2009 Reviews

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game

  • Review Date: 2012-10
  • Release Date: 2009-12
  • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
  • Rating: 7.5

Metacritic's aggregate score for this game, on all platforms, is 60%. It's another example of a game where you simply can't go by the review scores. It's not perfect, but it is one of the best movie-tie-in games up until it's release. The best I can think of, at least.

The highlight of Avatar is definitely the graphics. No surprise since it uses a modified CryEngine (same as used in Far Cry 2). The environments are huge and massively detailed. Alien vegetation and plantlife sprawls everywhere, massive tree trunks twine above and floating islands decorate the sky. Many times I had to stop and survey my surroundings, admiring the beauty. Top marks here.

But in all other areas Avatar is not quite as polished. Considering the movie told such a good story, the game falls a bit flat. It's intended to be a prequel to the movie, but doesn't really give any extra information (unless you sit reading all the journals). If it weren't for already seeing the movie, the storyline in this game would be quite boring and definitely not explained well enough. For instance, what are humans trying to do on this planet? You almost have to see the movie before playing the game to know what's going on.

Most of the game is spent doing tasks for superiors and finding crystals. It really becomes a bit of a chore after a while. Especially considering there are two campaigns, each a good ten hours each, where you play as either the humans or Na'vi. While the campaigns feature different levels, the missions are all very similar and you're tasked with finding the same damn nine crystals again.

For a twenty hour game, the saving grace is that the gameplay styles of human vs Na'vi are very different.

As a human you get your usual assortment of weapons to choose from. Most checkpoints (which are fairly close together) contain an ammunition regeration post which can be used as much as you want. So you can quite happily go trigger crazy. The targetting can be slightly annoying as the weapons aren't too accurate from a distance, but apart from that they're mostly fun to use. This is the first game in a LONG time that I've used a grenade launcher so much.

As the Na'vi, the game is melee based. You do have a gun and crossbow, but I used melee blades for 95% of the game. In this respect, playing as Na'vi is the more enjoyable half of the game. Playing with guns can get boring and just isn't as exciting. Plenty other games bring a better gun-fight to the table.

You also get powerupsare set to keys for instant access (no going through a tedious menu like Crysis), and automatically regenerate fairly quicky. Powerups such as invisibility, speed, extra damage, freezing enemies, airstrike, health regeneration. The most enjoyable I found was, as Na'vi, throwing on extra speed and running into a group of enemies, then freezing everyone to pick off before they unfreeze. The human skills weren't quite as fun, the airstrike not really working properly. But extra damage when using the grenade launcher can mow through enemies and bosses.

Unfortunately, Avatar is not a difficult game. The gameplay can be fast and exciting, but with lots of ammo, powerups such as health regeneration, you can also resurrect yourself in battle a certain a number of times. But worst of all, whenever you die you simply respawn at the last (usually close) checkpoint. It's not a reload of the game, so you just keep playing on as you were. A reload of the game would have made it too hard probably, as some fights can get frantic, but a respawn makes any game too easy. Bioshock had the same problem.

Othercomplaints; some areas have respawning enemies, especially in the last couple levels. So I just found myself sprinting through instead of fighting. Also the melee combat could have done with some extra features such as combos or trick jumps. It's very basic melee combat.

There have been complaints that the controls are really bad and the game is buggy. I encountered no bugs, no crashes, and the controls were perfectly fine. Only when flying a Na'vi bird/dragon/whatever the hell it is, were the controls off, but that only takes up about ten minutes of the game.

Overall it's a fairly good game. I voiced just about all the negatives. The positives are that it looks fantastic, will keep you busy for a good twenty hours and more if you do some of the optional tasks, and has good variety in combat with the two different races to play though. Once you master the powerups, they only enhance the fun value.