Hands-on with Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth might seem like an easy cash-in on one of the most popular franchises around, but this Kinect game has a surprising amount of personality.  At FanExpo Toronto I had the opportunity to give this game a try, and I found myself pleasantly surprised.  While this one game may not be enough to convince a 360 gamer to bite the bullet and buy a Kinect, if someone already owns a Kinect or is on the edge on whether they want one, this beat-‘em-up game packs enough action to be a worthy addition to your library.

The concept of the game is simple: play as one of the mighty superheroes on the roster for Marvel’s Avengers.  Unlike many other blockbuster to video game adaptations, Battle for Earth quickly discards the need for a narrative or storyline.  Instead, the game is centred around fighting other superheroes using Kinect controls.  It’s a simple concept that’s been executed a million times, but Battle for Earth does it well.  Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is an example of a game that takes a well-worn concept and executes it brilliantly to make playing it worthwhile.

At FanExpo Toronto, we were given access to a limited version of the roster, but some of the biggest names from the Avengers blockbuster were present: Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk were all playable.  However, there are other famous Marvel superheroes gracing the stage of Battle for Earth, with Spider-Man as the fourth character on the roster.  No doubt when the game launches we can expect the other Avengers favorites to appear.

As a Kinect game, players physically move to control their on-screen heroes.  The controls are displayed visibly and are clear and readable.  You control two superheroes at once, and they are switchable by raising your left arm.  Moves often have a two-step execution.  For instance, you raise your knee and bring down your arms to start an attack, and then fan your arms to the side to complete the combo.  Your opponent can block and parry, or they can stage a strong counter-offensive.  Either way, you’ll find yourself getting quite a workout.

Sometimes, when you have your opponent over in a barrel, special moves will be unlocked.  As Iron Man, I threw my opponent up in the air and proceeded to give him a flurry of punches.  All he could do was helplessly watch as I slugged him over and over before throwing him to the ground triumphantly. Each character is animated differently and feels true to their comic book or movie selves.  Spider-Man is much more nimble than the Hulk, Iron Man’s attacks feel precise, and so on.  However, it didn’t feel like the characters had any huge differences beyond aesthetics and animation when it came to special attacks.

The game is a lot of fun with another player, and I found it incredibly satisfying to use the Kinect to mime the attacks of my favorite heroes.  However, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth could use a little more panache.  I’d love to see showy, over-the-top specials unique to every character.  Failing that, I’m happy just to be able to wail on Thor as that dashing Tony Stark.

Battle for Earth is a game with loads of potential, an all-star cast, and an excellent way to get some exercise.  I’m excited to see how the game changes between now and its release date in the Fall of 2012.  With additions such as Captain America and Black Widow, there should be a healthy variety of heroes of all shapes and sizes.  Hopefully, they capitalize on their large roster to make each hero feel unique and truly ‘super’.   Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth will be available for the Xbox Kinect and the Nintendo Wii.

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