Captain America: Super Soldier and Captain America: Super Soldier

Captain America: Super Soldier
Captain America: Super Soldier Cover
Platforms PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre Fancy fights and clutter cleanup
Score 5  Clock score of 5
Buy from Amazon


In the last two weeks, I started Captain America: Super Soldier for both the PS3 and Wii. At hour's end, I decided to keep playing each game, but with the expectation that I wouldn't actually finish either. As it turns out, I stuck with both through the credits. And I didn't do it solely for masochism's sake: movie license hex be damned, neither version of Captain America is mere shovelware. They won't be gunning for any Game of the Year awards, but they are games worth playing for the right price.

Okay, so they're not bad. But which version of Captain America: Super Soldier is the not baddest? The choice isn't as simple as HD versus SD, like in many Wii port afterthoughts: the parallels are there, but these are two very different games. In classic head-to-head style, check out how each of the versions stacks up against each other in their major elements.

Presentation - Which Captain is the most American?
The story of Captain America: Super Soldier takes place after Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America in The First Avenger, but before the principal conflict of the tie-in movie. Captain America is dropped into Castle Zemo, the palace of ousted Baron Zemo, which has been commandeered as a research facility for HYDRA, the supernatural investigations arm of the Nazis (though the games make no reference to the organization's connection to Adolf and friends). The first avenger's mission is to rescue some prisoners of war and sabotage the castle in preparation for an allied invasion. Each version of the game has a unique bit here and there, but they generally use the same excuses for Cap to take on hundreds of cronies, Baron von Stucker, Madame Hydra, Iron Cross, and Arnim Zola, with his typical squeaky clean patriotism and team-player rhetoric in tow.

The presentation styles, however, are very different. The HD version of the game plays it with a straight face, mimicking the more sober themes and realistic visuals of the movie. On the other hand, the Wii version goes full comic book, cranking Captain America's boy scout routine up a few notches and injecting his HYDRA foes with a dose of Saturday morning cartoon villain silliness. The Nintendo game even adopts a colorful, exaggerated aesthetic in its character designs that appears ugly at first but fits Captain America like a glove.

Captain America: Super Soldier
Captain America: Super Soldier Cover
Platforms Wii
Genre Point and shield adventure
Score 6  Clock score of 6
Buy from Amazon

ADVANTAGE: PS3. It's a close call, but I have to give the PS3 version the nod here. The higher fidelity visuals and sound (well above par for movie license games) certainly help its case, and as much as the Wii game's visuals and lighthearted charm grew on me, the dirty brown and grey industrial environments make for a drab and ugly setting that clashes poorly with Cap's vibrant heroism.

Combat - Which Soldier is the most Super?
Unlike most superheroes, Captain America doesn't have any real superpowers, per se. He's just a really buff dude with some effective martial arts skills. Super Soldier's combat molds itself after this simplicity: Cap has one button for all of his attacks, one button for defense, one button for acrobatics, and so on. Like Arkham Asylum, these one-button functions don't limit the spectacle, as Cap's action will depend on the positioning of himself and his foes. The result is a stylish exhibition of punches, kicks, shield throws, counterattacks, and context-sensitive specialties, like the ability to stun a gun-toting enemy and turn his weapon against his allies. Every now and then, Cap hops behind a machine gun turret or a mortar cannon as well (clearly he isn't against firearms, so why doesn't he carry a gun at all times?).

The basis is the same, but the difference between the two versions is night and day. The PS3 game almost perfectly captures Captain America's acrobatic style and impressive power. The animations are particularly smooth: not quite at Arkham Asylum's level, but you won't be disappointed when Cap somersaults over a HYDRA goon and shatters his metal mask with a powerful slow-motion punch. Captain America isn't nearly as fluid in motion on the Wii, where the combat animations awkwardly snap from one to the next. That's not to say it suffers, as the combat largely has the same attack-and-counter fundamentals with plenty of context-sensitive flair. In tone with the more vibrant visuals, Cap's fighting style in the Wii game has a bit more superheroism to it, with some body slams and speed-punches thrown in every now and then.

ADVANTAGE: PS3. Another close call, but another win for the HD game. I actually think the Wii game's combat is more involving, as the player has to manually aim all of Cap's shield throws with the Wii remote's pointer. The Wii game also requires more distinct strategic changes between enemies, ensuring a wider variety of challenges for the player. But for me, the gorgeous fluidity of the PS3 version makes up for the more repetitious interactive elements.

Captain America Super Soldier Bash

Level Design - Which Castle is the most Zemo?
Both games start out with Cap fighting alongside the Allies in the trenches, funneling the player through the tutorial in corridors of dirt. Following this introduction, Cap is hastily airdropped into Castle Zemo and separated from his fellow Invaders. The entirety of the game takes place in the castle grounds, following Cap from the unassuming (but well-fortified) castle exterior into the depths of the dungeons and finally down to the HYDRA facilities hidden from the surface.

