Review: Captain America

Red, white, and blew my theory away. Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: Super-Soldier are together the best movie and movie tie-in combo of the summer, with a consistently good film and an action-adventure game that echoes Batman: Arkham Asylum.

The Game

Starting off in the game already Super-Soldiered, you take the roll of Steven ‘Captain America’ Rogers fighting through the trenches on a mission to wipe out various HYDRA/Nazi hot spots and eventually stop HYDRA’s number one mad scientist, Arnim Zola. The first mission quickly introduces the player to the combat mechanics, which consist of shield throwing/blocking, a series of melee combos and a satisfying dodging system, much like the dodging mechanics in Batman: Arkham Asylum.

The base story of the game sees Captain America push back the HYDRA forces and provide backup to some American soldiers, only to come face to face with a supped up HYDRA scorcher soldier packing some advanced technology. This ultimately sends Captain America in search of the HYDRA facility manufacturing said tech. Howard Stark (Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark’s father) analyzes the weapon dropped by the defeated scorcher soldier and figures out that it was composed of a rare metal primarily found in the mountains of Bavaria. So, via plane, Cap literally ‘drops’ in and proceeds to storm through the mountain base. However, while attempting to take down an advanced anti-air weapon and allow the Invaders to reach the ground, Cap comes into contact with what is effectively the first real boss character: Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.

Here's one for Uncle Sam!

Here's one for Uncle Sam!

One point worth mentioning before moving along is the Marvel WWII heroes team known as the ‘Invaders’. Although nice to have a reference to them in the game, it would’ve been tons better to have also had a silhouetted glimpse of the WWII heroes, who consisted primarily of Namor, Human Torch, Toro, Vision, Bucky, and several additional members who cycled in and out of the team.

I’ll admit, this boss fight surprised me, mainly because it didn’t feel like a boss fight. It occurred seamlessly with the rest of the gameplay and had a sense of freedom, despite taking place within an enclosed space. The other surprise was that I could use Cap’s counterattack to turn the boss’s attack back against him, which was a very satisfying piece of game design.

After defeating Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, an explosion occurs and Cap is tackled and thrown off the top of a building by Baron Strucker, which subsequently knocks him unconscious.

Waking up in a HYDRA base, Captain America has been captured by HYDRA and is being taken to be examined, in order to derive the Super-Soldier Serum from his blood and to analyze his shield for additional weaponry capabilities. Breaking loose, Cap manages to rescue Howling Commando Dum-Dum Dugan who goes on to assist Cap in his mission, as well as getting some personal revenge on HYDRA for capturing him – by blowing lots of things to pieces. Further investigation by the duo reveals that Bucky has also been captured. So, after fighting his way through countless HYDRA soldiers, Cap manages to rescue Bucky and push forward in his attempt to rescue Howling Commando James Montgomery Falsworth (the real, un-powered persona of Union Jack).

Searching through the expansive HYDRA compound puts the player up against the likes of Iron Cross (basically a Nazi mech-warrior) and Madame Hydra, both of whom present battles which are satisfying, if not overly-challenging. This vast trek through the compound also puts the player in the path of a ridiculous amount of collectible items which can be used to unlock concept art, movies, and other goodies, which add intel points to the intel pool and lead to the unlocking of costumes. One of the main things I learnt from this game is that the Nazis/HYDRA are basically like the Easter Bunny, because there are eggs everywhere.

In due time, the player finds out that even though Red Skull is the obvious ‘big bad’ of the film, this game’s villain is clearly Arnim Zola. The scientist bound on creating the next level in evolution, Arnim has been creating various souped-up enemies for Cap to fight, all the while secretly developing a personal form of immortality via transference of his own mind to machine. This gains him a simple beat down by Cap, followed by the rescuing of Falsworth.

Prepare to see stars. Approximately fifty of them.

Prepare to see stars. Approximately fifty of them.

An enraged Arnim Zola activates the Sleeper, a huge robot whispered about throughout the story that stands at a ridiculous height and could turn the tide of war. Unfortunately, the player never directly engages this robot in combat, being made instead to fight Arnim Zola in a handful of mini-battles. At the end of each short battle, the player is directed to perform an action which significantly damages the Sleeper. The final blow to the Sleeper boss confused me, though, since it was almost presented as a tutorial in the way the final boss’s weakness is highlighted and the gameplay comes to a slow-mo state. Completion of this ‘tutorial’ is rewarded with a very cheesy and somewhat unsatisfying ending, and a post-credits scene which isn’t particularly worth waiting around for.

