Review: Captain America: Super Soldier (Wii)

Shield your eyes...

There's been a fair amount of hyperbole thrown around for Captain America: Super Soldier in the gaming community, with many people making wild claims that SEGA has done for The First Avenger what Rocksteady did for The Dark Knight. While there are definite hints of Batman: Arkham Asylum in High Voltage's Wii outing for Cap', the title still falls far short of the title it imitates.

For starters, this is a very ugly game. Every aspect of the presentation – aside from the no frills menu layout – is unsophisticated and unpleasant to behold. Animation is often awkward and clumsy, leaving the eponymous hero and his supporting cast lacking on-screen presence or melodramatic comic book poise. During combat every hit appears to connect but lacks the brutal impact Arkham Asylum demonstrated so well, leaving scraps feeling lacklustre.

Character models aim for brawny and colourful, instead hitting freakishly chunky and devoid of detail. Facial models perhaps come off worst, rendered by an engine that looks about as if it should power an early PS2 game. During cutscenes this — combined with atrociously phoned-in voice acting and the aforementioned "quality" of animation — has the effect of making Mr. America and indeed the entire cast look like a group of mutated misfits playing dress-up whilst on a day out to the Hydra Fortress. The 1940s environments are dull and lifeless, constantly reusing the same object models throughout the half hour long levels and rough textures are shone upon by gaudily bare lighting sources that wouldn't be amiss in the Quake 3 engine.

By comparison, the music accompanying is shockingly high calibre, an exciting orchestral score underpinning much of the action reminiscent of BioShock's non-licensed numbers.

In terms of presentation then the title is a dud, your typical cash grab licensed title based on a recently released Hollywood flick. However peel back these ugly layers and beneath is a solid, if uninspired, seven-hour action adventure. The title is linear albeit for exploration to find a few hidden trinkets squirrelled away by Baron Zemo – the title's equivalent of the Riddler challenges – and involves moving through room after room to either reach an end goal or take on a boss. Areas are a mix of fighting a number of enemies, environment navigation and light puzzle solving invariably involving Captain America's signature shield to switch buttons or destroy impeding obstacles.

The fighting system is ripped from Batman: Arkham Asylum to good effect, with the B and Z triggers dishing out basic attacks and counters respectively. Enemies tend to swarm the player, so crowd control, priority management and peripheral vision are key to clearing out the Hydra henchmen, especially when the title introduces different enemy archetypes that must be tackled in a specific manner. Facing off against the key characters, such as mad scientist Arnim Zola, human dreadnought the Iron Cross and master assassin Madam Hydra are stereotypical pattern-based boss affairs and, while a nice break from the minions, are criminally lacking in creativity.

While player movement is nothing to nice to look at, it is at least responsive, with the Remote and Nunchuk intelligently assigned the basic commands. Of note is the ability to throw your shield at any area of the field of play by pointing at the desired location and tapping the C button. It takes time to grow comfortable with this ability but becomes the strongest reinforcement of the protagonist's special abilities that the game has to offer. Holding C slows time down to a crawl and enables you to target multiple enemies and other targets with one launch of Cap's shield. Though you'll rarely use it in combat, this technique is often used to complete the title's puzzles, such as hitting three buttons at once to shut down a gun turret. There are some platforming elements here but they're under developed, removing the majority of control and instead requiring the player to simply tap the A button to leap to the next rail or ledge.

Completion of the game, destroying Red Skull Bombs and finding secret treasures unlocks various trinkets; additional costumes, character profiles plus some concept art, though it's very little incentive to anything but the most die-hard Captain America fan to warrant repeat plays. Once you've been through the title you've likely seen everything it has to offer as — just like its sound and visuals — this is a very bare bones offering, so its lasting appeal is also rather questionable. It's certainly not enough content to justify a full price — or even half price — purchase, but when this hits bargain prices it may warrant investigation from Cap' fans, if only for the novelty factor of its halfway decent play mechanics.

Conclusion

High Voltage should be commended for intelligently lifting play elements from Arkham Asylum and successfully merging them with a novel shield-throwing mechanic to provide a similar but still entertaining gameplay experience. Truly awful presentation severely hampers the product overall though, creating a title that is enjoyable in the hands but abhorrent to the eyes.

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