While we were at Ubisoft’s Montreal Studio in Canada, we were given the opportunity for some hands on time with James Cameron’s Avatar The Game. I must admit, before trying the game I was extremely sceptical. Movie games have not been the most celebrated titles out there and with all the hype for the actual movie, I was worried the game would only spoil the “Avatar” experience for me. Thankfully I was wrong; the game seems to only enrich the world of Pandora, turning the movie into a whole new extensive franchise.
The game has its own unique story line, based years before the movie script, which is split in two depending on whether you are playing as the RDA or the Na’vi. The two story lines intertwine at pivotal moments of the story, but the majority of each arc is completely unique.
The basic story is that as the RDA, you are off to Pandora to mine for resources for Earth due to a serious energy crisis. Pandora houses ‘unobtainium’, an extremely rare material worth $20 million a kilo. Obviously the natives of the planet, the Na’vi, are not too keen on the RDA raiding their planet for resources and launch an attack on the RDA. The game is set before the planet is taken over by a mining corporation.
The demo popped us straight into the ranks of the RDA. Flying around in one of the RDA planes and destroying the environment that is blocking the path. After setting down, you begin a check of the area and encounter the wildlife who turn out not to be so friendly towards you. This is where the real gunplay began and there are some remarkable similarities between this and Lost Planet 2, as much as Ubisoft hate to hear it. This third person style shooter, accompanied by mechs and activating safe points seems to have done little to make me feel any different. Even on a second go the nagging reminder that the game was so alike was frustrating. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at the end of the day Lost Planet is a fantastic game and it would be nice to see some more third person shooters out on the market.
The weapons are great fun, giving you chance to play with a whole horde of them early on. The demo didn’t allow me to turn up the sensitivity of the analogue sticks, which was pretty frustrating as it was set so low that being attacked by the fast inhabitants of Pandora was a real chore to champion. One of my favourite “weapons” was actually in the form of air support, which you can call down at certain points in the game to rain down artillery fire.
Fighting against the Na’vi was quite exhilarating. Compared to the bulky RDA, the Na’vi are extremely quick and nimble. Using more traditional weapons like spears and bows, the blue giants sprint at you and if you get too close they can become quite a challenge. There are certain types of Na’vi that attack depending on their weaponry. The spear type try get in your face, running in all sorts of directions which makes it tough to get a good clear shot. The bow wielding Na’vi tended to hide up on the large branches of Pandora’s trees, picking you off from afar; taking them out was no real issue however.
As you start to run around it dawns on you how amazingly detailed Avatar really is. The exotic and lush rainforest like setting is certainly refreshing to explore, just don’t let your guard down as even the planets will attack you. Pandora is inhabited by some impressively weird character design, from oversized flytraps, brightly coloured dog-like creatures and even a hammerhead dinosaur-like mammal that attacks you later on. Not including the 10ft tall, bright blue humanoid Na’vi that sprint towards you with spears or bows.
Taking down enemies or the environment rewards you with experience points which can be used to upgrade your weapons and unlock a more powerful armoury. You also can pick up drops, complete numerous objectives, such as activating all of the safe pods, and unlock new armour that actually changes the way your character looks. Not only can you unlock character rewards but also by scanning the environment you can unlock entries for the Pandorapedia. This is the in-game encyclopaedia for all things Pandora, explaining everything you need to know about the rather in-depth and rich world of James Cameron’s Avatar, as well as unique elements only the game has.
The production values of Avatar the game are extremely high; you can see that with the visual aspects of the game. The amount of detail and work gone into creating James Cameron’s ideas into a playable format is certainly impressive. Until we see some story based gameplay though the jury is still out on whether Avatar The Game will shine through as a worthy purchase or be later added to the bargain bin full of all those other forgotten movie games.