It’s hard to argue that Batman isn’t the reigning king of superheroes at the moment. Batman has situated himself as the most successful superhero across nearly every medium. Not only does he have four monthly comics that he stars in, he’s also the most successful movie superhero with The Dark Knight trilogy; Batman: The Animated Series is often considered a landmark in animated television; and, not least of all, the two Batman: Arkham games are widely considered to be the best superhero video games ever made. Not that the Arkham games are up against stiff competition. Besides Arkham, the game most likely to be offered as the best superhero game is Spider-Man 2 and that’s just because web-swinging around the city in that game is so incredibly awesome. But there is another superhero that I think deserves his time in the video game spotlight. His game shamelessly steals from Arkham and it probably missed out on a final level of polish before it was shipped, but, in the end, Captain America: Super Soldier is a worthy contender for most fun superhero game.
Just like every other modern game with hand-to-hand fighting, Captain America borrows its combat system from the Arkham games. One button to attack, one to counterattack (signaled by a light flashing on the attacking enemy), and one to dodge. Some enemies can’t be attacked from the front so you have to get behind them to deal damage. Some enemies can’t be countered so their attacks have to be avoided. Hand-to-hand combat is nothing if the transitions between animations aren’t quick and smooth, but Captain America pulls it off nearly as well as in the Arkham games. While the animations aren’t quite as smooth as Arkham‘s, Cap’s spinning kicks and front flips look really cool and don’t take away from his responsive controls.
A straight rip of Arkham‘s combat would have worked great for the game, considering Cap is arguably Batman’s equal when it comes to fisticuffs, but there are also some fun implementations of Cap’s shield into combat. If there are enemies shooting at him during a fight, with a carefully timed block, Cap can deflect their bullets back at them. Cap can also throw his shield to stun enemies. The shield can bounce between enemies and off of walls before returning back to Cap. These small additions keep the combat from feeling too similar to Arkham‘s, and their incredibly satisfying to use.
Most of the game takes place in a single compound known as Castle Zemo. The mix of advanced technology with old-timey aesthetics makes for a visually interesting world. The character models are really well detailed. When Cap performs a “crippling strike,” an attack that one-hit kills most enemies, individual pieces of armor can be seen flying off of them. For some reason, the faces that are modeled on actors from the movie all look kind of strange, including Chris Evans as the Captain, but their armor and clothes look great.
But the real draw here is Captain America. Cap looks very true to his movie version (withholding any reservation I have for the costume in the movie) and Chris Evans’s voice acting is a happy surprise considering the hit-and-miss nature of celebrity voice acting. He doesn’t phone-in his performance, and his earnest and determined do-gooder comes through really well without being too uptight or boring.
While the game is good on it’s own, there is one small detail, I think, that raises the game to something better than the sum of its parts: the sound Cap’s shield makes when it hits something. Whether it’s the hard metal-on-metal clank of a reflected bullet, or the hollow metallic “WUMP” when he hits an enemy, the sound design on that shield is perfect. Seriously, even if you don’t like good-looking games with fun combat and a silly world, you should still get this game just for that sound.
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