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Jeremy Jastrzab
15 Dec, 2009

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game Review

360 Review | Not sure if Jimmy wants to be associated with this.
James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game has no excuses for being a weak licensed title. Development was announced in late 2007, so it’s had more than two years to get things into order. Truth be told, there are a lot of things to like about Avatar: The Game. For one, it’s the first game to take advantage of the recent advances in stereoscopic technology (ie. 3D TV) and all the ideas for a great game are here. However, the devil is always in the execution. So while it could have been something else, Avatar ends up being another middling licensed game.

The story for James Cameron’s Avater: The Game is meant to be a prequel for the upcoming movie blockbuster. You play on the planet Pandora (seemingly a popular euphemism in recent times for an undiscovered world) where humans, represented by the RDA, and an indigenous race known as the Na’vi are engaged in a war over resources and existence. In an attempt to ‘work’ with the Na’vi, the humans created ‘Avatar’ technology, which transplants an individual’s consciousness into a synthetic Na’vi body. Of course, the diplomatic results of this are mixed, but it allows you to play the game from two perspectives.

At the start, you pick one from just over a dozen preset character appearances of both genders. Sure, a customised look would have been nice but you can’t have everything. Your character, androgynously named ‘Abel Ryder’, arrives on Pandora under the proviso of signal specialist. The first level has you sampling what the game has to offer, both from the perspective of a human and an Avatar. At the end of the first level, you’ve got the choice of siding with the humans or with the Na’vi. Essentially, that gives you two contrasting campaigns to play through. The game technically has three endings, though once you've seen one you will have seen them all. While none of the endings are particularly special, at least one doesn’t even have the decency of continuity.

It's all happening here in Pandora.

It's all happening here in Pandora.
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As a human, the majority of your objectives will revolve around taking out and disturbing Na’vi forces by destroying stuff, while collecting crystal shards that make ‘harmonics’. The significance of these is explained in-game. Played from the third person view, the actual gameplay has you equipped with several powerful guns, such as assault rifles, shotguns, flamethrowers and grenade launchers, as well as a variety of vehicles, both land and air. You also have mech-like AMP suits, but the opportunities to use them are rare. Given the weapons at your disposal, and one less level to play, the human campaign would be considered a bit easier. However, there is an extra branching choice further in the game.

As an Avatar, the majority of your objectives will revolve around taking out and disturbing RDA forces by destroying stuff, while collecting crystal shards that make ‘harmonics'... Hmm... Ok, so maybe the two campaigns aren’t that different. Still, we digress. Also played from the third person view, your Avatar weaponry is much more primitive, being mainly bows and melee weapons, and your vehicles are rather ‘organic’ in nature. Then again, you are much bigger than the humans. The Avatar campaign has an extra level thrown in to attempt some story and character development and it will also take longer than the human campaign. The human campaign takes upwards of seven hours, while the Na’vi campaign takes upwards of eight hours (some reviews state four hours for each, but this isn’t possible), though this is before you start slogging through the extra objectives.

Avatar cannot be discussed without mentioning the environment. Pandora is covered by a luscious and enormous jungle, interspersed with human ‘influenced’ areas. Ideally, what the developers seemed to be going for was open warfare, where you’d traverse the jungle and be caught in various dispersed skirmishes. And too an extent, this is realised. Unfortunately, there are too many times where these seem arbitrary. Particularly when neither side seem to be doing any damage, nor does the AI seem to have any semblance of thought or strategy. A lot of it just seems random, rather than an endearing conflict. It’s also a typical Rambo situation, where you will go in and do most of the damage yourself.

It's raining banshees.

It's raining banshees.
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The game has an objective-based mission system that rewards you with experience points and levels. Levelling up earns new and better weapons, better armour and skills. Both the humans and Avatars have differently named skill sets, but they provide similar benefits. Each has healing capabilites, damage increases, armour increases, speed boosts and invisibility, all which can be used whenever the required meter is full. While this is a well considered addition, you’ll likely find that most of the skills aren’t needed or used much. In truth, this can be said about a lot of aspects of the game though.

While there are a lot of good ideas, Avatar suffers from numerous micro faults and one major detractor. Some of the smaller things include a nasty routine of constantly throwing enemies at you from behind, which can get really frustrating, as well as sloppy and unresponsive controls. However, the big killer for Avatar is, like so many licensed games, that it’s a glorified fetch quest. You will spend the entire game following waypoints after some has told you to go to them. This would have been bearable had it not been for the thoughtless structure and poor design that dictates way too much backtracking and lengthy wondering, seemingly done for artificial lengthening.

On top of the single player campaigns, you have the RDA vs. Na’vi themed multiplayer. Unlike Blue vs. Red or Locust vs. COGs, there are actual differences between the two sides, which is a plus. Each of the five modes though, is dedicated to team play, and there are ten maps to choose from. Each side can have up to eight players, giving a total of sixteen. You’ll get access to all the gear and weapons of the single player, as well as the skills. The multiplayer is a solid addition to the game, that is in the least, contextually relevant. Unless you and a bunch of friends really like Avatar though, good luck finding a game.

