As winter time approaches, DVD and Blu-ray releases of summer blockbusters get pushed out for the Christmas shopping rush. Similarly, one or two games get released on a platform that they missed out on during the summer. Captain America: Super Soldier is such a game, but can it make itself stand out from the Wii version that has been out for months?
A German group named Hydra is fighting a war against the US in a World War II-like setting in France. They have taken over a castle where they are experimenting with a serum to create Super Soldiers for the Red Skull to help them win the war against the West. It’s up to Steven Rogers, AKA Captain America, to come and save the day.
Combat is the very first thing you happen to get into in Captain America. It uses the same basic system that Batman: Arkham Asylum gives you, with basic attacks and counters being the main part of the fighting mechanics. This works fairly well, with a combo system that can gain more attacks as you gain more experience. There are however a few occasions when the response time for the Captain to make his move let the player down, and then there are also occasions of when the Captain will just use the same move repeatedly without triggering a combo, therefore affecting the rhythm of combat.
Another part of combat is using the Captain’s famous American shield. This can be used in various ways: blocking projectiles, as well as throwing it at foes (it works like a boomerang, always returning to the Captain). Deflected projectiles can be used to kill enemies and destroy items that are unreachable. Certain puzzles involve automated turrets, which must be deactivated by standing on switches to open up their fuse boxes, which you must fling your shield at. The shield is aimed using the stylus to guide a star, which works well when pointing somewhere in line with the Captain, but on the occasions where enemies are shooting from above you, it’s impossible to deflect their bullets back at them since even if you aim the star above or below you it’ll only ever deflect straight horizontally across from where the Captain stands. This can lead to some troublesome situations when there are more than two enemies on screen.
You can throw the shield in any random direction by tapping the throw button or by sliding the stylus to send it exactly where you want, which can prove to be troublesome in combat due to juggling the stylus and buttons at the same time; using your thumb doesn’t help much either. There is also the ability to take aim at specific objects by marking them with stars while slowing down time considerably. This system helps when trying to defeat enemies that are too fast to hit with melee attacks, or if you want to stun a few enemies so you can focus on fighting one at a time. There are a few enemies, however, that will grab your shield and throw it out of the way if you hurl it at them (you can always regain it). There is a limit to the amount of stars you can tag objects with, but these will increase through gaining levels with experience points.
You gain the mentioned experience points by completing tasks, defeating enemies and breaking destructible objects throughout levels. Some enemies and boxes also drop health, which is needed when it comes to some bosses and the hordes of enemies. Around each level there are a number of hidden objects to collect or destroy that unlock artwork from the game and comics: 3 POWs from the army, 10 destructible Red Skull bombs, and one hidden treasure. There are also a number of Zola Challenges in which Dr Zola challenges Captain America to complete a task within a certain time limit. You’ll get bonus experience points if you complete them, but you can always opt out.
When it comes to boss fights, normal combat applies. Some bosses are trickier than others, and one in particular relies on the luck of your aim when you raise your shield, rather than being able to aim with the touch-screen, which really shows that this game was built with the Wii Remote and other home console controllers in mind. Finishing a boss is a matter of using the correct on-screen prompts; when these are failed the enemy will get a hit in on you. The controls are a mixed bag; while melee combat generally works well when the game isn’t ignoring the fact that you’re attempting a combo, aiming while holding your shield can be a challenge due to the positioning of the buttons and having the use the touch-screen at the same time, which leads to the Captain being hit by projectiles left, right and centre.
Graphically Captain America: Super Soldier is the same as the Wii version, which wasn’t exactly great looking itself. The difference is that there is quite a lot of slowdown, pop-in and signs of a drop in frame rate - and this is without the 3D on. There are also patches of glitchiness where you’ll find enemies floating in the air or running on the spot. Even the Captain is affected when certain platforms are not recognised; for instance, if you had to run across a diagonal pole, the game sometimes makes the Captain move slowly through the air without touching the ground, then all of a sudden he’ll drop through the pole as if it wasn’t there. 3D doesn’t add much, if anything to the game’s draw distance, although there are some occasions where you can really tell the difference.
There’s also a potentially game-breaking point in the game where you have to destroy certain parts in different rooms to proceed into a main room. If you die while destroying a part in one particular room the game doesn’t recognise that you’ve destroyed it, despite being visually destroyed, and makes it inaccessible for the player, meaning that you’ll have to start the whole level again from the level select screen.
The menus, both in-game and at the home screen, don’t use any touch functionality at all. This is where you access all your unlockable extras and artwork. Completing the game gives you one of two alternative costumes to play through the game again, and most character biographies show off their in-game character models. Loading times on the menu and in-game can take up a lot of time and do affect some in-game controls, as the Captain significantly slows down while you set off to run after loading a room.
A decent basis completely let down by flaws. There’s slowdown, combos don’t always register, there’s no use pointing upwards to deflect with your shield because the projectiles only ricochet straight, and juggling the buttons and touch-screen is a chore.
Character models are fairly average and environments are plain and samey throughout. There are too many times when the game slows down with the framerate noticeably dropping, which didn’t happen in the Wii version. 3D doesn’t make much noticeable difference.
Doesn’t make good use of the 3DS’ speakers. Music is unmemorable, but the voice acting is decent besides the script not being quite up to scratch.
The game’s nine levels last 4 - 6 hours in total, and whether you’re willing to unlock everything and play through a second time with a different costume can add to those hours, especially if you can take the slowdown and glitchiness of the game.
Captain America: Super Soldier for 3DS could be a decent game were it not for the graphical glitches, slowdown and frustration caused by potentially game breaking instances. The game is playable, and can have the occasional enjoyable moment, but up against these faults you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.