Avengers: Battle For Earth
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Release Date: 12/4/2012
I have to admit, I’m far more a DC or Valiant comics fan than Marvel. That said, I still like a lot of Marvel characters and have always had fun with the Marvel Vs. Capcom series or games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance and even Spider-Man: Friend or Foe (a game some of the staff here feels is criminally underrated). So when I first heard about Avengers: Battle For Earth. I was intrigued. When I saw the 360 version being played in a store by some kids and that they were loving it, I knew I was going to get it for the Nintendo Wii U. I was a bit dismayed that no one seemed to be reviewing the Kinect version, but happy that those that did gave it pretty positive marks. At the same time, I was a pretty intense fighting game player back in the day. I dominated local and regional Capcom Vs. SNK, Darkstalkers and King of Fighters tourneys. I’m pretty good at frame counting and even in my old age I’ve been able to perfect Galactus with two different teams in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Yet Avengers promised to be a fighting game for younger or more casual gamers. Would I end up hating it or finding it too simplistic? Well, the good news is that although the Nintendo Wii U version controls VERY differently from the Xbox Kinect version, I had just as much fun with the game as those kids I saw playing it in a Microsoft store and even though it is pretty easy compared to most Capcom or SNK fighters, it’s still an enjoyable experience and well worth picking up if you are the fan of the characters of fighting games that strive for uniqueness or weirdness instead of the same old D, DF, F, P style movements.
First up, let’s discuss the various modes in the game. Campaign mode is the equivalent of the story in the game. It’s meant to be based on the terrible Secret Invasion storyline Marvel did a few years back (at least it got Mockingbird back in a highly convoluted fashion), but really there isn’t much tale to be told here. The excuse for fighting other heroes (or villains) is that your opponents are skrulls (shape shifting aliens) complete with a green skin well…reskinning of a playable character. You need to play through multiple locations, clearing eight battles in each one. That’s really all there is. There’s a tiny bit of set-up at the beginning of each stage, but no real gripping story or in-depth conversation of the storyline. Still, it’s better than most fighting games but nothing as impressive as King of Fighters XIII or the recent Mortal Kombat games. I should also point out that all battles in Campaign mode have predetermined lineups so the first stage of say, The Baxter Building will always feature the same two PCs Vs. the same two antagonists. You don’t have any say in who you play as, which may disappoint some. At the same time, it’s well worth noting that you can play any stage in any order. So let’s say you play the first three battles on the SHIELD Hellicarrier but then want to try one of the other stages. You can then go to Manhattan or where ever else suits your fancy. Just note that clearing four of the eight battles in a stage usually unlocks a playable character for you. So you have a degree of flexibility in one respect while also a rigid campaign mode that plays exactly the same each time you go through it.
Arcade mode is really a one and done options. You go through ten battles with your chosen team. I used Magneto and Iron Man. Throughout the ten battles you unlock costumes for characters from The Avengers movie as well as Loki as a playable character. There are no endings – only a, “You Beat Arcade Mode!” graphic, so there’s no point in replaying this at all. You can however play this (and campaign) in co-op mode which each player controlling one of your tag team members.
Other options include Versus, which lets you play against another human. This is split-screen only, which really means, one player looks at the GamePad while another looks at the T.V. Tournament is a four player local round robin and Challenges is really the tutorial. You learn each playable characters moves and combos, general basics and occasionally some tests of your skills, like only being able to do basic moves. These challenges are a breeze but although they are easy, there are a lot of them, so you can spend a lot of time here.
Finally there’s the U-Play option. You can earn up to 100 UPlay points by going through campaign and arcade mode. You can then use these points for various things like a new skin for Venom, twelve new challenges, a name badge and 5,000 XP (XP doesn’t do anything for you except unlock new skins). The only one worth getting is the one that nets you the extra challenges, but remember, to earn and spend Uplay points, you have to let Ubisoft access to your Wii U in Big Brother fashion. I strongly dislike this feature and wish Ubisoft would stop, but I liked the game enough that I wanted the extra challenges (and the unlockables that come with beating them), so I did it. Besides, I’d already linked my account for Rabbids Land and Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, so why not, right?
Visually Avengers: Battle for Earth looks quite nice. Every character looks like they are ripped from the comic books…except Captain America who doesn’t have black on his normal costume, but does here (and I don’t mean the Puerto Rican looking flag costume Bucky wore). There is at least one skin per character with some having four extras, but most are just re-colourings instead of actual new costumes like in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Venom’s “Toxic” outfit, for example, looks nothing like the character and a few of these are just palette swaps. Even worse, a lot of the costumes are DLC that you have to purchase if you want them. Ick. No thanks. Still, the core costumes, and the unlockable Avengers movie costumes look quite nice. The animation is the game is fluid and quite nicely done, with characters moving in lifelike fashion…or as lifelike as comic book characters get. There can be a bit of slowdown during moves, but it’s uncommon and generally during an “Ultra” attack. Most fans of the characters will be happy with the core costumes, but disappointed with most of the free unlockable skins.
There isn’t a lot of music or voice acting to Battle for Earth, but what’s here is nice. You have a lot of familiar actors voicing the same Marvel characters they have for some time now. Steven Blum as Wolverine? Is anyone surprised? With only twenty playable characters there’s far less voice acting here than it a lot of fighting games and commentary is limited to before/after match taunts and the occasional noise in combat proper, but at least Ubisoft made sure to get familiar voices – especially those who are strongly associated with the characters in question. The tracks to the game are fun and fit the fast paced nature of the game, but as I said earlier, there aren’t a lot of tracks here and there’s nothing truly memorable. It’s good background noise, but nothing that will cause people to clamor for a CD release of these tracks ala KoF.
