numbthumb's James Cameron's Avatar: The Game (Xbox 360) review

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game Review


James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game Review

Xbox 360, PS3

Say what you want about game tie-ins to movie franchises, and so long as it’s negative you’d likely be right.  If Avatar: The Movie is supposed to revolutionize the way we see films then coming out with this game two weeks before release doesn’t keep with the standard of change. It’s hard not to award points for certain aspects of the game, mind you, but too much holds this back from escaping the very average.

You play as Abel Ryder, an RDA signal specialist recruited to help your company in efforts to harvest a rare mineral called unobtanium, on the moon Pandora. A harder task than it sounds, due to the harsh toxic climate, and the inhabitants, the Na’vi, which look to stand in your way. While this is a slightly different tale than the film, it all takes place in the same location and grants you the choice to take part in the Avatar program, whereby your DNA is blended with that of a Na’Vi and you can roam the lands as a ten foot native. A choice comes quick, however, of whether to continue the pillage as the RDA or go rouge as your Avatar and join with the Na’Vi to protect the homeland. It’s here that issues begin to show themselves.

As the RDA the game is a pretty standard over the shoulder third person shooter, with various guns to suit your needs. As your Avatar, you’re relegated to mainly close melee combat, with the option of a Bow or machine gun for ranged combat that doesn’t seem to work as smoothly as the RDA counterpart. Each side’s campaign takes about 5 hours to complete, with some sector side quests that add very little extra time to either campaign and are considerably easy to achieve without really trying.

The story itself is muddled, and doesn’t elaborate on anything besides the quests themselves which are the same from start to finish. You collect rocks, you blow stuff up, and you protect ground. That’s it, and that’s all. A little Pandora encyclopedia in the main menu fills you in on some particulars about creatures, plants, and RDA machinery in the world, but you gain nothing by paying attention to it. It’s obvious someone spent a lot of time, likely James Cameron, in painting this world, but there’s far better ways they could have used this all in the actual gameplay.

Conquest mode, which you can take part in, is a Risk type minigame where you try to conquer Pandora. Through experience points you receive money for units to build and send out over sections of the map. Conquering areas gives you in game bonuses like better armor, but none of this is noticeable. You could blaze through the game without even knowing it’s there. You can strike it up as just another missed opportunity, because there’s an addictive element to these types of games when they directly impact the world around you, but here’s there’s no effect.

Experience points work into the main game, but even this becomes an unwanted side dish to the main course. You receive trivial points for kills of plants and enemies, with the main chunk coming from missions. With each level you get upgraded skills, armor and weapons. You don’t get to choose which upgrades you receive, and it just auto-upgrades anything you’ve already slotted for use, so once again no difference comes from this feature, not one you’ll notice.

The world of Pandora is at times quite breathtaking, and feels like a beautiful landscape pitch perfect for a game like this. Ubisoft seems to have underutilized the value of it though. A more in depth story with interactive NPC’s could have really kept you wandering around and exploring, heck, even some collectibles would have been welcome in a game like this. The rigid sub-standard action doesn’t evolve enough or warrant any of this though and that’s a shame.

Multiplayer action, if that’s your thing, is offered here, with some standard match types to choose from. The unbalanced nature of the RDA marines and the Na’Vi form a terribly unenthusiastic experience though. One is a close combat fighter, the other a ranged specialist, and given the stiff controls while playing as the Na’Vi you’ll likely be dead before you can reach any semi-intelligent marine player who knows to hold his ground and fire.

When Ubisoft made a big deal about having more than the usual development time given to movie tie-in games, it was hard not to expect something better than this. Fans anticipating the movie no doubt want to check this game out, and that’s fine. It’s not terrible, and there’s enough wonder in the world of Pandora alone to qualify a rental of this game. But don’t be mistaken, this is a very average game that screams ‘missed opportunity’ at every juncture.

The Story: Departing from the movies storyline isn’t a terrible choice since it’s clear this universe is ripe with possibility. But what you get instead is a mailed in, by the numbers action story fit for budget titles, Not Avatar.  5/10

The World: I wanted to see more, I wanted to have more places to explore, and things to discover. The world can be engrossing because it’s so well imagined. But It feels like Avatar: The Game only scratches the surface. 8/10

The Combat: The RDA side is competent, if underwhelming. The Na’Vi portion is a train wreck, too stiff to make the melee action any fun. Vehicles are unnecessary for most of the game. 6/10

The Multiplayer: Pretty standard fare here, and that’s okay. If you like this game you’ll get some use out of it. I had no problem finding matches at any time. I did find almost everyone tried to skip over to the marines though…so what’s that tell you? 6/10

The Use of Title: It’s a game tie-in to a potentially massive film. This could be a franchise. But if this is the start they’ll be in need of a reboot immediately. Hyping your title for the time you have to develop and then offering something you expect out of a no-name, no hype game is a huge let down. You could argue the movie is average, and we won’t know for two weeks…but I can’t imagine James Cameron phoning it in as much as Ubisoft seems to have here. 5/10


DISCLOSURE: If your TV is 3D enabled there is a feature to play the game that way, I did not have that luxury.

Posted by MrCellophane

Great review, great descriptions. Keep it up!

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