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James Cameron's Avatar: The Game review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • The freedom to choose between two races
  • The potential of multiplayer
  • Getting a 3D headache
  • Gameplay is rather generic
  • Combat isn't the most satisfying
  • The balance of firepower is firmly in the RDA's favour

James Cameron’s Avatar certainly has all the ingredients for an action-packed videogame. The only trouble is, these ingredients are getting dangerously stale. The ‘space marine versus alien’ thing is well-travelled ground on the silver screen (particularly by Cameron); in the world of games, there’s barely a planet or extra terrestrial race left in the galaxy that we haven’t blasted our way through.

At the time of writing, the film is yet to be released. Even so, we’re guessing that Cameron will be incorporating sophisticated character building, narrative subtleties and a level of emotion that hasn’t translated quite so effectively to this spin-off game.

Sure, the complex world is there – all the flora and fauna is meticulously documented and the concept of placing a human mind inside a genetically-grown alien husk is intriguingly different. But the problem is that any storytelling in Avatar: The Game is quickly brushed aside to allow for more explosions and the chance for a fight. Then, of course, we might as well be an Arbiter or a Predator or a Locust. Take away the universe created by Cameron (which you aren’t in any real obligation to find out about in the game) and you’re left with a rather generic third-person shooter.

Within the first couple of hours of gameplay, you’ll be given the choice whether you want to continue to pillage planet Pandora as the RDA, or rebel against the invading human force as one of the indigenous Na’vi (albeit as an Avatar rather than a ‘real’ Na’vi). Both sides have distinct gameplay styles and a wealth of weapons, armour and vehicles (or creatures, in the case of the Na’vi) to experiment with.

Sadly, both the RDA and the Na’vi have their flaws. Play as a human character and Avatar is a forgettable third-person shooter that lacks the tight controls of Gears or the freedom of Mercenaries 2. Choose the Na’vi and you’ll find the gameplay is unbalanced. Okay, so the Na’vi are meant to feel overwhelmed by the RDA firepower but constantly running into a hail of bullets to dispatch soldiers with primarily close-combat weapons can make for frustrating gaming.

Occasionally, even the game knows how hopeless the Na’vi toolset is and has to compensate; could we really bring down an armored troopship with a bow and arrow? Would stabbing a jeep really make it explode? While we’re despairing at the Na’vi arsenal – why can’t we attack enemies when we’re on the back of the six-legged Direhorse? And why can’t we pluck enemies from the ground when we’re flying an Ikran? At least let it shoot fire or something…

To give Avatar some credit, it has done a reasonable job of replicating Cameron’s thirst for technology and visual drama. With the right TV and a pair of 3D specs (and the ability to resist migraines), you can view the jungles of Pandora in 3D. Plus, when the planet is in darkness, the neon glow of the plant-life and Na’vi makes Avatar look particularly striking. We can’t wait to see how the film looks.

We also like the way your weapons and skills progressively upgrade as you gain experience from missions, and the way that Pandora looks increasingly ravaged as the RDA destroy it via the intensive mining and destructive warfare. Although the Avatar servers weren’t up and running at the time of this review, we’re also reserving some hope for the 16-player multiplayer too. The combination of large maps as well as ground- and air-based combat could (and we stress ‘could’) be a real selling point.

As it stands, Avatar: The Game has unavoidably landed in a genre with many superior alternatives. Not least of all Red Faction: Guerrilla – a game that offers more satisfying gunplay and a greater feeling of starting a rebellious insurgency against an outnumbering force. Then there’s the forthcoming Lost Planet 2…

Avatar is of a far higher caliber than your usual movie tie-in and no doubt Cameron will deliver an epic cinema experience. Sadly, his universe isn’t so unique to the videogame world.

Dec 1, 2009

More Info

Release date: Dec 01 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3, DS, PSP, PC, Wii (US)
Dec 03 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3, DS, PSP, PC, Wii (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, DS, PSP, PC, Wii
Genre: Action
Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Ubisoft
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Animated Blood, Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
12+

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9 comments

  • skyguy343 - December 1, 2009 8:29 p.m.

    definetely looking forward to the movie but wasn't expecting much from the game. first.
  • Maxstats69 - December 1, 2009 9:46 p.m.

    Well how can you score a game properly if you haven't had a chance to check out the multiplayer? Multiplayer should be a big part of the score when scoring games, would Halo 3 got a 9/10 if it only had a Campaign mode? I think you guys should have waited to review this one.....
  • thor0997 - December 2, 2009 1:06 a.m.

    No no it would not my good Max. Halo 3 would have gotten a 10/10
  • Bloodstorm - December 2, 2009 4:51 a.m.

    @Thor My sentiments exactly.
  • Ricochet3438 - December 5, 2009 4:01 p.m.

    Yeah but everyone is acting like the choice between RDA and the Navi is a huge one. I'll probably just make one save with the RDA and make another with the Navi. That's what I did with Transformers when you have to choose between Autobots and Decepticons
  • lifekarma - December 8, 2009 9:59 a.m.

    i think the blue guys will be the best to play as since they dont loook as rigged in there walking and fighting but ill never get to see the muultiplayer i was bannedfrom xbox live
  • allthegoodnameswheretaken - December 14, 2009 12:37 p.m.

    Same as ODST ? WHY?
  • seth177 - January 1, 2010 9:51 p.m.

    avatar is a fun game the thing that dissappointed me is it doesn't follow the story line of the movie
  • mausjake - January 16, 2010 9:51 p.m.

    @seth177 I'm kinda glad it doesnt, how many movie games follow the movie and turn out an 8/10? You must admit, the world; plants, animals, locations... those were the selling point, now you your self can become immensed into that world and not be forced into linear gameplay following a set story line.

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