider-Man, the Cap’s Marvel stable-mate. Indeed, Captain America: Super Soldier has been keeping an eye on these comic-book-to-game success stories and, as a result, has bagged itself a move-set eerily familiar to anyone who has played either Batman: Arkham City or the recent Batman: Arkham Asylum.
At various points throughout the game, the good Captain will find himself in a large room containing a handful of henchmen. A casual stroll to the rear of your first victim results in a large ‘X’ floating above his head. This is your cue to execute a one button take-down that, rather humorously the first time and more variety in this respect would have been welcome, begins with the Captain tapping the enemy soldiers shoulder to rather sportingly get his attention. One almighty sucker-punch later, and the whole room is onto you. Surrounded by baddies, Captain America does what comes naturally and well-timed presses of the A button deploy a barrage of blows that soon clears the room. Should the Star-spangled Avenger miss a trick and drop his guard, the faithful ‘X’ once again appears above the opportunistic baddie allowing Cap to counter with a spandex elbow to the mush.
One-button gang fights such as this are frequent and make up the majority of the optional challenges that are littered about the game’s locations. It’s such a shame then, that these throw-downs are blighted by a slow-moving hero who, despite High Voltage Software’s best intentions, misses more than he hits, making the stringing together of combos – a necessary element if you want to upgrade Cap’s abilities – extremely difficult and frustrating.
Stars earned from sufficiently large combo strings can also be found in limited amounts in various *Yawn* crates and barrels. Stick around after a fight to experience Captain America’s inner destructive 8-year-old’s contempt of his surroundings; smashing vases and generally using his projectile shield in very unheroic ways. It’s moments like this that break the flow of the game and snip the strings that are suspending your disbelief. The mere presence of a crate in a video game, let alone having to hit it twice to spill its treasures, is time wasting fluff and a sure sign that the developer had run out of ideas.
Now, about that camera. Much of Captain America: Super Soldier takes place indoors, with only a few boss fights in large, open spaces. There are a lot of corridors to bound through, often blocked by rifle-wielding baddies, and a lot of reasons to turn on your heel and go back the way you came. The last thing you need in these situations, then, is a camera that behaves about as well as an untrained puppy; pulling you in directions you don’t want to go, blocking your path, and generally misbehaving. The only thing this camera doesn’t do is warp into your helmet or try to hump Red Skull’s leg. Walking the Cap down a hallway where a choice of directions is presented, the freedom to sneak a look down each corridor is taken from you as the camera swoops around and says, “This way!”, tugging a virtual lead and making simply walking in a straight line as challenging for Captain America as it is for a drunk driver on COPS.
Captain America: Super Soldier’s woes are difficult to forgive. Sub-PlayStation 2 visuals, repetitive action, a frustrating camera, unintuitive controls (aiming your shield with the touch-screen to target switches and distant enemies is unnecessarily clumsy, and I desperately wanted to use the Circle Pad instead) and an archaic approach to earning upgrades makes this a title for absolute die-hard Captain America fans only. More importantly, we know that the Nintendo 3DS is far more capable than what is offered here, from titles such as Kid Icarus: Uprising or Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D.
However, there is plenty to do here. The combat based side challenges are compelling and they, at least, extend the life of the game by unlocking the competitive beast that lies in all of us – we like to beat out own high scores/fastest times! Your endurance unfolds a classic World War II plot with a few surprising guest appearances, but perseverance is key. The final boss is Captain America: Super Soldier’s saving grace. Without giving too much away, High Voltage Software makes you wait until the very end before it delivers something worth cranking up the 3D slider for.
It’s a final dose of Super Serum that should have been injected in the cartridge from the first level, yet, regrettably, the journey there is oh-so mediocre.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by SEGA