Posted on November 7, 2012 AT 07:00am
Once upon a time Ubisoft and Marvel Entertainment got together to create a motion based combat game that registered the players moves efficiently and brought a tickle of delight to people of all ages. Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is not the original Avengers movie tie-in game that fans were expecting. And because of that, a lot of people may judge the game prematurely as being just another failed attempt at making physical gaming a relevant market. But that doesn’t mean you should write it off as just another silly motion game. The truth is: You get to yell “HULK SMASH” at your television and have it yield results. Why wouldn’t that be awesome?
Battle for Earth is a motion based combat game currently out for Kinect for Xbox 360 and will be released for the Wii U this December. The game features 20 Marvel comics characters, including some notable villains, for players to control in this fast paced fighting game. The story is based around Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” cross over comic in which the alien race of the Skrulls have invaded Earth and have the ability to almost seamlessly shape shift into superheroes and villains alike. The story is depicted throughout the games campaign by showing comic book strips that are paired with voice over work from a ghoulish sounding narrator. The dribs and drabs of story are present after you complete each section of the campaign, but they aren’t enough that your particularly eager to see what happens next. For most games this would be a major downside, but after you’ve been punching the air and sweating for a period of time, Battle for Earth’s short story intervals make it easy for you to keep your momentum going.
The heart of Battle for Earth, the thing that makes it special and worth playing, is that you get to become your favorite Marvel superhero! With twenty characters in game there’s a good chance that at least one of your personal favorites made the cut. For me, the moment of truth was when I got to play as Iron Man. Having long since cemented himself as my favorite Marvel character, I was all too pleased to test the game out with him. And I wasn’t disappointed. Hold your hand up to shoot a repulsor beam from your palm, taking on the iconic pose of the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist (I’m sorry, I know quoting that line from The Avengers is cheap, it won’t happen again). Hold your arms out then move them above your head to fire a series of miniature Jericho missiles at your opponent. It was exactly as I hoped it would be and in truth it was far better than I expected. The Kinect Senor has an abnormally high success rate at picking up the combat moves as you execute them, it’s not flawless, but it’s far better than games of a similar nature tend to read movement. However, there is enough of a delay that when the difficulty is up to the max you may find yourself “missing” some crucial hits, but not for lack of trying.
Game play mechanics with the Kinect are incredibly intuitive which allows you to start playing right away with little to know familiarity of the game. Once you’ve selected your 2 characters and launched your team into battle you’ll see the moves your hero has charged up and ready to execute in the bottom right hand corner. Each move is in two steps though so be mindful of the follow through otherwise you might find yourself flailing your arms in frustration when the move doesn’t work. Bringing your left arm straight up allows you to call in your tag partner, letting you either string together some sick combos or simply save yourself from getting knocked out and losing the battle. This comes in handy when your hero is on the ropes with low health, all you have to do is tag in a partner to keep things going. You dodge attacks by moving your upper body from left to right and your superhero will jump in that direction to evade incoming assaults and move about the playing field. After you’ve dished out or received enough damage you’ll have leveled your breaker (used to break attacks and combos) when the gauge is at its half way point. When the gauge is completely full you jump straight up to trigger an aerial assault, as an added bit of fun, you’ll also have to shout out a key phrase to get the most damage out of the attack.
Visually the game looks like it’s straight out of the “Secret Invasion” comics. The battle arenas are rich and detailed (one even complete with an angry T-Rex), looking as though they were lovingly drawn onto the screen. Lots of bright colors and thick dark lines make no mistakes that Ubisoft has kept the game true to the source material. The character costumes are also notable and fun to switch around from time to time.
While the game is not a direct tie-in with the The Avengers movie, there are some call backs and references scattered about that will please fans. I won’t bother sharing them here because they are far more amusing to discover on your own. As you progress through the various game modes (Campaign, Arcade, Co-op, Online Multiplayer) you unlock everything from new characters to character costumes. The costumes unlocked for The Avengers movie characters are all versions of their movie selves, which is a notable improvement for Hawkeye who’s trademark purple comic book costume can be traded out for the more updated look he sports in the film.
