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Vitals – System: Xbox360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS, PSP//Release date: December 1st, 2009//Genre: Action//Developer: Ubisoft//Publisher: Ubisoft
Avatar is trying to break the mold of movie based games which are usually the crap of the crap. Given that this game is based on the movie will undoubtedly make you think it is garbage and not worth your money. Ubisoft has been working on this game and trying to break this mold for about two years. Having created a unique world with intense conflict, moral choices and lots of explosions, does James Cameron’s Avatar game continue the tradition of movie based games, or does it stand out on top?
The game throws you in the shoes of a young military solider by the name of Ryder. Ryder has been chosen by the RDA to come to the planet of Pandora and use his Avatar in order to learn more about the species, Na’vi, who occupy the planet. The trip from Earth to Pandora takes five years, and Ryder soon finds out things are not as peaceful as they seem. The young soldier arrives in the middle of a heated conflict between the two nations. The RDA want the planet for resources and to remove the Na’vi, however they are not willing to give up the planet without a fight.
Early on in the game you are given a choice of which side to fight for. The decision basically creates two games in one since each side has different missions, weapons and skills. The humans are more focused on technology and shooting everything they possibly can whereas the once peaceful Na’vi use their bows, swords and staves to defend their home world. The story is very poorly told so you never really create an emotional connection with either faction. The story seemed to be very black and white, as it was very obvious the humans seem to be the bad guys and the Na’vi are just trying to protect themselves. I was shocked to find out the only way to learn what the heck is going on in the game, and what the actual Avatar program was, is to read about it in the Pandorapedia. If you have played Mass Effect you will be familiar with Avatar’s Pandorapedia, a vast library of information where you can learn practically anything you want about the game.
The combat is fast paced and fun. You have the ability to carry up to four different guns and skills at any given time. Switching guns is done using the d-pad, and the skills are linked pressing L2 then a face button (on the PS3). There are a number of different weapons and skills to choose from. Some of my favourites include the grenade launcher and the air strike ability which both pack a big punch. Some of the weapons do feel too similar which makes me wonder why some of the weapons even exist. The skills are crucial for combat as the health recovery ability will save your life more than a few times. Skills like berserk (increases damage output) and camouflage (turning you invisible) play to each persons preferences, letting you play how you want.
Completing missions will earn you experience, and once enough has been collected you will be granted new weapons, armour and skills. These levels come fairly often so there is always something new to look forward to. Missions will take you all over the planet providing you with a variety of landscapes. The different areas are fairly large, and for the most part quite easy to navigate and traverse. Load times are frequent, and I do mean all the time. For example, any time you enter a building or a new area there is a load time. This is a problem that should not exist with our generation of consoles.
The areas you will see are mainly jungles and the inside of military complexes, which all look good but not great. The draw distance is fairly shoddy and pop in is very noticeable, which are again things that should not be problematic with the amount of power coming from the consoles. The negatives points aside, the jungles do look alive and lush. The world does feel as if there is a war going on as you will always see battles occurring in the air, or land forces fighting. Pandora is almost believable, but the graphical issues are noticeable enough to take you out of the experience. Ubisoft really wanted to create a game that puts faith back into gamers making us believe movie based games don’t have to suck. Well they are not the first people to prove this to us, Wolverine anyone? Avatar is not a great game, but it is also not a terrible game by any means. There is definite proof that Ubisoft put effort into this game. Did Ubisoft make a game that doesn’t suck? They sure did, but it also gives you mixed signals as it is not perfection either.
Graphics: Looks good, not great – feels like it is missing some spit and polish, nothing to write home about. Draw distance is odd – it lets you see a decent amount of detail in the distance though the pop-in is very obvious and happens very close to you. Framerate issues when a lot happens on screen. No opening cutscene? 7/10
Sound: Character voices have a bit of echo as if they are in an open room. Voice acting can be a hit or miss. Guns sound pretty awesome, love the grenade launcher! BOOM! 6.5/10
Gameplay: Combat is fast, traveling around is fairly easy with vehicles. Story line is hidden within the Pandorapedia. Boss fights are repetitive. 7/10
Lasting Appeal: Both the Humans and Na’vi have their own game, it’s like two games in one! The ability to play either as the Human RDA forces or the Na’vi along with online multiplayer should add up to some serious hours. 8/10