Unleash your inner super hero.
What Battle for Earth Got Right
- + Brawler-gameplay is fun and frantic
- + Motion-controls are accurate and responsive
- + Co-op is great fun
- + Beating random fools online is better
What Battle for Earth Got Wrong
- - Campaign isn't very extensive
- - Story adaptation is average
- - End of each battle reverts back to menu
The Marvel Universe is a crazy place. Extraterrestrial beings, supernaturally-blessed vigilantes, radioactive freaks, super-soldier experiments, discriminated mutants, and mythical gods; no other fictional universe has such a wealth of characters, stories and history. With Joss Whedon’s latest film, The Avengers managing to do the impossible and appease the hardcore comic book fans while introducing new ones to the Marvel mythos, the film’s video-game tie-in - Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth may have had some unfair expectations thrown on it by fans of the film or comics looking for an as-good game experience.
It being a Kinect-based “superhero brawler” doesn’t exactly exude quality for most gamers, but I gave Battle for Earth a fair chance, and I was pleasantly surprised and glad that I did. Gameplay-wise, it’s a whole lot of fun, and Ubisoft Quebec have worked wonders in their almost flawless implementation and use of Kinect’s motion controls. While its use of Marvel’s rich source material isn’t executed as well, the game delivers an unexpectedly fun (but appreciated) experience for the young, casual market it primarily aims for.
Watch the official trailer!
The basic plot of Battle for Earth was inspired by the Secret Invasion storyline of the main Marvel Universe rather than the film. The event was a year-long story arc in 2008 that depicted the extraterrestrial shape-shifting race of the Skrulls infiltrate Earth by taking out and replacing its most prominent super-powered heroes and villains, which culminates in their attempt for Earth’s control.
The game splices some portions of the actual Secret Invasion comic in between missions to explain the story in a basic way, but doesn't really go into much depth beyond a few fast intros into where and why you're fighting. This was a bit of a shame as a massive Marvel fan, but the major fan service with the characters, alternate costumes, and collector cards - collected and unlocked throughout the course of the game - and the extensive combat system more than make up for it.
Battle for Earth lets you take control of around 9 heroes and villains involved in the crisis, unlocking another 11 along the way. The playable characters range from the core Avengers team (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America) to the iconic must-haves (Spider-Man, Wolverine, Storm) to the lesser known (Queen Veranke, Doctor Strange, and Venom). Each character possesses their own unique battle cries, movesets, and combos, which makes playing as Iron Man for his repulsor rays as thrilling as playing Hulk with his sheer physical brutality. As your favourite Marvel tag-teams, you’ll fight the Skrulls two-on-two across several locations from the comics, including the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, the Savage Land, the Baxter Building and more in the game’s campaign mode.
Across each character, many of the moves require the same actions to execute, but with varying levels of limb-placement, timing and animation. With a similar combat system to Ubisoft’s previous Kinect-fighting game, PowerUp Heroes, you’ll kick, punch, and swing your arms around as your favourite Marvel heroes to mimic their signature moves, such as opening your arms wide to execute Iron Man’s iconic Repulsor Beam charge, or drawing back an arrow for a long shot as Hawkeye.
Onscreen indicators are displayed in the lower right corner of the screen, listing all available combat options, such as kicking forward to initiate Close Combat and appropriately themed follow-up combos or extending your arms forward to shoot projectiles. A few of the displayed inputs are a bit unclear on how to execute, but an in-depth tutorial will allow you to get the hang of each character's unique movesets.
Moves are clearly displayed on-screen, with each character executing attacks specific to them. In the case of Wolverine; adamantium-related pain.
The combat system harbours some surprising polish and depth in that if you have the reflexes and dexterity, you can chain projectile and high and low attacks to form hard-hitting chain combos rather than mindlessly throw move after move. The combat system also discourages and prevents spamming of the same move by limiting and expending its charge until a new move is executed. Players also have the ability to ‘Break’ an opponent’s combo with an interruption move by jumping up, or dodge their assault by leaning to the left or right.
Making the battles extra comic-book epic is the ability to perform ‘Ultras’, available after your character’s special meter is charged from successful attacks. After screaming an appropriate voice command such as “HULK SMASH” for Hulk, you’ll proceed to have free reign for a few seconds to smash the crap out of your opponent by unleashing a flurry of punches. While cheesy, it fits the comic-book gameplay perfectly.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the game is the responsiveness of the Kinect controls. Motion-gaming has never been my favourite, but Ubisoft Quebec have worked some sort of magic in Battle for Earth, because nearly every single movement command, menu navigation and hectic fight was responsive, accurate and executed without the stress of recalibration. This may vary from experience to experience, but Battle for Earth is easily one of the best games that makes great use of the Kinect peripheral, and it made me want to genuinely play it with friends or by myself.
Mix and match your ultimate Superhero face-offs.
In addition to the main campaign, Battle for Earth also has an Arcade mode, local co-op and Versus split-screen and online multiplayer. If you can get a friend to play co-op with you through the by-the-books level-to-level campaign, it makes the somewhat disjointed flow of the story mode disappear in a flurry of frantic punches and moves. While what's on offer doesn't exactly secure long-term play and slugging through the campaign or Arcade mode can get repetitive, short-bursts of play make suit the fighting gameplay best.
Graphically, the colourful comic-book suits the license, though it's not very detailed or visually impressive for those that pay attention to textures over art-style. The character models of each hero and villain are great and the arenas in which you fight in are visually authentic to the locations in the comic, but there aren't enough of them to gawk at while beating the crap out of Doctor Strange as Spider-Man. Seriously, Doctor Strange sucks.
The Final Verdict
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth was a surprisingly pleasant gaming experience that makes sufficient use of the Marvel license while providing a solid and enjoyable gameplay experience that isn't hindered by inaccurate and unresponsive Kinect controls like so many other Kinect-aimed titles.
While the Secret Invasion-inspired storyline could have been better fleshed out, the comic-book awesome brawler combat system more than makes up for it, and most people will be purchasing the game for the surprisingly polished fighting rather than the story. For players looking for a fun party game with friends and for a reason to undust the Kinect, check Battle for Earth out, especially if you're a Marvel fan. It provides what most of Microsoft's first-party Kinect efforts couldn't: responsive Kinect controls, and most importantly, genuine fun.
By Nathan Misa