Thanks (or no thanks, depending on how you look at it) to Sega, every one of the Marvel Phase One films launched alongside a promotional video game that landed on nearly every single device at the time, save one. While Sega had each of the solo heroes rights tied up to make games for, when the band came together for The Avengers development duties were to be handled by now defunct publisher THQ, who do to their financial difficulties had to cancel The Avengers game they were working on, thus creating one of my most viewed articles featuring concept art of the game that could’ve been. Had the game actually been released, it would’ve been a first-person action game retelling the Secret Invasion cross-over event that started publication in 2008.
Footage of THQ’s cancelled Avengers game
With THQ having failed to get an Avengers games in the hands of players, Ubisoft rushed to capitalize on the hype of one of the biggest films of all time and released Marvel’s Avengers: Battle for Earth to stores in the fall of 2012 on both the Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s at the time new console, the Wii U. Depending on what hardware you have to play Battle for Earth on, you’ll ever be incredibly surprised or terribly bored by this seemingly rushed together effort.
Like THQ’s in-development but never released Avenges game, Battle for Earth’s plot is based on Secret Invasion and even comes from that events writer, Brian Micheal Bendis. For those unfamiliar with the story, it revolves around the shape-shifting alien race known as the Skrulls who infiltrate earth’s super powered community and peace keeping agencies in a plot to take the earth as their new home world as their religious beliefs and prophecies foretold. The game’s story campaign works its way through these events but for those looking for something along the lines of Injustice: Gods Among Us or other Netherrealm fighters, you’re going to be disappointed. Basically you’re given some brief cut-scenes that are composed of still pictures taken from the comic series with some narration before you’re thrown into a fight.
Battle for Earth is a tag-team tournament fighter that has rules similar to Namco’s Tekken Tag Tournament: if one of your two combatants run out of life, you lose. The game is a 2-D fighter but as opposed to viewing both characters from the side, you’re put in the perspective of your fighter and it’s a very good fit for the mechanics of this title. Except for one option on the Wii U, Battle for Earth is primarily controlled via motion control inputs. You have a basic punch attack that is a simple projectile and a kick that launches enemies into the air when powered up but the main crux of the gameplay is in the super moves. Every character has three and certain moves are stronger against others and create a rock/paper/scissors mechanic where you have to learn how to counter properly to win. A shield attack for example, is weak against a direct attack and a direct attack is strong against an aerial attack. Every hero or villains move set can chain into a three attack combo or you can stun your opponent and tag your partner to keep your combo streak going, eventually building up a super meter to unleash devastating damage. Hardcore fighting fans who enter Street Fighter or Super Smash Bros. will probably scoff at the simplicity of Battle for Earth, but it can be a pretty fun game to learn and master, that is if you’re playing it on the Xbox 360.
The Xbox 360 versions of this game is controlled completely via the Kinect and before your eyes roll all the way into the back of your head, stay with me, because Battle for Earth actually controls very well. Punch attacks are accomplished by, you guessed it, punching and likewise for the kick attack while you move your body left and right to dodge. The most fun comes from using the super attacks because it’s equally awesome, and insanely dorky but in a fun way. You have to complete actions, like sticking up your arm and then extending your leg for a swing attack as Spider-Man or putting yourself in various archery poses with Hawkeye. You look like an absolute idiot from an outsiders perspective no doubt, but when you get into a combo where you’re launching a volley of missiles in the air as Iron Man only to tag in Captain America and throw his shield you feel like the character you’re playing as more than any other super hero game out there. As far as how well the camera picks you up, I played this game in a small room where half of my left leg didn’t appear on screen and had no trouble making it through the campaign and optional modes.
Those playing the game on the Wii U don’t get it quite as good unfortunately, despite the fact that you can play two different ways. The best way to play that’s still nowhere near as fun as the Xbox 360 version is with the Wii Remote and nunchuk where you have to select a super move with a direction on the d-pad where it will give you a simple gesture to do in order to pull off a designated super move while the analog stick is used for dodging and button presses are used for punches and kicks. This control scheme makes the game feel really slow compared to using the Kinect motion controls and it also makes the game easier and less exciting. Both however, are much better than the tablet specific control option exclusive to the Wii U.
One thing I never understood about the Wii U is the ability to play games on the tablet. Yes, it’s grand when you have someone else who wants to use the TV while you want to keep playing your game, but who wants to really play their game on a low resolution tablet when you can play finally play on a Nintendo system in HD? Whether your friend or loved one is using the TV or not, you still have to play Battle for Earth on the tablet while your whole TV shows nothing more than an options menu. Gameplay is by far the worst using this scheme as super moves are pulled off by drawing shapes on the screen. Needless to say I dusted off my Wii remote and nunchuk to play this on my Wii U after only one or two matches.
If you’re playing on either system though, Battle for Earth has a decent amount of content to keep you occupied. On top of the campaign there’s a traditional arcade mode, a challenge mode where you’re tasked with winning matches with certain handicaps and a training mode where you can learn what moves link together with your favourite character. Completing all modes helps to unlock more characters in your roster, 20 in all including all of the main characters from the first Avengers film along with Spider-Man, members of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and fan favourite villains like Dr. Doom, Venom and Loki, all of which have alternate costumes to unlock.
Despite having a lot of modes to play and things to unlock, Battle for Earth is not a game that you’re going to marathon as if can get tedious over extended play sessions. This isn’t a problem with the Xbox 360 game as you’re going to want to take breaks every once in a while because playing can be pretty tiring. The Wii U version however has its own problem in that you’re not going to really want to play for that long as the game just isn’t that much fun.
We’ll never know if THQ’s Avengers game would’ve turned out to be any good or not, but the game we DID get is way more fun than it has any right to be, provided you play on the Xbox 360 of course. This game isn’t one that I would recommend you run out and buy a Kinect to play, but if you have one lying around that you don’t really use it’s a worth while game to pick up. Those who got rid of their Xbox 360 when the new consoles came around and only have a Wii U to play this on, I would give this game a pass on focus your time and effort on a much better Marvel game like Lego Marvel Super Heroes or The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Edition.