Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Platform: Xbox 360 / Kinect
Review Copy Provided By: Ubisoft
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Power Up Heroes was an interesting little Kinect title from developer Ubisoft Quebec back in 2011. Equipped with two suits out of a large selection, players fought one on one battles using gestures to perform superhero like moves. The heroes were generic overall and in the end seemed like a proof of concept. It really left us wondering what would this game be like with licensed comic book superheroes. Now we know because Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is basically a reskin of Power Up Heroes. Placed during the Secret Invasion story arc from the comics, Battle For Earth brings a nice selection of heroes and villains from the Marvel universe with the same engine that powered Power Up Heroes.
Based on the comic crossover Secret Invasion event, Battle For Earth pits our favorite Marvel Superheroes against alien shapeshifted versions of themselves. The Skrulls are known for being one of the big bads for the Fantastic Four team but have also been seen in various other Marvel comics. Skrulls have the ability to shapeshift and the Secret Invasion is based on a plot of them replacing all of Earth’s Superheroes with Skrull doppelgangers as sleeper agents. While not one of the most exciting plot lines that have come out of the rash of Marvel crossovers the past decade or so, Secret Invasion lends itself almost perfectly to the fighting game genre giving perfect reason on why Iron Man would fight Wolverine or how Hulk can fight Hulk.
Battles are based on one versus one combat with each side controlling two heroes that can be switched in and out throughout the battle often time chaining together juggling attacks into massive combos. The moves themselves are based on gestures via the Kinect and will often have the player performing 2 gestures to start and finish special moves. Battle For Earth much like Power Up Heroes nails matching gestures to the actual moves creating a nice dynamic of acting out your favorite Marvel characters.
There are also two basic punch/projectile and kick/rush attacks that can be chained together while waiting for special moves to become available again. An Ultra Move bar is filled up when attacking or being attacked and a full bar allows the player to execute the current character’s Ultra move and scream a catch phrase during the attack such as “Hulk Smash” to increase its power. The gesture recognition is responsive but can get confused as players try to rapidly execute moves. This of course could be clearly user error, as most people when trying to perform something fast do not fully complete the gesture leaving it to look like something else.
Battle For Earth has a level of polish that is complemented by bright and colorful characters/stages matched with spot on lighting and particle effects. The level of detail and smoothness of animation create an extremely attractive looking game that is likely to make comic book fans to oooooo and aaaaaaah as they watch their favorite characters beat the ever living crap out of one another.
The biggest downside of the game is the simplistic and repetitive campaign. While you get to play as different characters relive some match ups that were featured in the comic, after the first few battles they all feel the same and the mode ends up being a very extended arcade like mode. There is an actual arcade mode and versus mode that behave just as you would expect in a fighting game. Additionally there is a tournament mode that allows you to fight your way through a bracket against AI or friends. Online matches are available but it is deader than a door nail.
Battle For Earth is the game that Power Up Heroes should have been; licensed super powered beings beating the stuffing out of each other. The simplistic gameplay mixed with repetitiveness of the story mode, create an experience that can only be enjoyed in small doses. It would be nice to see this title move towards the variety that is provided in series like Soul Calibur or most of the Dragonball Z titles.