Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is a Kinect-based fighting game featuring Marvel comics heroes, and it'll make you feel simultaneously silly and bad-ass.
During a demo of Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth at a Ubisoft press event last week — somewhere between raising my fist in the air and bringing it down with the fury of Mjolnir, and clapping my arms together for Hulk's thunderclap — I began to feel silly.
Then I realized two things: (1) It is impossible not to look ridiculous while playing a Kinect game, and (2) if I were 15 years younger, I probably would have felt pretty bad-ass instead of, or at least in addition to, silly.
Battle for Earth, a Kinect-based fighting game, features 20 playable characters from across the Marvel universe including fan favorites like Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk, and Captain America. It pits tag-teams of fighters against each other — you raise your left hand to tag in your partner — in a variety of single-player and multiplayer modes. The game uses simple gestures and keeps them relatively consistent across its entire roster of fighters, which makes it easy to learn the available moves. When playing as Thor, flinging your right arm forward tosses bolts of electricity at your opponent, while the same action with Hulk has him throw rocks instead.
As in traditional fighting games, success in Battle for Earth will entail learning the abilities and moves for every character, so you can understand how best to avoid or counter attacks. Leaning to the left will dodge, but depending on the fighter, other moves in your arsenal can serve the same purpose while providing offense. Venom, for example, can rise into the air to evade an attack before lashing out with his tendrils. Throwing a projectile at a hero who's charging a major attack will break up his effort.
Timing is key in these situations, and Ubisoft Quebec is aware that Kinect isn't designed for a pixel-perfect fighting experience. "It's not Marvel vs. Capcom," art director Dan Vargas told me. But Battle for Earth sometimes had trouble recognizing even the simple gestures it asked of me, like bringing up my knee for a kicking attack. Vargas explained that the development team still has plenty of work to do in advance of the game's expected fall release date. And I should note that our cramped demo area wasn't an ideal Kinect setup.
Since Ubisoft Quebec knows it can't deliver a fast-paced hardcore fighting experience, Battle for Earth seems like it's using Kinect's weakness — lag — as a gameplay feature. It relies on cueing up combos, which are much easier to pull off when you know what your character's moves do and how your opponent will respond to them. I took on Vargas in the game's side-by-side Versus mode, and as Iron Man, he lit me up with a string of attacks that left me reeling. No attacks are unblockable except the Ultra — which is engaged by jumping — and even it can be dodged, so I could've avoided getting hurt if I'd known what I was doing.
Battle for Earth's Ultra move is worth explaining, since it's simultaneously the silliest and coolest element of the game. It plays out similarly to the kick move, which engages Frenzy mode, a sequence in which you launch your opponent upward and are free to pummel him by punching the air in front of you. The more hits you score, the more damage you do. You feel dumb at first, but I managed to hit Vargas' Iron Man over 30 times in one Ultra move, which made that silliness melt away into a feeling of being, well, a superhero.
Ubisoft Quebec is also doing right by comics fans in Battle for Earth. Its cel-shaded art style is pretty — the game looks better than the screenshots below — and its Campaign mode, penned by prolific comic, novel, game, and television writer Peter David, is based on Marvel's "Secret Invasion" storyline featuring the shape-shifting Skrulls.
That means Battle for Earth could serve as a great introduction into the world of comics for children. After all, they're less discerning gamers than adults; they like things that make them feel awesome, even if they don't control that way.
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is due out this fall for Kinect and Wii U.