Bev Chen
28 Jul, 2011

Captain America: Super Soldier Review

DS Review | You can't save licensed games, Cap.
If video game tie-ins for action and children’s movies are great ideas for money-milking Hollywood executives, then video game tie-ins for superhero films are essential ones. Thus, it must come as no surprise to members of the gaming community when tie-ins for the new Captain America: Super Soldier film were announced to be released on almost every platform under the sun. In this case, we are reviewing the Nintendo DS version, developed by Griptonite Games. Griptonite Games is a developer who is certainly no stranger to superhero video games, having previously been in charge of other mediocre DS adaptations such as Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Somewhere out there, there are probably some hopefuls wondering if Griptonite has managed to produce a DS movie tie-in that happens to be good. However, your knee-jerk reaction is correct: it isn’t.

For those unfamiliar with the upcoming film, this incarnation of Marvel’s famous comic book series is set during World War II. There are some slight differences from the movie and the video games; in this case, an organisation known as HYDRA (which is, for all intents and purposes, basically the Nazi Party) has been using advanced weaponry. It’s up to Cap to infiltrate the baddies’ hideout, disrupt the strange experiments being conducted by the scientist Arnim Zola, and rescue any prisoners of war he may come across. This translates into numerous gameplay elements, some better implemented than others. It should also be mentioned early on that the game is played from a side-scrolling perspective, which definitely saves players a lot of heartache, because it is frightening to think about how much more of a mess they could have made out of the missions presented.

There are no prizes for guessing what a game starring Captain America would play like; the game is primarily a brawler, which on the surface is actually fairly decent. Cap has an impressive arsenal of fighting moves under his (utility) belt, including leg sweeps, uppercuts and throws. This is accompanied by a well thought-out combo counter, which increases your Heroism meter with the better you do. This meter is used to launch a devastating attack that does huge damage to all the enemies on the screen at once, often killing the weaker ones outright. He’s not Captain America without the use of his signature shield though, which can be used to deflect projectiles and as a long-range weapon. However, the real deal breaker comes when you realise that shield throwing is a technique that turns even the most crowded battles into a ridiculously easy boomerang-fest. But although the overall difficulty of battles against common enemies is very low, boss battles do pose a bit of a challenge until you manage to discover and exploit their weaknesses.

The most logical character to make a brawling platformer about

The most logical character to make a brawling platformer about
Where Captain America does get “challenging” though is in the numerous stealth segments. Note the use of quotation marks there, because as you will quickly find out, it’s really more a case of poorly placed checkpoints, enemies and security cameras. The game attempts to make these segments fair by showing you the range of vision each camera and enemy has, but we found that these were effectively rendered useless by the fact that they magically extend if you get just that little bit too close. It’s these stealth segments that also feature a lot of wall jumping, which occasionally works exceptionally well, but will more than often leave you cursing and swearing as you fall into the path of a camera. Add to the fact that being spotted once will result in you having to try the whole stage again and it’s clear to see why the stealth portions of the game were our least favourite.

In addition to these, Captain America has two other notable types of levels. Some are very fast-paced platforming segments, which feature Cap sprinting down corridors and such with players only being able to control his jumps and dodges. Others are more puzzle-based, which involve Cap hitting various switches in order to open doors to progress through the level or utilising the touch screen to mimic certain actions in real life, such as lifting a heavy object. These levels aren’t particularly well or badly done, and to their credit it shows how much the developers have thought about how to vary the flow of the game. However, once you’ve played through the game once there isn’t much incentive to go back through it again, except for upgrading your moves, collecting dossiers and freeing prisoners of war. We’re not just being morally sound; as it turns out, freeing enough prisoners of war rewards you with fancy new outfits (and an image of the soldier staring at you with dead eyes that got somewhat disconcerting after the first fifteen minutes).

Maybe he should consider a change of attire if he plans on sneaking efficiently.

Maybe he should consider a change of attire if he plans on sneaking efficiently.
Which brings us to the next point – graphics. Characters such as the previously mentioned creepy prisoners of war are often represented with static portraits. They look good and suit the whole World War II setting of the game. As for the gameplay itself, the graphics are quite poor. The character models are tiny and are rendered in a manner that they look weird and fuzzy. Some of the outdoor backgrounds look quite nice, but a lot of the indoor ones are bland and muddy-looking. Well, we supposed that’s what a hideout should look like. Sound is a rather surprisingly aspect of Captain America though, with a lot of the cutscenes featuring full voice-acting and supposedly, some of the voice talents of the movie actors themselves. The music also manages to do a good job of conveying the mood, whether you’re beating up bad guys or sneaking through the hideout.

Captain America: Super Soldier is exactly what a lot of gamers expected from a movie tie-in: a vague storyline, shoddy level design, cheap mechanics and bad graphics. While it does occasionally surprise with some well-thought out design and aesthetic elements, ultimately, none of these things can save the game from being painfully below average. Sorry Cap, but the licensed game market is one thing you can’t save.
The Score
Captain America: Super Soldier is exactly what we expected from a licensed DS title: a vague storyline, shoddy level design, cheap mechanics and bad graphics. There are some interesting and well-thought out elements to the game, but ultimately it cannot save the game from being worse than average.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Captain America: Super Soldier Content

Captain America: Super Soldier Review
28 Jul, 2011 A feather in Cap's cap?
Captain America: Super Soldier screens arrive
06 Oct, 2010 All those who choose to oppose his shield must yield.
Ubisoft accused of 'International Crime'
06 Aug, 2008 Anti-war group accuses Ubisoft of violating international law.
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