I was always taught to not judge a book by its cover. I may have unfairly done that with Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth when it arrived, so I went in with low expectations. Luckily, every now and then you get surprised and things are better than you were hoping. That was the case here with Battle for Earth, as the Kinect controls worked flawlessly for the most part and you get to pull off some of your favorite super heroes powers on the battlefield.
Don’t go in expecting Battle for Earth to resemble the blockbuster movie that recently released; instead, the plot is almost a retelling of a popular storyline from the comic series Secret Invasion crossover. The general plot is that shapeshifting alien Skrulls are impersonating Earth’s greatest heroes, infiltrating the ranks with a nefarious plot. While you’ll easily notice that the fake heroes glow green, apparently no one else does, and with that being said, the story really held no interest for me in any way.
The plot is never really expanded in depth as you progress; actually, aside from a brief explanation of why you’re fighting in a specific location aside from the Skrulls wanting to destroy it, there’s no real storytelling here at all. But take it for what it is, Battle for Earth is a fighting game, and even though the comics could have provided a more interesting story, there’s not much here in terms of plot to push you forward. Unless you’re a hardcore comic book guy, the story won’t matter much to you, but if you already are that type you already know this storyline. The main reason I wanted to keep playing is to see how each of the super heroes performed in battle and what moves they had to fight with. You’ll have all the mainstays of the universe such as Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man but you’ll even come across Wolverine, Magneto, Spider-Man, Venom, and more.
If you played Ubisoft’s PowerUp Heroes, you’ll know exactly what to expect with this Avengers title. Battle for Earth is essentially a fighting game with Kinect controls done with a wonderfully comic book art style. You’ll be punching, kneeing, jumping, and mimicking your favorite comic heroes’ moves to battle against the Skrulls. The fighting engine is clearly based on the one PowerUp Heroes used but has been expanded and improved with its gesture recognition.
You’ll see cue cards on screen showing you how to perform moves available to you based on what super hero you’re using and mimicking them with your arms will perform them. As much as following diagrams might seem very basic, there’s a surprising amount of depth for a basic Kinect fighting game. You can perform dodges, counters, ultra moves, and regular attacks with an overlying rock-paper-scissors-like mechanic where one type of move is always the counter to another. As we all know, proper recognition of Kinect games can vary from being flawless all the way to completely broken; I honestly though that this would be another game with shoddy motion recognition but I was pleasantly surprised when all of my movements were performed flawlessly.
Depending on who you’re fighting as, each hero will have three unique Super Attacks, each one being a two part movement to perform that usually has you holding your arms out in one direction and then making a specific motion to launch the attack. If you manage to chain together Super Attacks you’ll get a combo, with the ability to switch characters at any time during battle (every match is two versus two) by simply holding your left arm up, you can chain together some interesting and deadly combos against your enemy Skrull. As you land offensive moves or even get hit yourself, your Special Gauge will slowly fill up during the match. When it’s half full you can use a Breaker if you find yourself stuck in the enemy’s combo, but if you wait till the meter is completely full you can then use your special Ultra Attack. Using your ultra will start a quick cinematic of your hero hitting the enemy up in the air and will then prompt you to shout a specific line they would say in the comics as well. Once in the air, the faster you punch the enemy, the more hits you’ll land on your enemy. It seems a little gimmicky at first, but it’s a game based on comic book heroes, and aimed at younger audiences, so it gets a pass.
Every match is two versus two and being able to swap characters on the fly will become an important strategy later on in the more difficult stages. Every stage in the campaign has predetermined characters, so you never get to pick your favorite team in the story mode, just in the other modes. The only issue I had with this is that you’ll clearly find characters you are better with and some that either isn’t as fun or you’re just not as effective with. There were times where my two favorite characters were grouped together, but there were also a few matches where my two worst were paired up as well. This also was a little confusing to have to remember all characters Special Attacks motions, especially mid-combo and switching characters quickly. The other strategy that comes into play with two characters is the health bar system that allows the non-active hero to recover a percentage of their lost health, so taggin out regularly becomes a necessity in the later matches.
As you progress you’ll unlock new characters and certainly find some new favorites the further you get into the game. You’ll be playing as Spider-Man, Thor, Venom, Wolverine, Magneto, Doctor Doom, Loki, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and more. While you’ll only get to use some of the characters a few times in the campaign, once unlocked they can be used in the other modes with your custom teams. Sadly there are only a few levels that provide nothing more than a backdrop for the fighting and you’ll have to fight in them each about a dozen times to finish the campaign which isn’t all that exciting. There’s also an online multiplayer to face off against other players, but given that the biggest games of the year have recently been released, I was unable to find a single match the few times I tried and just let it sit and search.
I was surprised with how Battle for Earth looked; sure I was expecting a comic book art style, and I did get it, but the cel-shading suites the game quite well and the characters look like they were taken straight out of the comics. Characters moved and acted like I expected them to and the backgrounds of the levels were vibrant in color and had a lot of small details if you take the time to notice. It was a shame that the story is pushed on you in comic stills rather than cutscenes and being animated. It made it difficult to really care about the story when you’re simply given a few comic panels with a voice over attempting to make you care about why you’re fighting. That being said, all the voice work was pretty insignificant aside from the odd catch phrase being thrown out there and I couldn’t even remember much about the soundtrack by the time I started writing this.
Pretending to be Iron Man and use your light beams to fight off a Skrull is satisfying, as is being Spider-Man and shooting your webs. Emulating your favorite heroes will surely put a smile on your face, especially the first few times you shout their catch phrase for an Ultra move. Unfortunately it does become a bit old quickly, as all you’re doing is these two on two battles over and over in the same arenas which makes for a shallow experience. Sure it’s fun in spurts, but I did beat it in one sitting…er, standing which makes it a little difficult to recommend. Yes the game is fun (in the short term) and Kinect tracks your movements flawlessly, but you will complete the game very quickly, so pick it up if you want a decent game for your Kinect, just wait till it drops to your price range first.
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