Despite all its flaws with the camera and budget graphics, though, Captain America: Super-Soldier stands as an overall fun experience, and one which does a decent job at combining the gameplay mechanics of both Prince of Persia and Batman: Arkham Asylum to make a movie tie-in title that does not suck. If I ever find myself in one of those conversations about how all movie tie-in games are terrible, I’d definitely hold up Captain America as an exception to this belief. Sure, it’s no Batman: Arkham Asylum, but just because a game doesn’t live up to triple A expectations doesn’t necessarily make it a bad game.

The Film

The Captain America film surprised me as well. I went into the theatre expecting a mediocre experience at best, a film that would fall short of the Iron Man and Thor films. Instead, I was treated to a satisfying fan service with many nods to the Marvel Universe; a movie that, albeit, did not have a climactic moment that I could later state “that was the best part”, but held strong all the way through and kept me entertained.

When Captain America throws his mighty shield!

When Captain America throws his mighty shield!

Steve Rogers wanted nothing more than to serve his country on the battlefield and give the enemy what for, but due to his physical state he kept being rejected. That was, until he met Dr. Abraham Erskine – a German doctor who had previously attempted to create a Super-Soldier out of Johann Schmidt (Red Skull) – who sees a pure heart in Steve and approves his enlistment papers. Quickly thrown into military training, Steve resolves that he’ll never give up, even though he clearly appears to be outmatched by his fellow soldiers. But his reactions to specific tests show something bigger than brawn and combat skills within him.

 

Warning: Spoilers

Volunteering as a subject for the Super-Soldier experiment, Steve is transformed into Captain America and then goes on to witness the brutal murder of his friend and ‘creator’, Dr. Erskine. Steve/Cap quickly deals with the killer and proves himself to his peers. However, the military’s uncertainties over Steve Rogers’ capabilities as a governor are quickly outweighed by the dollar signs in their eyes when they realise the potential value of Captain America as a brand, and so they use him in public campaigns to sell war bonds and to entertain soldiers at USO shows.

What eventually sends Cap to the forefront, though, is the capture of the 107th – the infantry that his dear friend Bucky was part of. Suiting up, Cap takes flight with Peggy Carter and Howard Stark, parachuting deep into enemy territory to free Bucky, the Howling Commandos and the rest of the 107th before coming face to face with the Red Skull.

The escape leads to the US and British military learning about a new power source HYDRA have been using in their weapons. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that HYDRA’s new power source is of a magical nature, in the form of a Cosmic Cube. The cube, which the Red Skull stole from a small town that was guarding it, is a magical item of Asgardian nature and carries great power; power that far exceeds that of the Red Skull’s current use for the cube.

Steve Rogers, the man who punched out Hitler 200 times.

Steve Rogers, the man who punched out Hitler 200 times.

The Allies come up with a new plan to send the Howling Commandos and Captain America back into enemy territory to stop the Red Skull from achieving whatever his masterplan may be. This leads to the apparent death of Bucky along the way, fueling Cap to push forward with his mission, and put a stop to several HYDRA compounds on his way to the Red Skull. Upon reaching the Red Skull’s headquarters, Cap discovers that the Red Skull plans to deploy a massive bomber plane to drop Cosmic Cube infused warheads on every major ally city. Climbing aboard the plane moments before it takes flight, Cap quickly dispatches the random HYDRA soldiers before battling with the Red Skull to the death (although I’m sure anyone could easily guess the winner of this fight). Realizing that his only choice is to crash the plane into the arctic waters, Cap radios through to Peggy, speaking to her one last time before the plane crashes down into the freezing Arctic Ocean and becomes lost until the present day, where his body is discovered by the agency known as SHIELD.

Waking up in a hospital, Captain America realizes something is out of place, panics and, after escaping the ‘hospital’, he finds himself in Times Square, New York City, which understandably looks a lot different compared to the last time he saw it. Nick Fury appears and briefly explains the situation to Cap before the credits roll.

End Spoilers

So there it is, my theory is shattered and I don’t mind, because I was treated to both a good film and a good game, both of which are based on a comic book character who I’m pretty fond of. I’m still not entirely sure what the film’s sequel will hold for Captain America, but I do know that I’m very definitely excited to see the Avengers assemble on screen – and whatever video game tie-in spawns from that, you can be certain it will be in one my consoles the day it hits the shelves.