Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
There's nothing like a good superhero game making it into a gamer's hands. That moment when you download GameLoft's Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a wonderful high. Enjoy it, because it goes rapidly downhill after that point and there's no caped crusader to swoop in and save you (even if we could mix up the franchises).
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Let's start with the 'what are you downloading to my phone?' question. After installing the app from the Windows Phone store (it's 19 MB), when I opened up the app I was confronted with the ominous message 'validating data with servers'. Okay so what's going on here, and why have you not asked for permission to do this? There's a lot of data being pulled down here while the annoying background music plays.
A quick check after six minutes of downloading (your Wi-Fi speeds may vary) shows that the 19MB install has shot up to 326MB. I suspect that the small Windows Phone store app is nothing more than a shell downloader to pull down the real data from the server (so you don't need to have 1GB of storage free on the internal disk to install the game). A nice solution, but some information, feedback, and options to pause this operation would have been nice... 300MB of data could easily max out a cellular data plan with no warning.
Get used to this waiting, because there is rather a lot of it in this Captain America game. The load time between levels is uncomfortably long, and again there is very little feedback to let you know that something is happening in the background. Sometimes a circle pulses, but other times you are left with a full screen graphic and not much else. Gameloft has used up a lot of my confidence in this title and I haven't even started to play yet.
And I have to say, once I started playing, I wasn't that impressed either. Oh the idea is there, and think it's fabulous that Gameloft has decided to give us a Double Dragon/Golden Axe clone for the modern mobile gamer, but they've implemented it in such a poor way that it's playable, but not enjoyable.
They've decided to keep the game in portrait mode, which is an interesting call. It does mean that, as you walk up the roads in the game, you can see a lot of what is coming up, but at the same time you can feel very much constricted to this narrow road you are walking down. The controls are either a virtual d-pad at the bottom of the screen (which is only comfortable if you ignore the laws of the distribution of mass and the centre of gravity) or tapping on the screen where you want Captain America to move to. Neither of these are particularly accurate or responsive for what is a fast-moving arcade game.
Neither are the combat controls up to scratch. You could just stand in front of your opponents and hit the 'punch' button but that's as awkward as it sounds. Your other option is to tap the enemy on the screen and the good Captain will go to war on that individual. Be careful to just tap and not swipe in the heat of combat, because a swipe will have you throw your shield at that soldier. This is a nice move but leaves you vulnerable for a few moments while the shield does its best impression of a frisbee. But the addition of this is not 'grand tactics in fast moving combat' as the GameLoft PR team might write.
You're not alone as you play through your levels, you also have a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers to help you out, but the only way they are effective is if you level them up with the in-game currency between levels. You also need to have soldiers with specific abilities for certain levels.
Yes, you've guessed it, the hack 'n' slash action game has had a freemium system grafted on top of it which adds almost nothing to the gameplay but does try and get you to spend your money simply to have the abilities to clear a level. It's a rather blatant use of freemium to earn money, and while this is 'the GameLoft way' I would have expected something a bit less in-your-face than this.
There is a really great idea here. Unfortunately the code on my phone does not feel like a finished game, it feels more like a tech demo. The frame rate of the graphics in the game feels slower than 25 frames per second (I can see different frames pop up, the animation is simply not smooth enough). The controls are inaccurate and badly thought out, and even with all the processing power available, the architecture of the code means huge loading times before and after levels.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a title that has been rushed to meet a deadline. The name alone will guarantee a significant volume of downloads, and then it's a matter of gathering a few per cent of those players into the frankly clunky freemium system to build up a revenue stream. It's cold and heartless, it's poorly coded and executed, and now this review is over I'm now in my happy place of never having to open this game ever again.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at