CAPTAIN AMERICA: SUPER SOLDIER: a reaction

Captain America Super Soldier

My friend Lance keeps me on my toes when it comes to gaming. Sometimes he drops a bomb on me (“Say, Stoffel, how do you feel about boosting out ten thousand multiplayer matches?”), but from time to time he finds a game cool enough that he thinks I ought to play it myself. Even the occasional single player game makes the cut!

Lance gave me a copy of CAPTAIN AMERICA with the caveat that though he found it quite enjoyable, this was after playing RIDE TO HELL: RETRIBUTION. From what I have seen of that turd, anything would seem a masterpiece after hours exposed to it. And since Lance is not satisfied until he has reamed every ounce of enjoyment out of each purchased game… yeah, my expectations wavered on this movie tie-in game.

Anyone who has experience with comic book movie video game tie-ins (yikes, what a mouthful… let’s just acronym that to CBMVG for comic book movie video game) knows to keep expectations low. For some reason, that intersection of media tends to produce bland titles. To be fair, this isn’t limited to the CBMVG, as any movie tie-in game tends to be suspect at best. Maybe I just expect more from games with comic book heroes in their DNA. I have seen a couple CBMVGs that transcended this (XMEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was one such game that turned out pretty decent if not spectacular), but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

CAPTAIN AMERICA surprised me by joining the ranks of pretty decent tie-in games. I had hardly even heard of it on its release in 2011, alongside THE FIRST AVENGER, mentally filing it alongside the bevy of cash-grab titles. Maybe it is a cash-grab, but it’s also a pretty fun game.

For one thing, SUPER SOLDIER knows what it is: a game where players want to run around as the star-spangled Avenger, punching HYDRA soldiers and blowing up evil, with maybe some cool moves thrown in there for good measure. That’s exactly what Next Level Games brings to the table, with few frills and few distractions. I say “few frills” as a good thing, because they don’t try to distract the player from the core of the game with a ton of asides.

The combat is satisfyingly meaty. You tell Cap to punch, dodge, block, and HYDRA soldiers obligingly collapse under the weight of freedom and liberty. Cap’s combat style is sort of like that in BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM, only ‘lite,’ giving on-screen prompts when enemies plan to attack and the opportunity to counterattack. Fighting never gets much more complex than punching and avoiding being punched, but it’s fun. I’ve played plenty of games with more complicating combat that felt like a chore.

SUPER SOLDIER‘s story theoretically squats in the middle of the movie to which it is coordinated, showing the exploits of Captain America’s team in the fight against Red Skull’s HYDRA, though Zola proves to be the main villain here. (Those engagements are largely blurred over in the movie, so it’s sort of interesting to get a taste of what happened.) The story is not really that creative, but offers a serviceable plot to get Captain America from A to B.

One of the main things that helps float this game is its presentation of the characters. Throughout my play of the game, I kept thinking that the guy they got to voice Captain America did a great Chris Evans impersonation. Then, glancing at the credits, I saw that this was because it was in fact Chris Evans. That explains it! His voice and likeness lend the game some of the feeling from the movie. In fact, Neal McDonough, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan and J. J. Feild all reprise their roles from the movie. This helped me get past some of the rougher edges of the game because I felt like I was in that world, if only for a moment.

This game won’t win any awards. It got a middling reaction from the gaming media (the Xbox 360 version that I played sits at a 60 on metacritic) and didn’t blow anyone’s mind. But it’s a fine game and we should support fine games when it comes to the realm of CBMVG, and it’s a decent way to pass a few hours. I say pick it up.

Hail HYDRA.

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