The development of Avatar: The Game has been shrouded in secrecy since Ubisoft bagged the rights from James Cameron. We heard tales of the dev team signing away their lives on pain of death should any spoilers be leaked, while the studio was partitioned off from the rest of Ubi’s offices and could only be accessed via a DNA-matching security system. And for what? So they didn’t let on that Cameron’s movie is yet another sci-fi allegory for the Vietnam War? Or perhaps it’s about man’s impact on the environment. Whatever, it’s one of the two.
Anyway, the plot has it that humans, in the guise of a shady corporation with big guns and armoured vehicles, land on a big green planet and start plundering it for natural resources. The Na’vi (the local blue folk) get a bit pissed about it and fight back. What does this mean for gamers? Why, a stealth combat game in the vein of Splinter Cell, naturally.
Armed with a bow, a staff and some natural sneaking ability, you toddle around the forest pathways offing generic Gooncorp soldiers, preferably at a distance with the bow or sneakily with the staff, but hand-to-hand scraps will suffice if you mess up.
To be fair, the game’s okay. It looks reasonably nice, it’s reasonably challenging thanks to tough and not-entirely-stupid enemies, and there’s a reasonable amount of depth added to the combat and remote-prompted stealth aspects thanks to an upgrade system. So all in all, pretty reasonable. In fact, if the controls weren’t so damned fiddly, we might even have gone as far as to label it quite good.
Alas, in trying to make use of all the Wii’s control functions, including the balance board and MotionPlus, it’s just too complicated. When you’re using the bow, for example, you’re holding down Z to focus on one enemy, the analogue stick to move the camera, the remote sensor to aim the bow, B to draw the bow and A to shoot. It also gets repetitive rather swiftly, although the flying sections are neat. Better than Avatar: The Last Airbender, but only just.
Dec 1, 2009