by Justin Snyder
reviewed on PS3
The old cap&shield get their turn
When I saw Captain America: Super Soldier at a preview session in New York this past Spring, the guys at Next Level were quick to say that this game was not just another licensed movie tie-in rush job, and that they had actually been working on the game for about as long as the movie had been in production. Now that I have finally had a chance to play through the finished product, I can say that this is certainly better than your average licensed game, but it still doesn't live up to the expectations created by a certain other combat-focused superhero game from a few years ago.
It is hard not to draw comparisons between Super Soldier and 2009's Arkham Asylum. Both feature popular comic book characters, were released close to movies starring those heroes, and have a fluid, reactionary combat system. Both of these games respect the canon on which they are based, but the similarities start to fade there. While Super Soldier's combat system is well designed and great fun, the game is otherwise pretty bland.
Fighting off hundreds of nameless Hydra soldiers as Cap is fun and simple without getting boring. Melee attacks are as simple as pressing square, and combos are just a matter of pressing the button repeatedly. Of course, you're hardly ever fighting just one enemy, and so your attempts to dispatch someone are likely to be interrupted by an incoming attack, requiring correctly-timed counters. On Normal difficulty and below, a yellow ring will form around an enemy's waist when they're about to attack and can be countered. Every now and again (against bigger enemies and bosses) an attack can't be countered, and the ring will be red, alerting you that you'll have to dodge to avoid damage.
Of course, Cap just wouldn't be Cap without liberal use of his trademark shield. Tapping R2 throws the shield straight out in front of you, while holding L2 allows you to aim the shield and, eventually, mark multiple individual targets for one-shield-hit KOs. As you upgrade your shield throw, you can double tap R2 to have your shield bounce around and hit multiple enemies (if they're close enough to each other) before flying back to you.
Using the shield as a weapon is quite satisfying, but it wouldn't really be a shield if you didn't also use it as a means of defense. Aside from blocking incoming melee attacks, the shield can also be used to deflect bullets. When an enemy is going to fire a weapon that can be deflected back at them, a small marker appears at the edge of the screen in their direction, in which two white marks move towards one another. Blocking precisely as the two marks meet allows you to deflect the shot and (in the case of snipers) get a nice instant kill. It's also useful against some of the bigger "advanced enemies," who are sometimes difficult to get close enough to for melee combat.
On top of all of this, there is a set of advanced attacks which you must build up a meter in order to use. Atop Cap's health bar at the bottom left corner of the screen is a blue bar split into four segments. Successful combos, counters, and dodges all help to build this meter. By holding R1 and pressing square, you can command Cap to use a Crippling Strike, which is a quick, devastating blow with a unique animation for each enemy, and serves as a one-hit KO for all but the "advanced enemies." The Crippling Strike takes up one segment of the focus meter and is both very useful on the big guys and very satisfying to use against the regular Hydra soldiers. R1 and triangle allows you to "weaponize" an enemy, which, in the case of those with a gun of some kind, means you can turn the gun against your other foes, or in the case of the stun baton-equipped guys, has Cap turning the weapon back on the target himself, for an instant kill. If you fill the bar completely, R1 and X triggers Super Soldier mode, which silhouettes all enemies in gold and makes every regular attack a one-hit KO. It certainly evens the odds when you find yourself up against too many enemies at once.
Great, fun combat
Nothing else is that remarkable