maanantai 2. joulukuuta 2013

REVIEW - Captain America - Super Soldier | DS | 2011

GENRE(S): Action / Stealth
RELEASED: July 15, 2011
AVAILABLE ON: 3DS, DS, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360
DEVELOPER(S): Next Level Games, Griptonite Games (DS), High Voltage Software (Wii)

Captain America. The first Avenger. Or should I say, the WORST Avenger. Before the recent, overwhelming surge of Marvel superhero films capitalized by the phenomenal success of the all-star cavalcade The Avengers, Captain America was never the first Marvel superhero on any game developer's mind. Only one game exclusive to the Cap's name was made back in 1987, for a few choice home computers, named Captain America in the Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann. What a mouthful. Then came the aforementioned surge, that started all the way back in 2000 with the theatrical release of X-Men. With almost everyone who ever was anyone in Marvel Comics getting their own movies, it was inevitable that Captain America would make his way back to the silver screen as well, even after 1990's miserable failure. He did so in the summer of 2011. Captain America - The First Avenger was a box office success... but let's rewind just a few days. A game called Captain America - Super Soldier was released on the PS3, Wii and Xbox 360, with a 3DS version on the way. Since a handheld version was developed in tandem with the major platform versions, it was kinda tested on the original DS, which had already been discontinued years back and the 3DS had been out for several months - so it's obvious this version of the game in particular didn't sell too well, and many have forgotten a DS version's existence. I don't forget, and I can't resist reviewing a potentially awful game that has an awful lead character. To my surprise, Captain America - Super Soldier ain't that bad, though. Bad, but not THAT bad.

A consistent series of almost-semi-pseudo-rights

In a game based on the middle part of the film Captain America - The First Avenger, the recently transformed super soldier Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, infiltrates a Nazi fortress commanded by the Red Skull, Adolf Hitler's most loyal henchman and the leader of HYDRA, a division devoted to the research of a powerful artifact called Tesseract, which the Nazis are planning to use for world domination. There - I explained it with one sentence. Random challenge from a Captain America fan accepted - and beaten.

I took another look at my last round with Cap U.S.A. to warm up a little, and found that I didn't explain my dislike for the character thoroughly enough. Well, it's like this: time has seriously forgotten Captain America. Time slipped by him, as well as his originally cool backstory a long, long time ago, long before I was even born. He was created during the war, FOR the war. Unlike other comic book superheroes who were created as inspired by soldiers, and to inspire soldiers in return, or those who appeared in many war-related stories during those times (including Batman), were interesting and exploitable for several other reasons than just the war. Captain America's success depended on the war, as cruel as that sounds. Even as he was named the new leader of the Avengers when he was brought back in the early 60's, almost two decades after his own comic book was discontinued, I think people were more fascinated with the group than its head. I can't really lay down facts and stats here. When the Marvel movies started to pour in, and especially when they kicked off the Avengers series with the amazing Iron Man in 2008, they just couldn't live without making a Captain America movie, since he was considered the "first Avenger" and the leader of the group for such a long while. But, how did Captain America do by himself in 2011?

There's a dude on that balcony and
no way to hit him. Oh hell, let's twist
logic and fuck him up with a space-time
ignoring supermove.
Critically, quite good. Through my eyes, not that good. The film had two top-class actors in Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving, but the plot that was sewn together from a couple of different popular storylines from the Cap's early days just didn't work. It was like watching The Rocketeer all over again - for the fourth or fifth time - with Chris Evans looking like Adam West as Batman whenever he had his helmet on. I also found it distracting to watch Johnny Storm from the Fantastic 4 film series - which was deemed a failure by critics back in its day - playing another Marvel superhero. It felt like they had consciously hired a leftover to portray a leftover, just to set up the final bridge they needed for the Avengers assembly. I had nothing against having Captain America in that movie - after all, it had Iron Man. And Thor. And the greatest presentation of Hulk ever. Just like in any Avengers story or game or cartoon, or whatever that was ever made, the "leader" was overshadowed by his cohorts. But as long as they were with him, he was nice to have along for the ride.

