The game has greater failings than nursery-level platforming, however. This is frequently a laughably cheap-looking game, full of jerky animation, lifeless scenery and plastic character models. The physics are hilariously goofy, with items clattering and flying around as if Cap is being followed by poltergeists. One memorable example of the bargain basement production comes right at the start, as Cap is flying in a transport plane to the castle. Look out of the windows and you'll see that the mountains outside aren't even moving.
Navigation is confusing, and has no on-screen markers or directions, so negotiating some of the more maze-like sections becomes a chore of dipping in and out of the map to reorient yourself. All too often, you'll come up against a dead end where you're left to wander a claustrophobic area, looking for the solitary point where you need to stand to move forwards. Cap can jump down from some places but not others, climb atop some surfaces but not ones of identical height and construction. It's a peculiarly old-fashioned piece of game design in some ways, harking back to the early days of 3D gaming, where invisible walls and illogical barriers were considered a good way to keep players on course.
And yet somehow, like its comic book counterpart, Captain America manages to overcome its weaknesses. The game certainly isn't reborn as a perfect physical specimen, but it's clear that Next Level has tried to do something more ambitious than just cough out another plodding movie tie-in.
As the single-player campaign ticks along, it tells its story confidently and at a satisfying pace. Boss battles resist the obvious 'hit the glowing weak spots' pattern repetition and instead rely on the same combat skills you've been honing, rewarding timing and strategy rather than rote call-and-response mechanics. The collectibles are numerous, but well placed so that you don't have to search too hard to find them. The important ones are even marked on the map, so the challenge becomes a question of reaching them, not simply scouring every corner.
And the things you unlock are often worthwhile. Audio logs and concept art are bland, predictable padding, but a series of standalone challenges (again, a direct lift from Arkham Asylum) give the game some longevity, and bonus costumes (classic comic book and Ultimates variations) confer status effects which make them useful for more than cosmetic reasons.
In the end, it seems that time is Cap's greatest enemy. He's fallen victim to the vicious circle of movie tie-ins. Without a blockbuster movie, it's doubtful there'd even be a Captain America game. Yet if it didn't need to be rushed onto the shelves to meet a cinema release date, the game could have been so much better. There's a sense that with another six months, Next Level could have polished things up and delivered a Captain America game that really delivers on his videogame potential.
But at least this game does have potential, unlike Iron Man and Thor, and if you can make your peace with its clunkier aspects then it's a passably enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Certainly not the sort of recommendation that should send you running to the shops for a full-price purchase, but as a rental or bargain bin gamble it puts it ahead of the pack, where most superhero movie games are concerned.
5 / 10