There are also lots of achievements for those of you that love to hunt them down. While there is the obvious achievement for beating the campaign you also get some for doing little things. Changing your costume, fighting with Loki and Thor as your team, having the Human Torch and Ice Man battle together, as well as some other small things that you’ll likely do by accident get you a few more achievements to add to your collection. It’s a nice touch to see if certain teams trigger that little something extra.
One of the biggest let downs of Battle for Earth is that no one is playing online! The multiplayer feature was something that I was very excited to test, but ultimately I could never connect with anyone. A look at the ranked leader boards (at the time of this posting) showed only 23 listed users. If it was 25, I would assume they only showcased the top 25. Seeing as it isn’t 25 and I spent an awful lot of time, quite ironically, waiting in “Quick Match” to play against someone, I have to assume that there was no one in the world to play against.
However, there is a local co-op or versus option that works pretty well if you have enough space to fit two people in front of the Kinect. The screen splits down the middle while you and your friend duke it out and execute moves simultaneously. Word to the wise, keep an eye on your proximity so you don’t end up tossing Captain America’s Shield of Justice into your friend’s throat. Or their chest, depending on the height difference between the two of you. And if you can’t find someone to buddy up with, there is always Arcade mode where you select a team of heroes and fight through all the other pairs as the difficulty increases each round.
Another slight downside can be found in the Challenge section. The Challenges vary in task and seem to be more of a way to acquaint yourself with each character rather than accomplish cool or interesting feats. The most puzzling thing to me was when, after already completing Arcade and Campaign modes, I stumbled upon a game play tutorial… in the Challenge section? As I said before, the game doesn’t need much of an introduction, but there were definitely some tips and tricks that I was able to pick up after completing the tutorial that would have helped to know. It just seemed like a very strange place to put a tutorial and for those that do need one or just like to go through them to get the basics down, it’s not obvious that the game even has one.
A personal favorite feature of Battle for Earth was communicating with the game via Kinect. You say “Assemble” to trigger voice commands, and then read off whatever section you are looking to go to. Call out “Arcade” to enter that mode, then say the names of your chosen characters to get your team ready for battle. It’s an incredibly helpful feature as navigating the menu with your hand often leads to you selecting the wrong thing. Just be weary if you’re also having a casual conversation at the same time you’re using voice commands. The Kinect occasionally over hears and decides to select whatever it thinks you said.
One thing to keep in mind is that Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is a very physical game. The label on the back of the case suggests “low activity” but that doesn’t mean you can’t hurt yourself. To string together combinations you do need to move quickly and as a result you’ll more than likely be moderately to incredibly sore the next day. The movements you need to make are not the kind of motions the average person makes more than once a day, if they make them at all. You’re going to repeatedly be using muscles that you hardly think about. You’ll unintentionally end up tossing out haymaker punches that never connect to anything but air. It’s a recipe for pain if you’re not careful. Regardless of what kind of physical shape you’re in, remember to take frequent breaks in between matches.
Summary: The fact that players can get a little overzealous and hurt themselves will likely decrease the games replay value. Fans looking to bring the comic book to life will get what they pay for as the visual are true to the source material. A week after the game’s launch Multiplayer is virtually non-existent, do not purchase the title based on online play as it’s hard to find anyone to match up against. The Kinect Sensor for Xbox 360 successfully captures you most of the time, but it tends to miss your actions at crucial moments as the computer AI doesn’t have to wait to shoot off attack after attack. Over all this game is worth playing and purchasing, but you’ll likely get more mileage out of it if you’re playing it with friends or bust it out at a party.
The Good: The concept of fighting as a super hero is well executed, the graphics make it feel as though the comic has come to life, and the game utilizes the Kinect to its full potential without making the experience a hassle for the player to get used to.
The Bad: You can sometimes act as though you’re actually a super hero and mistakenly think that playing for hours at a time won’t end with you being sore when you wake up in the morning.
The Ugly: The tutotial is in the Challenge section. Seriously, who does that? Who would even look there?
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