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James Cameron's Avatar: The Game - Review

Avatar

Review by Cassam Looch

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

About the Game:

The most technically advanced motion picture ever made has also inspired a video game that’s set to make its own waves, as the world of Pandora becomes interactive.

Just like the film, you must choose whether to side with the human military or the native Na’vi, as both fight for control of the planet.

Just like the film, the game can be played in stereoscopic 3D, but whether you don the goggles or not the intense third person action stands on its own. The game’s huge levels leave plenty of space for the two sides to face off, with the technologically advanced humans surprisingly even matched against the super strong Na’vi.

You need brawn as well as brain to win though, with unlockable abilities that can change the course of battle and a strategic overview map to keep control of. With the whole game closely overseen by James Cameron this is one of the most authentic movie tie-ins ever made.

Main Features:

- Untold story: Explore the world of Pandora in an exclusive prequel story set before the movie, but created with the help of the film creators – including James Cameron.

- Cinematic visuals: Incredible graphics replicate the look and feel of the film, from the deadly wildlife to the giant floating islands.

- Evolve or die: Unlock new skills and abilities by accumulating “effort points”, from air strikes and invisibility for the humans to deadly animal mounts as the Na’vi.

- Risky business: Strategic overview map lets you plot the overall course of the war – although the biggest decision is which army you choose to side with.

- The third way: Just like the film you can experience the whole of the Avatar game in full 3D, if you have a console with HDMI output and a 120Hz TV.

Formats: DS, PC, PS3, Wii, X360, PSP
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Dates: 4/12/2009 (DS PC PS3 Wii X360) 11/12/2009 (PSP)

Review:

It may well be the most technically advanced film of all time, but it’s also the most expensive. Cameron has poured millions into the cinematic experience and spent just as much time on creating the gaming experience.

The director is one of the few to have fully realized the importance of video games in modern marketing and the crossover appeal of the format into the mainstream media.

He has, for want of a better phrase, “talked a good game”. But has he delivered? Does Avatar deliver the earth-shattering experience that has been promised on and exceed expectations?

Well, unfortunately, no… not quite. When we tested the game earlier in the year we genuinely thought that the experience was ground-breaking… in 3D, but wondered how this would translate to the regular home entertainment formats.

Let’s start with the positives… it looks stunning. The planet of Pandora is recreated almost as perfectly as it is in the film. The jungle setting looks lush and even some of the animations you feel were tailored for a 3D version appear to work well in boring old 2D format.

The characters appear to move and interact wonderfully with the backgrounds but are let down somewhat by the controls, which never feel entirely responsive.

The storyline acts as a prequel to the film with a human ‘invasion’ of the peaceful Na’vi tribe of aliens underway. Pandora, it turns out, is one of the universe’s only sources of natural resource Unobtainium, as well as home to all manner of plants and creatures which need to be tamed in order for success.

You are thrust straight into the action as a raw recruit alternating between human and mind controlled native, or Avatar to be precise. The process makes more sense in the game and on film than it does in writing but still feels slightly underwhelming as a concept for something which is supposed to be groundbreaking.

The shooter elements work well and the game design is generic but passable. The tasks within this portion of the game, however, aren’t fun but more functional than anything. Soon, you get to choose how to play out the rest of the game as either human or Na’vi with differing powers and objectives to pursue.

Some of the animations tend to slow down in melee attacks and this is where the camera and controls tend to be at their weakest. Another disappointment is the vehicle maneuverability, which again feels slightly dull and unresponsive.

All of which is a shame, as the promise is immense. But the hype and snazzy visuals can’t really cover-up a middling game with limited long-term appeal.