Review | 1/18/2013 at 5:28 PM

Marvel's Avengers: Battle for Earth Co-Op Review

Play fight as Iron Man and friends

After Marvel’s Avengers movie broke bundles of box office records, fans naturally wondered at the lack of a tie-in game. We know that a traditional game had been in development before getting canned, naturally leaving a major merchandising opportunity wide open. Ubisoft saw that and quickly announced their own motion-controlled game titled Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth. With such a rushed development schedule and its licensed nature, the quality of the game obviously comes into question. But seeing its array of Marvel characters and co-op, I had to give it a shot.

Battle for Earth has just debuted on the Wii U, but this review focuses on the Xbox 360 original. Both versions follow identical designs, but use different control interfaces. The Kinect version is based upon the design of PowerUp Heroes, a 2011 Ubisoft game. I understand the games are very similar, but I didn’t play PowerUp Heroes, so my comparisons end there. This game’s menus can be controlled via motion, voice, or controller, but the controller stops working at various times, as if it hadn’t been properly tested.

After Civil War, Captain America owes Iron Man a lot of punches.

This game’s story is based on the ‘Secret Invasion’ storyline that ran through Marvel comics for most of 2008 and was recently adapted into the main second season story arc of the wonderful Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series. Basically, the evil shapeshifting alien Skrulls have infiltrated Earth, capturing and replacing numerous superheroes and villains. The game draws loosely from that setup, its brief story scenes displaying a few comic stills as The Watcher narrates.

Battle For Earth’s Campaign Mode consists of five primary locations, each with eight 2-on-2 battles to its name. Every battle has its own fixed hero and villain team, so you can’t pick your characters in the campaign. Still, you’ll probably want to play it first since that’s how you’ll unlock new characters. For players who want to battle the AI with characters of their own choosing, Arcade Mode fits the bill. You’ll select a team and then run through every opponent the game has in one sitting, which can be physically tiring.

Both Campaign and Arcade support Battle for Earth’s version of co-op, which is essentially tag-team battling (think Mortal Kombat). Only one character is ever active at a time. As that character takes damage, part of his or her life meter turns red and can be recovered by swapping characters and letting the damaged fighter rest – just like the Marvel vs. Capcom games, which is fine.

The sidelined player has little to do besides rest his weary muscles, though that rest can be appreciated. That said, if the inactive player performs the same super move actions as the active one, the active player’s move will deal more damage than otherwise. Still, cooperating against the computer mainly comes down to fighting until you take damage, switching places, and repeating until your team wins. The second player does not earn Achievements, sadly.

As for the actual fighting controls, players can choose from a handful of regular and super moves to perform. Punching in the air fires projectiles (characters who don’t normally shoot things will throw rocks), while a knee kick causes your character to dash forward and possibly initiate a kick combo, if the kick meter has charged enough. Moving your body left or right dodges, while jumping performs a Breaker move, knocking down the opponent (if the Breaker meter has the charge for it).

Each character has three super moves available. A super consists of two specific poses; do both and you’ll pull off the move. Memorizing the moves isn’t strictly necessary as icons for the poses appear at the bottom corner of the screen. Moves have cooldowns so you can’t do the same one repeatedly. Performing a series of moves fast enough keeps the opponent stunned in a combo. Oh, and jumping when the Breaker meter fills completely performs an Ultra move – basically the Super Combos from Marvel vs. Capcom, though less varied.

Battle for Earth also offers an online versus mode for 2-4 players. It works exactly like a normal offline battle and can be a fun diversion, though the lack of depth means it won’t hold your attention for long. The game considers a team of two local players hopping online to be playing in “Co-Op,” though our website’s definition of co-op doesn’t extend to player-versus-player competitions of any sort.

Physical exercise aside, the real reason anyone would want to play Battle for Earth is its presentation and variety of characters. The graphics don’t exactly push the system, but the characters and environments still look better than what you’d see in SEGA’s movie games. There may not be a lot of levels, but some memorable locations like the SHIELD Helicarrier and The Savage Land show up in fine form.

The character roster includes not only all the core avengers from the film (no Ant Man or Wasp, sadly), but also Spider-Man, a few X-Men, and others – plus Skrull versions as well. See the full roster here. You can unlock multiple costumes per character, including movie costumes for the core Avengers. The movie versions don’t attempt to mimic the actors’ faces though, lessening the authenticity a tad.

Marvel’s Avengers: Battle for Earth is not the ultimate Avengers game that fans deserve. The rushed development schedule and motion controls keep it from greatness. You can only mine so much depth from a versus game with about six total moves per character. Still, it plays pretty well for a Kinect game that aspires to be a fighting game. With 20 different characters representing a fair breadth of the Marvel universe, it will certainly please Marvel fans who don’t mind jumping and flailing around while they play. Let’s hope a more traditional Avengers game comes along eventually as well.