In the absence of an official video game tie-in to The Avengers movie this summer, fans have been eager for information about Ubisoft's new motion controlled title, TheAvengers: Battle For Earth, which is slated for release later this year on the Xbox 360 Kinect and Nintendo's upcoming Wii U console. Only a teaser trailer and a few still images have been revealed from the game since its announcement in mid-May and the footage shown at the Nintendo and Ubisoft press conferences earlier in the week focused on cinematics rather than actual gameplay. Fortunately, Ubisoft had a working demonstration of the game up and running at the E3 convention this week in Los Angeles and ComicsAlliance was able to get hands-on with Battle For Earth. Read about our initial impressions of the upcoming Avengers game after the cut.
The Avengers: Battle For Earth is not an Avengers movie tie-in game, although the film's core team will be among the game's 20 playable characters. The plot of the game's campaign mode is actually based on Marvel's 2008 event comic, Secret Invasion. While story elements weren't shown in the demonstration, I did catch footage of Skrull-faced Marvel heroes in costume during the introductory sequence. When probed, the developers mentioned that Secret Invasion writer Brian Michael Bendis was not involved with the game's production, but that current X-Factor writer Peter David has been working on adapting the plot for the game.
It's amusing and encouraging at the same time to see Ubisoft Quebec involve themselves with an established comic writer for this game because at its core, Battle For Earth is a one-on-one fighting game using motion controls. I played the Kinect version of the game as the Wii U port was not ready to be shown yet. Though Ubisoft would not confirm anything, it definitely appears that the Wii U Gamepad with its Asynchronous Gameplay capability would somehow be a factor in the Wii U version of Battle For Earth.
Ubisoft's goal was to make a game that really makes players feel like they're in a superhero brawl by using full body motion sensing controls. Each character has his or her own unique fighting moves that you can unleash on opponents that are represented by "poses" on the bottom of the screen. The best way of visualizing the way the game works might be to think of it as a weird crossover between Just Dance and the Marvel vs. Capcom games. The moves are pose-based, so instead of embarrassing yourself to Maroon 5 songs, you're just embarrassing yourself pretending to be a superhero.
For example, when I played as The Hulk, I would bring both my arms to the side and then bring them together in a thunderclap motion. There's also a move in which you kick your knee up like you're kneeing someone in the crotch in order to launch the enemy into the air where they would be helpless as you unleashed a flurry of punches on them. Sadly, the highest combo I could achieve was about 10. I was told that 30-40 hit combos were a regular occurrence at the Ubisoft studios.
Like the Marvel vs. Capcom games, Battle For Earth also lets you choose two characters to tag in and out by raising your left hand. Tagged out characters will regenerate health slowly. The game also employs a super meter that fills up as you give and take hits. When the meter fills halfway, you're able to use a counter defensive move that interrupts your opponent's attack on you. If you manage to fill it all the way, you can unleash an ultra move by jumping up and down in place. Each of the moves has a little cooldown, so you're encouraged to mix and match them.
I do have some concerns over the responsiveness of the motion controls, though. I found that dodging was a bit awkward as I would never be able to avoid hits from the opponents by shifting my body side to side. The developers recommended that I tilt my head to the side in order for the game to register that move, but that struck me as a bit unintuitive and drew me out of the game for a little bit. It may just be a limitation of the hardware in general, as many Kinect titles feel like you have to move your body a bit unnaturally in order to get the the right inputs across.
Battle For Earth is a very unique take on the superhero game genre. It's pretty safe to say that no one has really done something like this game before. I was a bit skeptical at first glance, but after getting the hang of the controls, I actually felt myself getting pretty into the combat. The visceral feeling of actually doling out punches, kicks, and super moves and having those translated onto Marvel characters on screen is pretty neat. If Ubisoft can really nail down the controls while also maintaining a good gameplay balance that welcomes to new players while also providing some depth in strategy for fighting enthusiasts, TheAvengers: Battle For Earth could be one of the rare motion controlled games that is both a hit at party play and "hardcore" play.
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