When Marvel's The Avengers hit theaters earlier this summer, we were absolutely entranced with how awesome it was, from Joss Whedon's sharp writing and directing to the caliber performances across the board – especially Hulk. But we were disappointed that there was no game release alongside it – not even a re-release of Data East's classic Captain America and the Avengers arcade game. That would've been PERFECT.
However, we're not at a total loss, as Ubisoft is preparing to unleash some Avengers awesomeness of its own, just in time to celebrate the recent release of the DVD/Blu-Ray edition of the movie. The Avengers: Battle For Earth brings back a variety of your favorite Marvel super heroes, allowing them to do battle against each other – and villains. And what's more, you can literally get in on the action, as you'll use your body to control movements, since the game specifically requires the Kinect on the Xbox 360. (if you prefer more manual controls, you can wait for the Wii U version to drop sometime in the next few weeks.)
Like the previously released Power-Up Heroes, another Kinect powered superhero game, Battle For Earth lets you battle against enemies using select movements, dependent on your character's personality. The game ties in with events that unfold not from the movie, but instead the Secret Invasion comic books. Throughout, you'll choose from a number of characters, both Avenger (Thor, Loki, Iron Man, Captain America) and others (Spider-Man, Wolverine), over 20 in all, to tangle with all sorts of villains. The Skrulls, a gang of vicious alien enemies, appear throughout the game, and mainstays like the powerful Magneto and the egotistical god Loki. You'll need everything you can muster to bring them to their knees in a fight.
We got a chance to go hands-on (off?) with Avengers at a recent event, and, honestly, it's coming along better than most Kinect projects we've tangled with as of late. The controls are really responsive, and actually require you to do more than blatantly swing your fists and feet. See, you have to follow motions, which you can actually practice before getting into the fighting action, for each character. For Captain America, for instance, you can practice shield throws, before running in with a strike. With Thor, you can lunge your hands into the air for a lightning charge, before pointing it at your enemy and letting loose. And with Hulk, of course, you'll have some real fun, whether you close your hands together to unleash a devastating Thunder Clap, or pound the ground in the hopes of shaking up your enemy before you hit them. There's a variety of things you can do, depending who you're playing as.
Along with those moves, you'll also be able to initiate quick strikes, use items in the environment to your advantage and play on the defensive as well. It's all a well-oiled machine, so don't worry if something doesn't work for you the first time around. Practice makes perfect, and just being able to take control of these heroes with your own personal movements feels special, compared to guiding them around with a joystick. That didn't work so well last year for Thor. Just ask Sega.
The single player campaign spreads across numerous chapters of the Secret Invasion saga, with hours worth of gameplay and plenty of Achievements to unlock. But the real fun of the game involves calling in a buddy or a fellow family member and going nuts. It splits into a split-screen affair at that point, with two people fighting one another in an enormous super hero battle. So if you ever wanted to see if Thor or Hulk would emerge victorious in a fight, here's your chance. But don't count out Captain America – he's more than just a schlub with a shield.
For graphics, Avengers: Battle For Earth presents an interesting, yet helpful, over-the-shoulder perspective, so you can see everything that's happening in the fight without getting too distracted. You'll also be treated to a handful of faithful animations that personify each character, whether it's Hulk's fury or Iron Man's furious laser blasts. The locations really mean a lot too, whether you're fighting in an abandoned military base or on deck of the Helicarrier. There's no shortage of places to pick a fight here, and we love it.
As for sound, expect plenty of super hero taunts ("HULK SMASH!"), along with the kind of music that's fitting for a game like this. We didn't hear much of it during the demo, but Ubisoft assured us it would be included.
The Avengers: Battle For Earth may be coming months after the blockbuster's film release, but better late than never. Plus, it really is a lot of fun, more than we can say for most Kinect efforts these days. And it should make a difference for the Wii U too when it comes out later this year.
Look for the Xbox 360/Kinect version on October 30th.