With the release of Captain America: Super Soldier, SEGA will be bringing a close to the licensing deal that they started with Marvel several years ago. So after four tie-ins with Marvel Entertainment, has SEGA improved in the quality of their licensed output? Read on to find out in my extensive review on the last game in their Marvel movie tie-in, Captain America: Super Soldier.
Like the majority of SEGA’s tie-in products, Captain America boasts an original story and is separate from that of the film. This allows the developer much more freedom in designing the areas the players can traverse as well as allowing the inclusion of certain characters that are absent from the film, so fans of Captain America will be pleased to see characters such as Madame Hydra and Baron von Strucker appear in the game. Due to the game’s own narrative, with the exception of the first chapter, we have Captain exploring a castle belonging to Baron Zemo which now has been occupied by Hydra forces led by the Red Skull, the primary antagonist of the game. The castle itself is fairly large and houses, amongst other areas, a posh estate, prison, and several radio towers. The general gameplay has the player take control of Captain America through a third person view as you travel through the castle, battle foes from the Captain America comic books, and collect items to increase the Captain’s abilities.
GAMEPLAY – COMBAT
The combat gameplay of Captain America is fairly straightforward and has very little complexity to it. Players can attack with the square or triangle button, which allows the Captain to throw punches, and use circle to counter or knock out downed enemies. X to dodges and the R1 button uses the Captain’s shield, which can deflect shots by with the press of L1. Furthermore, the player is able to upgrade with new abilities (with a total of 9 to unlock) with EXP or, as referred to in game, as Intel. Intel points can be gained by collecting items scattered throughout the castle such as dossiers, enemy film reels or the good old fashioned way: beating anything that stands in your path. The player also has a focus bar that gradually fills up as they beat Hydra’s elite forces to a pulp and using R1 + square makes the Captain unleash a powerful strike, knocking out enemies and replenishing part of his health. Due to the limited amount of abilities one can unlock, Captain America’s combat repertoire does indeed feel shallow and, for the most part, repetitive after only a few chapters.
The developers do try to mix it up though. Using the ability to dodge, the player can move between opponents and cause them to end up attacking each other. There are also explosive barrels found throughout the game that, if the player lures hordes of Nazis towards them, can take out a group with one well timed shield throw. There are even locations in which the Captain can take control of a mounted grenade launcher to take out legions of Hydra minions. This however is where the diversity ends and leaves a lot to be desired of the combat. Despite that, there is some enjoyment in planning successive counters, deflection, and shield throws, however the enjoyment and the set pieces are far and few in between and due to no proper variation in the situation the player finds themselves in, can be tedious.
The lack of variation does not just stop with the fighting but also with the amount of minions at Hydra’s disposal. In fact having progressed halfway through the game, the player ought to have fought with every common enemy in the game. These brutes do not successively get any stronger either and there is very little to compensate any challenge to the player as they continue to upgrade the Captain’s ability. As such, with there being only 7 or so common enemies found in the entire game, with not even a palate change to be found, leads to a severe sense of familiarity even as you get towards the middle portions of the game. The level of intelligence (or rather, lack of) displayed by the AI means that the player will have little to no challenge in normal mode. Even the boss fights have very little going for them and often send in a group of servants to assist themselves in battle with Captain America. In fact failing certain QTEs with particular boss fights will help to replenish the boss’s life bar. No doubt both ploys by the developer to try and increase the difficulty that would otherwise be relatively easy.
GAMEPLAY – ADVENTURE
To break up from the combat sequences, the player will find themselves leaping from poles, ledges and sides of walls with the help of a “Tactical vision” that allows the player to see new routes through set pieces that they can climb. At first this may seem like a refreshing change but like most of the game, it slowly becomes another familiar sight, in fact, unless you press circle, you cannot fail any of these actions, and Captain America will always make the jump to the pole or ledge. These scripted events take any sort of challenge the player can find from these segments and it is a wonder then why the developers did not try to create any type of tension in these portions. Again the developers do try to mix it up by having the player create new routes via breaking objects with the Captain’s shields to create new poles to swing to. But again, this is where the variety ends and the common nature is found yet again in another major portion of the game.
However, the open world nature of the game has, strangely, been designed with care and attention. The player can explore several different locals that are all interconnected together and allow for a great deal of exploration to be undertaken. I would even hazard to say that this is the game’s best feature but sadly this is not a feature that is backed up with the constant quality that is needed for it to be memorable or for the player to feel the urge to jump back into the game to further explore the depths of the Bavarian complex.