Where can I get me some more of those suits?

Where can I get me some more of those suits?
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Unfortunately, PALGN does not have the resources to test out the use of 3D in Avatar. However, all reports are that you’re in for a treat if you do have a 3D capable TV or monitor. Given the game’s visuals, we can imagine this being the case. On the flipside though, you wouldn’t buy a 3D TV just to see how Avatar looks, especially since it doesn’t play as well as you would have liked it to. Speaking of the visuals, the jungles of Pandora are look excellent. The undergrowth is thick and can make seeing enemies difficult, while the trees are huge and seem like they reach the sky. While the natural environments are luscious and vibrant, the human built areas are dull and sterile, but this somewhat fits with the game’s themes.

This part of the 3D would look great, but the finer details, such as the character models, animations and physics leave a bit to be desired. Not to mention, the game seems to be constantly chugging along with a discernable lack of fluidity. In terms of sound, apparently some of the actors from the movie are retained, but none seem to make a great impact or to stick around too long. Unfortunately, with the awful dialogue, they don’t have much to work with either. The music is a mix of epic orchestral tracks and jungle themed music, but there isn’t much to be said about the atmosphere that it creates, as it doesn’t always compliment the visuals.

As mentioned from the outset, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game really should have been better. It had a lot of the necessary ideas, it had a lot of the time and it has a great premise. It is by no means, a terrible game like Terminator: Salvation. Unfortunately, it’s gone the way of most movie titles. In failing to execute its ideas, we’re left with bloated fetch quest that struggles for meaning and identity. Sure, the use of 3D technology is certainly an interesting hook for those that already have access to it, but you wouldn’t buy such a TV or monitor just to play the game. For now, we’re still left to wait for a time when licensed games will do justice to their source material.
The Score
James Cameron's Avatar: The Game had everything it needed to be a great game, but a poor execution leaves us with a bloated fetch quest. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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12 Comments
4 years ago
Seeing the movie in 3D in Gold Class this saturday night. Should be epic!

This game on the other hand, is probably an enjoyable rental. If people still rent games?
4 years ago
Any word on exactly what tech is required to view the game in 3D? I read on Wikipedia that you need to have a 120Hz TV with an HDMI connection (as well as the stereoscopic glasses) in order to do it.
4 years ago
That's what the Tiger game on XBox Live Arcade requires (although it has red/blue 3d as well) for stereoscopic.
4 years ago
You need an actual 3D capable TV from what I read. Our normal TV's with 3D glasses won't work.

(The Tiger game uses red/blue and is bloody terrible quality 3D)
4 years ago
According to this piece of paper that was sent with the game, it says that the TV or monitor has to be "3D-enabled". The game doesn't come with glasses, as you'll need whatever is specific to your TV.

Mind you, the PC version apparently supports "NVIDIA 3D Vision, iZ3D and dual head formats" (I don't know what that mean, I'm console noob icon_razz.gif).
4 years ago
nVidia 3D vision is probably for the PC version. You require the stereoscopic glasses, an adapter and a 120+hz capable monitor. For just console/TV play, you need the glasses and 120hz set only.

Mind you it's quite expensive, especially in the TV department. The cheapest method is to get a monitor that supports 120hz, such as this, however that one supports 1680x1050 res max. You'll need one with an HDMI input in order to use it for consoles.

More info on PC based 3D-vision here. TVs that support 3D require 120hz, but yeah, pricey.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
You need an actual 3D capable TV from what I read. Our normal TV's with 3D glasses won't work.

(The Tiger game uses red/blue and is bloody terrible quality 3D)
Tiger game has both options, it's just 99% of people will be using the red/blue variety becuase we don't have another few thousand dollars to spend on tv equipment seeing as we JUST spent a few thousand on our current HD getups.

My only response to this "3D" stuff is that technology can go **** itself.
4 years ago
I played this at eGames. Terrible.

My friend thought it was the absolute beez kneez.

I lol'd at him.
4 years ago
Sin Ogaris wrote
My only response to this "3D" stuff is that technology can go **** itself.
Amen to that. Until you can do 3D without the stupid glasses, I'm not interested.
4 years ago
Party poopers. icon_razz.gif Whether it requires glasses or not, 3D is still pretty cool imo. Thanks for clearing that up Denny. I've been interested in finding out for sure as my Grandma (yes, Grandma) has a 120Hz TV which could be handy.
4 years ago
3D is cool, I just think it's a bit of a **** move on manufacturers part to smash out all these "Full HD" tv's that now need to be upgraded becuase they don't do 120hz refresh rate. It'd be different if they cost a few hundred bucks but for some people we're talking a few THOUSAND bucks, so I stand by my statement.
4 years ago
After seeing the movie it is realllllllyyyy disappointing that this game is nothing other than average, as after the film, you can see one hell of an amazing game with the effort.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  3/12/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Publisher:
  UBI Soft
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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