Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a timeline-hopping adventure that borrows from The Division and Far Cry

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora gameplay
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

My hands-off demonstration of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora at Ubisoft Forward begins with James Cameron. Speaking directly into the camera, the esteemed film director waxes lyrical about the good job Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment have made of their "original story that co-exists with the Avatar films". For me, that remains to be seen until we can go hands-on with the upcoming FPS action-adventure open-world game, but I will say that what we've been shown at a distance does look impressive. 

Pulling from its storied experience on The Division series, the gunplay in Frontiers of Pandora is as fast and punchy as you might expect, but Ubisoft's fingerprints are equally obvious here throughout – with 'Avatar by way of Far Cry' being a reasonable take on how it all appears to be shaping up. Better still, while primarily being a single-player story-driven experience, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora will support two-player co-op online. 


Avatar Frontiers of Pandora gameplay

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Set within the luscious Western Frontier, you fill the large-sized shoes of a Navi seeking to untangle their mysterious and complex past. From a story perspective, Frontiers of Pandora kicks off before the first Avatar movie when the RDA forcibly raids the jungle. Your Navi's human guardian squirrels you away into a cryo sleep chamber to avoid detection, and your story begins in earnest when you awaken – years into the future, after the events of the first film. As a "child of two worlds", you're able to wield special Navi weapons that rely on magic and the natural world around you; but also conventional human weapons confiscated from the ever-threatening RDA, led by the organization's top bad guy, John Mercer. 

In practice, this might see you gunning down advancing enemies with a pump-action shotgun one minute, before sniping a hostile animal with a Heavy Bow the next. Similar to The Division 2, this strikes at the heart of what Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora hopes to achieve: you're continually required to think on the fly, and leverage your surroundings and current situation to triumph – be that with boots on the ground in one of the game's environmentally-varied biomes, fending off the hordes of inconsiderate RDA troops determined to plunder your homeland; or while cruising through the air on the back of your own customizable Ikran mountain banshee. 

Avatar Frontiers of Pandora gameplay

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

"I understand that everything is for show in presentations like this one, but the sense of scale from this set-piece alone was remarkable"

It's at this point that our hands-off demonstration of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora really opened up. In a mix of in-engine and in-game footage running on PS5, we saw the player-controlled Navi flying up to the highest peaks of the game world's snow-dusted mounts, before swooping down among its verdant evergreens, across its lakes and streams, and then over its rolling hills. I understand that everything is for show in presentations like this one, but the sense of scale from this set-piece alone was remarkable. Add this to the fact players can do all of this alongside a friend online and, yes, it's all pretty exciting.

Later on in the demonstration, we were shown the playable Navi scouting out an enemy encampment, tagging the base's patrolling enemies in a set-piece that flew very close to Far Cry; before catching a glimpse at the customization items and options that can be applied to your Ikiran, including face paints, head ornaments, and sparkling tail wings. When exploring new biomes you can discover clans of other Navi, each of who can pass down special abilities that can aid your quest in battle and exploration which, again, can in turn help your moment-to-moment decision making.   

It feels like a bit of a cop out saying what I'm about to, but it's also the truth – Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora has left me wanting more. Not in an overzealous, 'I can't wait to see more' type of way, but from a genuine 'this could be brilliant' perspective. Obviously, in order to arrive at the latter, though, I'd need to go hands-on with its world, its guns, its native tools, and, of course, its flying Ikran. That'll come I'm sure, and soon enough.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is one of the upcoming Ubisoft games due to launch in 2023, when it launches for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X on December 7.

Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.