The other set pieces that are found in the game come in three forms. One is a simple puzzle were you have to find the common symbol and align them to gain access into new rooms, another is hot wiring wires together by bringing them close together (though not too close, which if the player does so, drains a large amount of health) to short circuit machinery or finally, place explosives on objects. Like the rest of the game, by the time you have completed a few chapters, you ought to have done this a dozen or so times. There is a real problem in this game, where common challenges and enemies are done to death to the point that the player may even begin to become frustrated by the real lack of change in anything they encounter.
With that being said, there is a challenge mode that showcases some ideas from the developer that I feel ought to have been in the main game itself. These include scaling a tower housing a giant missile, during which the player has to hide behind cover whilst swinging to avoid getting fired at. Or even another challenge map that has Captain America swinging from one side of prison to another to protect an Allied POW escapee by deflecting the shots of enemy troopers back to themselves. I feel it is a rather shame that such ideas were not included in the game itself, as they are both challenging and would have helped to differentiate the rather mundane exercises the player finds themselves in during the main game. It is regrettably such a major problem that I feel it cannot be overlooked. Due to the limited amount of optional paths (And being fairly linear) and the combination of a low number of enemy classes and acrobat sequences, even the sections within the castle feel, with the exception of the art direction, like the exact same stage you’ve just come from.
GRAPHICS AND MUSIC
The graphics for Captain America are below subpar and you should not expect to be impressed with anything at a technical level. However one of the biggest issues I had encountered in my time with the title is the framerate, as it lowers to a rate below 30 in almost every instance in the game and becomes noticeably worse once an explosion occurs. Not having a steady framerate for a game that is to me graphically poor is surprising. I have no idea if this is just an issue present in the Playstation 3 version of Captain America or also present in the 360 version, but having a framerate drop in the majority of the game is inexcusable for a title that does very little that would be considered graphically intrusive. Even such things as gas and rain look as if they belong to a last generation Playstation 2 title, rather than the HD console this game is running on, so how the framerate drops occur in general is puzzling.
Another unfortunate problem in Captain America is, despite being based on such a colourful comic book character, the game feels sterile as soon as you get midway through it. The shift from day to night has a drastic and, in my opinion, damaging effect in the art direction of the game. It is quite evident to see from the concept art of the game that the player can unlock that the art the developer had hoped to achieve, they never did. With the enemy forces and stages all looking and playing the same, it is another real shame that even the visuals start to look the same after a while. It gets to the point where the game feels so repetitive it begins to grate at your senses and may be a challenge in itself for anyone to complete the title.
And like so much of the game, the music is mostly forgettable. I have very little to say in regards to the music and with the exception of the final level track, I cannot recall much of what I have heard. There are some neat touches to the sounds, such as hearing the heavy breathing of one of the baddies when you’re running around the stages to create some tension, but there is nothing memorable or special about the sound and I very much doubt one would remember anything they heard the following day.
The longevity of the title is another issue that the developer tried to address by adding alternate costumes, the challenge mode and the concept art one could unlock. And it is indeed a nice diversion but not a diversion that should take the player too long to fully unlock either. Still certain items, such as film reels on the villains Captain America will come up against, blueprints that the player can collect that will give them additional benefits fighting enemies (a feature I thought was rather nifty) and/or breaking and exploding items that help to unlock diary entries of Baron Zemo (Which further flesh out the world the player is in) or unlock pieces of concept art do help the game. However with the main game being able to be completed in just over 6 hours, and this is even with intensive searching for extra amounts by myself, Captain America is still a rather short game.
By the time you have come here, you would probably be able to guess what my conclusion is. Unfortunately, just like the many titles before it, Captain America falls short of not only being a good game, but being an acceptable game. There are far too many issues that were either not addressed, or flat out ignored in the design process of the title. The developer Next Level Games did showcase some neat ideas here and there but they are so far in between during the game that in the end Captain America: Super Soldier is such a repetitive, tedious and frankly, poor piece of software that it is hard to even recommend to diehard Captain America fans. SEGA have developed some stellar license titles over the years, however, I am sad to say that Captain America is not, to me, one of those games.
- A large open world game that connects together well
- Combat can be enjoyable at first
- Repetitive level design
- Poor selection of baddies and situations makes combat tedious
- Forgettable music
- Common occurrence of framerate drops