Being blue is the least of your problems when you are a ten foot tall alien. James Cameron’s Avatar is published by Ubisoft and is available on the Xbox360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS and PSP. All bases covered.
Welcome to Pandora, the world that serves as the setting for James Cameron’s latest big budget movie outing, Avatar.Movie tie-in games have a reputation for being somewhat less than desirable, and that reputation is justified in most cases. These games are usually released in order to simply cash in on the movies popularity and rarely offer anything beyond the thrill of being within the movies setting. However, this time around, we have been assured that the experience is better and that this game will buck the trend and prove that good movie tie-in games can be made. Ok, lets see how this plays out.
Should you already have watched the movie, this will be common knowledge to you. However, for those that have not seen the movie, the story is based on the alien world of Pandora. Humans have arrived on this planet, in the guise of the RDA, with the intention of mining for a precious substance called Unobtainium. The native people of the planet, the primitive Na’vi, have taken exception to this and thus, conflict is inevitable.
You begin the game arriving on Pandora as a signal specialist for the RDA. Follow objectives as they are given and wander the glorious, jungle ridden area. After a while, you will be invited to control your Avatar. As the movies namesake, the Avatar is one of the movies most interesting concepts, if not the most original. Basically, the player is able to transfer their “consciousness” into a genetically created, 10 foot tall, Na’vi body. This will allow the player to essentially infiltrate the natives and spy on them.
After a short time it becomes apparent that the alien race are not the brutal killers that the RDA have painted them as, and maybe the RDA are not as innocent as they make out. There’s a plot twist that we weren’t expecting. So, there comes a time when the player has to make a choice, which side are they on? It is at this point that the game splits into two paths, each with their own storyline.
Each path has its own story, but more than that, each path is played differently. The RDA are equipped with guns and futuristic equipment and vehicles, causing the game to be played as a third person shooter. The Na’vi, on the other hand, are armed with bows and spears, resulting in a more hack and slash style game. Of the two, the RDA path is the simpler, due in no small part to the advanced weaponry, but also because being a 10 foot tall, blue alien in a nice green forest, is just asking to be a target. You would have thought that evolution could have provided some form of camouflage for their natural habitat.
Playing the Na’vi story does provide a more challenging experience, though, and perhaps more satisfying.But whichever path you choose to follow, the game will progress in a similar manner. The player will be given objectives to complete, that will invariably involve journeying to a certain place, doing something and then returning. Whilst the lush environment of Pandora is a joy to behold and contains plenty to look at, the constant travelling form one place to another and then back again gets boring pretty quick. There are roaming adversaries to overcome, or vehicles and warp points to lessen the monotony of the journeys, but there is still far too much walking.
The combat within the game is another matter for concern. Apart from the obvious lack of balance between the two factions, the combat mechanics themselves are not great. Due to the environment, spotting adversaries can be difficult (unless you are looking for a 10 foot tall, blue alien) and there is no cover system in place to take advantage of. The shooting is adequate, but melee combat soon becomes an exercise in button bashing.
Completing objectives and killing enemies will give the player experience. As the player levels up, they will obtain new weapons and powers. The weapons are of the standard fare and are provided automatically. The powers offer an interesting addition to the game. These powers can bve assigned to the face buttons and are activated by pressing the appropriate face button along with a shoulder button. The ability to heal is essential, but powers that provide a burst of speed or invisibility ,for example, can give a nice advantage to the player.
The multiplayer mode feels like an after thought, and provides nothing more than a distraction to the main game. Across a handful of modes, the player can indulge in up to 16 player combat. But the game is still unbalanced and makes anyone who is stuck as a Na’vi character at an instant disadvantage. Add to that the fact that the maps are very big, and there really aren’t that many players around, and the multiplayer becomes rather boring.
The games main selling point, and in fact the main selling point of the movie, are the looks. Ubisoft have done a good job of recreating James Cameron’s vision of an alien world, with its lush forests and bizarre indigenous life forms. There are, however, moments when cracks can be seen in the games polished veneer. The character animation can be stiff and clunky, and there are occasions when characters actions may not match their words.
Overall, James Cameron’s Avatar is an above average attempt at a movie tie-in game. There are faults and glitches, and the multiplayer is pointless, but beyond these is a game that provides a nice gameplay experience.