The controls are what really separate Avengers; Battle For Earth from any other fighting game ever made. See, here’s the thing. You have three different control options, all of which are pretty solid. You have the Wiimote option, which involves motion controls in what must be similar to how the Kinect version plays. These are all pretty tight and responsive. You have the Gamepad, where you play the game with buttons and triggers like a normal fighting game. This works, but it’s also the least interesting and fun way to play the game. Then there is the GamePad touch screen version where you tap on the screen or draw with the stylus to trigger attacks. This is the most interesting as well as my favorite and it turns the game from a fighter into a more tactical style third person action hybrid. It’s also worth noting that if you use the Wiimote controls, the action takes place on your TV, but if you use either GamePad control setting, the action is only on your GamePad screen, meaning your TV is just burning electricity for no reason. With this in mind, I’m surprised the game hasn’t been released for the Vita. It is a bit odd to play the game sheerly on your GamePad since this is a console game and not a portable one, but it’s the only real way to play with the touch/stylus control option that would work properly.
You have only five core moves in the game and much like Eternal Champions, you can’t spam any of them as you have an energy pool for each attack. Using an attack deletes some of that pool and once depleted, you have to wait for it to recharge. Every character has a projectile and a kick. The kick, if used at full power, can become a super kick and cause a massive (for the game) combo. The largest I’ve made is fifteen hits. The other three moves are specific to each character. You tap on the icon for one and then draw the shape required. What’s important to note is that this means every move in the game has a tell. So if you are fast you can trigger with the correct counter for that move. That too has a tell, which means that a player can cancel out of it and hit the correct counter for that as well. So on and so forth. It’s really a game of strategy and countering, so people used to defensive characters like Geese Howard will be right at home here. Don’t worry if you’re a balls to the walls offensive player or even just a button masher, as Avengers; Battle For Earth will still suit you. The A.I. on the computer is pretty easy except for the highest two difficulty settings. So regardless of your play style, you should be able to trounce it. In all my time 100% clearing the game, I only ever lost a single round of combat. It’s a very unusual design for a fighting game, but it’s surprisingly fun and hard to put down. It’s not challenging in the slightest, but the outside the box gameplay was a blast and it’s hard to hate something that’s trying an entirely new way to present a genre.
The other moves are based on a special bar similar to a lot of fighting games. At the halfway point, your character will be able to use his or her Breaker, which nullifies an enemy an attack or lets you cancel out of a move and change to a different one. If the bar is completely full, you’ll be able to do an Ultra attack. This is the equivalent of a Super Special Move except it is also unblockable. It doesn’t do a lot of damage though. It’s just meant to look pretty and let you score a lot of small hits. You’ll find Breakers to be more useful. Finally, you have the tag option, which lets you tag characters in and out. When tagged out, a character can regenerate some health and you can also tag back in and out to juggle a combo of sorts. Generally those, the A.I. is weak enough that you won’t need to tag out very often, if at all, unless you are on a higher difficulty setting. Still, against another human being, the gameplay is designed enough that you can really challenge each other with the counters and tag options. It’s quite impressive. It’s just too bad there’s no online play. Sorry kids; local co-op and versus only. Too bad too, as this would have been a blast to play online.
So I had a lot of fun with Avengers: Battle For Earth. It’s by no means the greatest fighting game ever made, and it’s certainly one of the easiest, but it’s highly original makes decent use of the license and Secret Invasion” storyline and most importantly? It’s fun and hard to put down at times. You’ll only ever need to play campaign and ladder mode once and then it’s just clearing all the challenges. Pretty much everything is a one and done here, but there’s enough content to keep you busy for several hours. After that, it just depends on if you like the gameplay enough to keep it around to play against friends or just to fool around like any other fighting game. Right now, this is one of the four Wii launch window games I’ve found worthy of keeping, along with ZombiU, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition and Batman Arkham City Armoured Edition, which is pretty could as I’m notoriously picky about what I keep and what I trade in. Again, this game might be better suited to casual or younger fighting game fans as I can see a lot of people at my skill level or above poo-poo’ing this simply because it doesn’t play like every other fighter on the market and that it’s too easy, but to those people I say, try playing it against another human and see the game can require a lot of strategy and a deep need for thinking ahead. While Avengers: Battle For Earth isn’t as intense or deep or as challenging or with as many playable characters as Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Wii U Edition, it’s still a fine first fighting game by a dev team that has never made one before. I’d be more than happy to see a sequel by Ubisoft Quebec. Vive Jay Sherman! Vive Quebec!
Control and Gameplay: Good
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: Above Average Game!)
Short Attention Span Summary
While no one will ever accuse Avengers: Battle From Earth of suffering from SNK End Boss Syndrome, it’s still a pretty fun game that completely redefines how we think of and play fighting games. The A.I. is exceptionally easy, but against another person, the limited roster and move sets force fighting game aficionados to really think about what they are doing. Every move has a tell, as well as a counter which means you have to be as fast with your wits as you are with your hands. Arcade mode is a one and done affair, but Campaign and Challenges will keep you busy for many an hour as you while away the time trying to complete them. It’s not the greatest fighting game ever made, or of the year, or even for the Wii U, but it’s a fun game that make fine use of the license and makes excellent use of the Wii U’s control options. What more can you ask more – besides a little more challenge I mean?