The structural difference is immediately apparent: where the Wii game funnels the player through mostly linear stages, each area of the castle grounds in the PS3 game is connected to the rest, and can be revisited after Cap's mission is completed. In both games, the player traverses the environment primarily by scripted acrobatic feats, jumping and swinging around poles and footholds by tapping a button as Cap meets each obstacle. Like the combat, this is quite smooth (but automated) in the HD version, but more awkward (and interactive) in the Wii game.

ADVANTAGE: Wii. The Wii game's simplicity wins out here. The PS3 version's sandbox castle is entirely for show: the story mode funnels the player from area to area through the chapters, and only opens up for free roaming near the end. Even then, the sections never mingle in interesting ways, with just two hub options connecting to each area independently. Really, it's more a logistical headache to occasionally get lost in than a fun playground. The Wii build of Castle Zemo boasts humble hallways with the occasional nonlinear objectives and plenty of side nooks and crannies to find hidden doodads, and an arrow reminding you of the next objective at all times.

Captain America wii Punch

Puzzles - Which Machine is the most Enigmatic?
It wouldn't be a story of World War II subterfuge without some code cracking. Cap's brute force will take him through much of Castle Zemo, but every now and then, a locked door or sophisticated computer requires brains instead of brawn.

Two brands of mental challenge exist in the PS3 version: text matching and hotwiring. Both use the control sticks exclusively. In the text code minigame, two matrices of numbers and letters are put on the screen; hacking doors is as easy as overlapping the character that appears in both matrices. Hotwiring is even simpler, as Cap can fry a machine by putting two wires close enough to trigger an electric charge between them (without putting them so close that they blow up in his face). In the Wii game, the puzzles are more traditional video game fare, with levers to pull, pressure pads to stand on, and lasers to reflect.

ADVANTAGE: Wii. What would you rather do: match letters or reflect lasers? I thought so. In trying to mesh with the movie's more believable (ahem, sort of) universe, the PS3 game features puzzles that stay realistic. The result is quick puzzles that last all of five seconds, but still feel disruptive to the game flow. The Wii version embraces its video gamey nature and makes especially great use of Cap's shield deflections and boomerang tosses for some surprisingly smart brain teasers that are reminiscent of the Zelda brand of action-adventure.

Captain America Super Soldier Dodge

Lasting Appeal - Which Buck has the most Bang?
My completion time for the two versions were comparable -- just under five hours on PS3, six on Wii -- so these aren't the lengthiest of adventures. Outside of the campaign, both games feature challenge scenarios that pit Cap against specific groups of enemies or an acrobatics race against the clock, though the PS3 version presents them in the main menu while the Wii game shoehorns them into the main adventure, almost like collectibles to be found.

Lasting appeal isn't just about the amount of time spent playing: it's also about how that time is spent. When not pummeling henchmen and solving puzzles, Captain America has other ways of gathering experience points (and unlocking concept art) in both games. In the PS3 version, players build their XP and climb toward Achievements/Trophies by collecting scattered HYDRA documents, stealing Baron Zemo's family relics, destroying statues, and blowing up stockpiles and weapons every now and then. The Wii version eschews any collectables and sticks with the smashing: pieces of furniture are all over the place, and destroying them yields experience points. Wii players can also free hidden POWs (3 per stage) and destroy cleverly planted Skull Bombs (10 per stage) to unlock concept art.

ADVANTAGE: Wii. The deciding factor here was quality, rather than quantity. The collectibles in the PS3 version are an epidemic: I probably spent as much time picking up folders and beer steins and ceramic eggs strewn about the beaten path as I did fighting. They aren't a requirement, of course, but they do factor into your upgrades and the overall completion percentage, and that's unfortunate for completionists because it's shameless busy work. The Wii game's destructible debris is a lesser evil where XP is concerned, and the scattered collectibles aren't right out in the open. Further, the Wii game's Zola challenges are more numerous (about 40, the PS3 version had a dozen or so) and present a wider variety of challenges to complete, testing the player's combat reflexes and shield targeting especially.

Captain America wii Tower

Overall, I am surprised to say that the Wii version of Captain America: Super Soldiers just barely edges out the PS3 and 360 version. The flashy combat on the PS3 title is above and beyond what you can expect from a movie tie-in, but the game is otherwise unspectacular. Maybe it's my OCD tendencies, but the plethora of doodads scattered in plain sight through Castle Zemo just made me feel like the janitor at a paper factory in tornado alley, and it took up a significant portion of game time. Meanwhile, the Wii game stays relatively fresh throughout its six hour campaign, mixing up a healthy blend of combat, puzzles, and the scattered challenges. The PS3 version may a particularly pleasing fighting system, but it doesn't evolve much over the course of the adventure.

But really, both versions are a nice summer surprise, and well worth some play time. At full price, neither makes a strong case for the buy, but each would make a worthwhile rental or bargain bin pickup. And if you're truly Cap-crazy like I am, don't hesitate to give both a try.