Captain America was my first experience with a comic book character that I can remember. I used to get up in the morning and watch reruns of the old 60's cartoon, somehow being amazed by the really cheap animation. He's quietly been one of my favorite super heroes ever since, fighting crime with just a shield and his guts (The Super Soldier Serum wore off eventually. Did he quit being a super hero? Nope. Just hit the gym even harder). While the movie may have been unable to wow me, the prospect of being able to throw that mighty shield myself dragged my attention to where it doesn't normally wander: movie games.
Movie tie-ins are always, always cheap cash grabs, and this one is no exception...except for the fact that it is fun. Really fun. I can't tell you with a straight face that this game is going to top anyone's best list for 2011, but as far as shameless money grubbing goes, this game is surprisingly competent. Also, for the man who's been looking to play a decent Captain America game for years, this game got the shield down right.
Like Cold Fear to Resident Evil 4, this game is a poor man's Batman: Arkham Asylum (Except for, at 50$, it costs almost twice as much as your average used copy of the Batman game). The combat is pretty much ripped right out of that game. Your tend to get bombarded by bad guys in huge groups every few screens, rarely getting attacked one on one. For the first few punches, you have to target who you want, but after that, a tap and a flick of the stick will send Cap flying towards whoever happens to be the closest threat. The camera doesn't keep us as well as it did with Batman, which results in a lot of cheap hits, but it is a minor niggle most of the time.
Combat is further spiced up by a meter that fills as you chain successful hits and dodges. It's split into four bars, each of which lets you do a little something. The first bar lets you do an instant takedown attack, which is handy for a lot of the larger enemies that are well-defended. Two bars will also let you take over the weapons of the big guys for a while, usually meaning you will wipe the floor with whoever is around you. Once you hit four bars, you can go into Super Soldier mode and lay vicious beatdowns, but to be honest, I never used it. It takes too much effort to fill up four bars, when using one of the single bar attacks usually gets the job done.
A better use of four bars is your magnificent shield. Throwing this was designed with the same thing in mind as combat: ease of use. When you double tap the throw button, Cap will whip the shield at whatever is closest, hitting anywhere up to five guys and either stunning or taking them out. This can earn you a quick breather when things get hairy in a fight, and it's just plain cool to be hitting one guy while your shield bounces off noggins for a moment, eventually settling back onto your arm just in time to land the last punch. If you want to go all out, though, you can use up to four of those little saved power bars and do targeted shots on specific bad guys, all of which have the power of the instant takedown. It's a godsend when more than one huge guy is lumbering your way, and is just so, so satisfying to do.
But what about when you aren't fighting? Platforming seems to have been taken more from Prince of Persia than anything, but as if that game was designed by someone who was afraid that players were idiots. Like in Batman, you have a detective mode called 'Strategic View' that highlights anything that might be of interest (Except bad guys, but if they're around, they're usually crawling down your throat anyway). It also shows where any acrobatic jumps can be made, which means no looking around for where to go. The jumps themselves are pretty easy, in that the only way you can mess one up is if you haven't lowered the platform for yourself yet. The game just won't let you make a flip or leap if you aren't doing it the right way. If you've practiced with other platforming games and can do it well, though, you can earn more power bars by doing the flips with perfect timing. It looks cool when you're doing it, but leaves a bit of a sour taste in that you barely have any meaningful input into the process. You couldn't mess these parts up if you tried.
After watching the pitiful fight against Red Skull in the movie, I was hoping to have an excellent showdown with him here. Again, the people in charge of Captain America thwarted me, not even allowing me to fight him. It was a drag, but I got to see a lot more of Arnim Zola in exchange, which was actually pretty cool. If you take the time to go through his film reels, you'll be able to see a logical progression to how he came to his final form, one which was nice to see since it never appeared in the movie. Other villains from the comics make appearances as bosses, like Baron Von Strucker and Madame Hydra (Viper). Both are pretty satisfying fights, with the one against Madame Hydra easily being the hardest in the game (Which I thought was going to be the opposite).
These weren't the latest gamut of brawler game bosses, either. There was no rifling around a room to find things that weakened an invincible creature. Just pure fisticuffs, and it was sweet. You may have had to knock a few bullets back at Madame Hydra with your shield, but by the end of it, your fists would see you through. Even against the robot Iron Cross, the coolest alternate WWII history robot ever (You can hear something that sounds like a lawnmower engine inside of him whenever he stalls. Did I mention that he stalls? It's so old-timey, and so much better than all of the laser crap they had for technology in the movie), you beat its metal noodle in with your bare hands.
Overall, this was a satisfying brawler, and a good way to kill a couple of nights of the summer. It's fun for the few hours it lasts, and the small amount of enemies it has doesn't really hinder it over its short run. With platforming thrown in to keep you from getting bored with any play type, the game didn't feel like it overstayed its welcome, either. It draws on some of the history of the character the movie couldn't (Even squeezing the Sleepers in there, but in a much less interesting capacity than the comics), and tells a story that fits just right with Cap.
And not that I normally care, but the voice acting had Cap down perfect. Hearing Chris Evans saying the stuff from this script made it come alive, and really fit in with the character. For a game, this might have only been okay, but as a Captain America experience, look no further.
Man, shield throwing rules.
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