A photocopy of a photocopy is never as good as the original document.
That's the analogy I use to describe video games based on movies based on comic books — or anything more than two degrees of separation from its source material. The movie is never as good as the comic book, and the video game is never as good as the movie.
Captain America: Super Soldier, doesn't break that rule, but it comes close — closer than any of publisher Sega's earlier efforts with Marvel Comics properties.
You play as Captain America, as portrayed in the big-screen summer blockbuster by actor Chris Evans, who also lends his voice to the game.
The game doesn't retell the movie's story; it's more of a companion piece. As best as I can tell, it takes place during the six or seven key battles that were skimmed over in the film during a music montage.
As Cap, your task is simple: deliver good ol' American street justice to the Nazi splinter group Hydra, whose members are like intensified by advanced science. Along the journey, you'll take on classic fan-service villains who weren't in the movie, such as Madame Hydra and Baron Strucker.
Gameplay falls into three distinct categories: combat, platforming and exploration.
Combat is easily the game's high point, for one simple reason: it is a carbon copy of the fighting mechanics found in 2009's excellent Rocksteady title Batman: Arkham Asylum.
It's not unusual for Sega to borrow ideas from other games. This year's Thor: God of Thunder played like a glitchy God of War; The Incredible Hulk, based on the 2008 movie starring Edward Norton, borrowed concepts from open-world beat-'em-ups like Crackdown; and Sega's two games based on the Iron Man movie franchise played like a less-interesting and slower-paced Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Those games were terrible. I can attest to that because I've played them. (I am a terrible impulse buyer when it comes to anything featuring the likenesses of my favorite childhood superheroes.)
But Captain America: Super Soldier comes closest to successfully capturing the feel if its inspiration. As in Batman: Arkham Asylum, you are rewarded for quick reflexes and tactical thinking.
Individual enemies are dumb as a bag of hammers and easily handled. Things get tough when you get surrounded, because you can target only one enemy at a time. That means you need to prioritize. Should you toss your shield at the snipers taking pot shots from afar? Or should you grapple with the giant armored beast bearing down on you and pray the snipers are poor shots?
As enemies are preparing to attack, different types of markers pop up on your heads-up display, giving you split-second windows to dodge or counter.
The more enemies you dispatch, the more you fill your power meter, which grants access to more powerful attacks such as the "weaponize" move that turns your enemy's weapon against him and his comrades.
While the combat was engaging, my enjoyment of the game was interrupted constantly by the other two categories: platforming and exploration, which unfortunately you'll be doing far more often than fighting.
Once a group of enemies is defeated, you're constantly tasked with trying to figure out how to get out of a room or up to another level. To find the exit, you generally have to swing on pipes and climb ledges for several minutes — a monotonous and unwelcome interruption to the action.
You're also encouraged to explore your surroundings to find enemy intel and war trophies, a time-consuming and unrewarding experience that seems to serve no purpose other than to make the game twice as long as it needs to be. (Plus, looting statues and historical artifacts seems a little un-American.)
All in all, the game falls short thanks to its snail's pace, uninspired graphics and the occasional glitch. But it's a remarkable improvement over past efforts, which leaves me eager to see what Sega has in store when The Avengers — an amalgam of all the previously mentioned heroes and arguably the most anticipated comic movie of all time — hits theaters next year.