James Cameron has once again proven his worth by rocketing yet another one of his flicks up to the top grossing movie of all time. This is quite impressive considering that he managed to do it by knocking off another one of his own films (sinking ship, iceberg, yeah that one.
That’s great and all but I just realised that I’m not Barry Ronge (phew) and this website is about gaming, so let’s get onto the videogame side of things.
Avatar, like many other blockbusters, come standard these days with a videogame adaptation.
To the dismay of my wife, I rubbed blue colouring all over my body, tied a dishcloth around my waste and started plugging my mustache into various objects just to see if I could form a bond with them, all in the name of bringing you a review.
I put some pot plants around the couch and headed for Pandora, see how the game stacks up after the jump.
Unlike most movie to game adaptations, James Cameron’s Avatar does not follow the story of the movie, a good start.
The game takes place years before the events that take place in the movie. You are a signal specialist name Able Ryder who, after 5 years of snoozing in space has finally arrived on planet Pandora as a part of the ongoing Avatar program.
After being shown around and helping out here and there the plot thickens as you discover that there is a mole in the Avatar program. Now, the groovy thing is about videogames is that unlike movies, you sometimes get to make the choice of what to do about certain situations.
You are ultimately given the choice to take care of the mole, or join him and the Navi so that you can all collectively stick it to the man and hug some trees (which may or may not actually hug back).
E’Navi and Ivory
This breaks the game into two distinct stories and play styles. The developers were also smart enough to automatically save a separate savegame at the decision point of the game for those who want to try the other side without having to go through the first hour of the game again.
What is common between both sides is that you are given different weapons and special skills, and can receive better ones by gaining XP in the game (no real RPG elements, just a basic XP system).
Skills are pretty similar between the two sides and range from the ability to cloak, run faster, heal yourself and so on.
Whilst playing as the human Ryder, you are faced with wondering if you made the right decision when you eliminated the mole instead of joining him.
As a human, Pandora is a pretty dangerous place. Scratch that, it’s really bad-ass. Pretty much everything tries to kill you, including the pretty flowers. As the human you have access to a variety of weapons like shotguns, assault rifles and flamethrowers (take that you bastard begonia).
You will also have access to vehicles that cover land, air and water as you traverse the maps to complete your missions.
As the Navi, things get more down to earth. You have access to melee weapons as well as ranged weapons like bows and crossbows. As the Navi, you will also have “vehicle missions” but replace the machines with fauna.
It’s All About Control
One of the major issues I have with the game however, comes in the form of the controls/camera scheme that was chosen.
The game plays from a third person perspective with the left stick controlling the movement and the right stick controlling the aiming. While this is nothing unusual, the aiming itself can become a hassle as your character does not strafe but instead moves the direction that you point with your left stick and there is no option to zoom in or slow down your right stick targeting.
What this means is that in most firefights you will find yourself running backwards a lot, firing like a madman in the general direction of enemies rather than taking aim and putting the bullets where they count.
A system similar to that of Gears of War felt like it would have been way more appropriate and fun. To make matters worse, I looked up some old footage of the game while it was in development and it was originally planned that way but changed over the course of the project, which upsets me because this may be my biggest gripe with the game overall. Well, this and the fact that the vehicle cameras tilt in a way that will make you want to redecorate your wall with the lunch you ate a couple hours prior.
When it comes to visuals, Avatar’s planet of Pandora is the real star. While character models and vehicles don’t look bad, the lush jungle setting is actually quite stunning and always pretty enough to make you want to stop for a second to just look around.
When it comes to a movie to game adaptation, my outlook is pretty simple. We all know that regardless of the games quality, it will sell a kajillion copies worldwide. All I really ask from the developers is that when a mom goes out there and buys her child another piece of that movie experience, the child will be able to interact with the world and enjoy being a part of it.
To be honest, Avatar does just that. Sure, it’s not the best videogame in the world and yes it has it’s flaws. When however, it just comes down to being able to be a part of that world and interact with those elements you love so much, it actually achieves it’s goal pretty well and sometimes, that’s all people really want.
Some disappointing control decisions, not bad but could have been much better.
The lush jungle environments and large outdoor areas and very pretty indeed.
Decent voice acting and the use of movie assets makes keeps it sounding nice enough.
Two separate campaigns and some multiplayer options, but not enough substance to keep it interesting for too long.
As far as movie license titles, Avatar really isn’t all that bad for big fans of the movie. As it’s own game, it brings nothing special to the plate but still provides a decent romp around Pandora for those who want it.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]
Last Updated: January 11, 2010