Though there are plenty of enjoyable Kinect games already on the market, one genre the Xbox 360 motion peripheral has sorely lacked is fighting games. While it’s true there have been a few brawlers to make use of Kinect, the current library available could definitely use a solid fighter to mix things up. With the release of Ubisoft’s Avengers: Battle for Earth, comic book-loving Kinect owners now have a fighting game to call their own. It doesn’t quite reach the highs of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth definitely makes a case for the best Kinect fighting game to date.
Based on the events of Marvel’s Secret Invasion crossover from a few years back, Avengers: Battle for Earth puts you in the shoes of your favorite Marvel heroes and villains as they combat the Skrull forces trying to take over the planet. There isn’t really a lot of narrative to the game’s story mode. While Avengers: BFE does try to follow the lengthy storyline of Secret Invasion, the short recaps of what’s happening before each fight don’t really convey as much as they should. If you happen to know how Secret Invasion plays out, you’ll certainly get a lot more out of the campaign, but Marvel novices may not find much to latch onto when it comes to story.
"Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth may be one of the most surprising Kinect titles of the year."
Despite not offering much in the way of a strong story, the gameplay in Avengers: BFE is surprisingly enjoyable. Fights are tag-team efforts, and you’re able to pick your team in every mode save for the campaign, where teams are predetermined. Taking advantage of the game’s tutorial is recommended, as you’ll learn some nuances and strategies necessary to get the most out of each and every fight you take part in. Each hero has a set of basic attacks like punches and kicks, but there are also super-moves unique to every character. The gesture-based controls don’t get too elaborate, but do give a pretty decent approximation of using each character’s powerset.
Most of the commands rely on two-step motions made with your arms. The first motion activates the power, and the second motion will result in your fighter using the move on his opponent. Characters like the Hulk have the broad, sweeping motions you’d expect from a behemoth brawler, and others like Scarlet Witch use slightly more acute moves to signify spell casting. How exact and quick you are in your motions has a lot to do with how powerful the attacks will be, and you can even chain attacks together for damaging combos if you are fast enough. Each fighter also has an Ultra Move, which is earned by filling up a meter either by attacking or by being attacked. When activated, players will have to shout out the special attack to engage the Ultra Move. It’s never been more fun to yell out “Hulk Smash,” and you’ll be surprised at how involuntarily you find yourself saying these phrases just like the actual characters.
To a degree, the controls could be seen as simplistic, and thus the combat could be interpreted as rather repetitive. Kinect can’t really recognize incredibly complex motions, and even struggles at times to correctly identify the limited range of options in Avengers: BFE. The ease of the commands helps make the game more accessible to players who may otherwise have been turned off by the complicated controller inputs frequently associated with fighting games. It also helps that the Kinect controls really do make you feel like the character you’re portraying on the screen. The most important thing the controls do though is make sense, and they also allow you to enjoy the action on the screen, rather than worry about hitting the right combination of buttons to pull off a visually appealing attack.
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth also happens to be one heck of a good looking game. Character models are fantastic, with great attention to detail. The animations are tight (as long as your motions are concise), and the voice work is solid as well. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in the stages, but at least they too are rendered well. The game’s color palette is bright and vibrant, and though many of the gestures repeat, the attacks on screen all have their own personality. Avengers: BFE features some unlockable costumes, which longtime Marvel fans will enjoy, but there aren’t a lot of them. It would have been nice to see a bit more customization options for each fighter, especially considering how drastically different the costumes are now from those seen in Secret Invasion.
Outside of the story mode, there are several other modes to keep you interested. There is a series of challenges to play though, which unlocks more characters for versus and arcade mode. Additionally, there is both a versus and arcade mode. Versus is pretty self-explanatory, but the arcade mode will task you with fighting your way through more than a dozen different teams in one sitting. Again, there are some rewards for doing so, but arcade mode can be a bit daunting to work through all at once. Every game mode, including the campaign, has the option to play with a cooperative partner. Fortunately, Kinect does a decent job differentiating and recognizing the attacks, and there’s little to no difference in the way the game plays when joined by a friend. There is also an online mode, but it’s tough to find an opponent, if you can find one at all.
Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth may be one of the most surprising Kinect titles of the year. There’s a lot to like about the way the game plays, even if it can be a bit redundant at times. The great thing is, you don’t have to be just a comic book fan to enjoy Avengers: BFE. Anyone can jump in and play, and find themselves having a good time thanks to the ease of entry, and it sure doesn’t hurt that Avengers: BFE looks as good as it does. The campaign does drag a bit, and there may not be a whole lot of people playing online, but Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth is a huge step in the right direction for Kinect fighting games.
Release date : 2012-10-30
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft Quebec
Gameplay : Action
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