I know better than to expect greatness from Sega-published super hero games. The last three comic franchise games they've put out, two "Iron Man" games and a "Thor" game (not to mention the various ports and multi-platform releases for those franchises) were far from good. Actually I'd go so far as to say they were terrible. Which brings me to "Captain America: Super Soldier." Though a definite improvement, thanks to the talent of Next Level Games, Sega is still no where near the levels reached by comic book games like "Batman: Arkham Asylum."
"Captain America: Super Soldier" doesn't follow the events of the film. Instead, it tells a side story in which Cap infiltrates an ancient castle ruled by Arnim Zola, Red Skull's right-hand man. The entire game takes place in this castle, delving into laboratories, prisons and train yards, as Cap uncover's Zola's nefarious plan.
The focus of the gameplay is on 3rd person combat, as the Captain can let loose shield bashes and face-shattering right hooks into a dozen enemies at once. There are also exploration elements, with hidden objects, recordings and film reels scattered throughout the castle.
Next Level Games made the excellent "Punch-Out!!" reboot on Wii a few years back, and they brought this fighting-game know-how to "Captain America: Super Soldier." The combat is, without a doubt, the high point of this game, and just about every engagement is fun and interesting. Like "Arkham Asylum," "Super Solider" focuses on countering enemy attacks, as indicated by a glowing icon around a given attacker. The mechanic feels a bit like you're spinning plates...with a shield. Great sound effects and animations in the combat make each punch feel hearty and damaging, especially when you unleash special attacks that literally smash the armor of an enemy's face.
Exploration And Navigation
The biggest problem with "Captain America: Super Soldier" is that, the moment Cap exits out of combat, he becomes stiff and unwieldy. Marching around the castle, looking for collectible doodads or your next objective, feels like a chore, with imprecise, clumsy and often boring controls.
One element that might've made navigation more interesting is Cap's gymnastic ability for vaulting and climbing. In certain set sequences, Cap launches himself to a pipe and, by hitting a button upon contacting the pipe, you can progress to the next obstacle instantly. It's basically a timing-based mini-game, but the required timing seemed to be inconsistent. Seemingly successful button presses would often bring my graceful performance to a halt, causing Cap to freeze in place for a few seconds before he could progress further.
Compare, if you will, this navigation mini-game to the remarkable freedom of game like "Arkham Asylum," where you're able to grapple and climb to just about wherever you wished. In contrast, the navigation in "Captain America" feels dated and uninteresting.
There's nothing spectacular about the visuals in "Super Soldier." Environments feel dull and predictable, and there's never a sense that this was once a real, working castle. Textures seem low resolution and the character models are passable but forgettable (save from some pretty dreadful lip synching). Even if this game was released back in 2006, I don't think anyone would consider it a visual feast. Again, it's not that the visuals are terrible...it's just that they're boring, which may be an even worse sin.
Voice Work Radioed In
"Super Soldier" is the perfect example of movie actors not always making the best voice actors. Despite the fact that Chris Evans, Neal McDonough and Hayley Atwell reprise their roles as Captain America, Dum Dum Dugan and Peggy Carter, they all give sleepy, unenthusiastic performances. The only exceptional voice work in the game comes from Steve Blum, a veteran voice actor, who plays Baron Zemo, the former owner of the castle. More often than not, though, it sounds like the actors were happy to get a paycheck for a day's worth of voice work and didn't mind if that work was less than stellar.
While there have certainly been worse super hero games over the years, "Captain America: Super Soldier" is far from exceptional. Outside of a well-crafted combat system, the game is mediocre at best. It's also not much of a value, with the entire story wrapping in about four hours (presuming you don't want to comb every corner for hidden trinkets). Despite having promise and a good concept, "Super Soldier" just never manages to stand on its own.