With this set of emotions to back me up, and the fact that the game was a very - VERY - late, virtually unknown entry to the original DS library, I can hardly be blamed for not giving the game too much credit in advance. It might seem that just by bringing this game up, or just its name, I'm hell bent on giving you another hateful lecture in the style of the "top" games on the Bottom 40 just for the fun of it - yeah, I guess that's what I do from time to time. Well, not this time. Captain America - Super Soldier starts off looking like it could be fun. It ultimately isn't that fun, but starting off like this is already a lot more effort than I expected from the developers. I know it's definitely not much, but Super Soldier is the best game starring Captain America I've played so far. There - something nice. Another random challenge accepted, and beaten.

Strap your headbelts, there's more niceties coming your way (!): for such a capitalist product, it looks very nice. It's got nicely rendered polygon sprites and 2.5D backgrounds with a lively camera. The heroic music is quite good, too, and it sounds massive through headphones. Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell and a couple of other actors reprise their roles from the film - the best ones don't, but their parts are taken over by experienced voice actors. It's a surprisingly flashy game by all accounts. That's the best part... and you can't get very far with that, but it helps.

The game comprises of objective screens, taking turns between an all-out beat 'em up, stealth (odd, but totally predictable in these times), and a mild puzzle, sometimes coupled with a touch pad minigame. None of the core gameplay elements work right. Beating Nazis up is quite fun at first, especially since Cap has such a wide variety of moves, unlocked at a tight pace. Perhaps too tight, and perhaps the variety is too wide since some of these moves have no use. You can place the blame on the flawed collision detection, or just the fact that once Cap lifts his feet off the ground, the game takes the majority of control. Aerial attacks are extremely difficult to pull off, and platforming is simply enfuriating due to inadjustable spring jumps. Wall jumping works surprisingly well, though. The easy combat turns into an all-out ass rape in record time, which is unnecessarily difficult to avoid even with your few kill 'em all supermoves in tow, due to these flaws in design I just mentioned.

Hitler Kombat.
The stealth part is very simple as you have just one move in your stealth repertoire - silent takedown from behind - and Cap automatically crouches down and walks slower in these screens. The hard part is dodging the lines of enemy sight - the cameras are particularly annoying 'cause they move much faster than Cap does in these screens. Running past them isn't much of an option either, 'cause very often there's an enemy waiting just beyond the camera's furthest zone, and running's almost just as inadjustable as a standard jump or "flight", which you'll have to familiarize yourself with during the few gauntlet runs in the game. Well, there's a little bit of consolation in the fact that even if an enemy looks straight at you, you still have perhaps a second to escape from his sight - just a step back from the line is all it takes to fuck with the A.I.. How solid.

The puzzles start off by pointing out the obvious, either directly or indirectly, and unfortunately they keep doing that throughout the whole mudwalk, so there goes the third main element. They usually involve Cap's shield, and throwing it at an exact sweet spot to create a Domino effect; kind of like a poor man's round of The Incredible Machine. The couple of different touch pad minigames are pretty much the only way to translate Cap's superhuman strength and how he's still dealing with it to the physical properties of the Nintendo DS. There's one in which you need to use the stylus to lift by simply stroking it upwards on the touch pad, and one in which you have to deliver consecutive, epic punches to break a massive obstacle down by clicking at shield icons on the screen at the exact right time when they're lit up. They're quite fun, and there's no time limit to annoy you out of your already tested mind.

This still ain't as nice at is sounds, but Captain America - Super Soldier is a lot better than I expected, and if you're a total die-hard fan of everything related to Marvel, it's not a totally unworthy addition to your game collection; I could come up with several much worse games from better franchises in three seconds, if I found them worthy of another mention. I'm almost impressed.

+ Nice graphics and relatively massive sound
+ Utilization of the DS' physical properties shows promise

- Once the enemies start coming from every direction with unseen weapons firing at you at the same time, you'll start to see how bad the controls and general mechanics really are after that initial promise
- The stealth just doesn't belong, and it just doesn't work either
- Incredibly linear and repetitive level design with very limited exploration for collectibles
- My personal feelings towards the franchise and its main character do not help at all

< 6.2 >

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