Giant Bomb Review

43 Comments

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game Review

2
  • X360

Playing this mediocre tie-in shooter might make you want to skip James Cameron's latest movie completely.


 The mystical Na'vi aren't a ton of fun to play...
I learned more about James Cameron's forthcoming sci-fi epic Avatar from watching the film's three-minute trailer than I did in a dozen hours of playing its mediocre tie-in action game. Effectively conveying Cameron's new, elaborate fiction isn't the only thing Avatar: The Game does poorly; it also fails to provide smooth performance, a rich variety of alien backdrops to explore, or third-person shooting action equal to even the average entries in the genre. The game's core framework isn't aggressively bad, with a thoughtfully designed element here or there that feels like it belongs in a better game, but every aspect of the execution is lousy enough that the cumulative experience is not a good one.

Like the new movie, Avatar: The Game splits the action between the materialistic, militaristic future humans trying to pillage the copious resources of the fantastic moon Pandora, and the mystical indigenous blue Na'vi desperately defending their homeland. Two years before the movie takes place, you're a human agent who also happens to be genetically compatible with an "avatar," a lab-grown human/Na'vi hybrid that the DNA donor can then control remotely from the comfort of a pod that looks like a tanning bed. The avatars seem best suited to diplomatic relations with the natives, but they also work in a pinch when you decide to relinquish your humanity and join up with those natives to fight the encroaching corporate interests. (Again, I learned most of this from watching that trailer, since the game thrusts you straight into bland jungle shooting with little preamble.)

 ...but the humans and their guns are no better.
Avatar does a half-hearted, uninteresting job of introducing you to all this business, and after giving you a hackneyed choice in the first area between sticking with the humans or going rogue with the Na'vi, it offers an equally flat campaign across a handful of hours filled with awkward, repetitive action. The humans naturally trade in high-tech guns and vehicles, while the Na'vi focus on earthy melee attacks and mystical means of defense, but neither one is much fun to play for a list of reasons too long to enumerate. Things like clumsy character movement, awful driving controls, tiresome mission objectives, and a horribly inconsistent frame rate are all anathema to a third-person action game, but they all exist in this third-person action game. At one point I fought a major boss whose attack behavior never triggered, so he stood motionless as I emptied clip after clip of ammo into him for two or three minutes until he went down. Avatar fills in the basic action-game checklist, but it's just not a well put-together game.

It's a shame, too, because someone at Ubisoft wanted to add some depth to this game. There's a pretty robust experience and level-up system in here that gradually earns you better weapons and armor, along with a whole host of special abilities, to use in combat. But it's a pain to constantly enter the menu and swap those weapons and abilities in and out, and then, the campaign isn't an entertaining place to use them anyway. Then there's the almost inexplicable inclusion of a "conquest" mode that resembles the board game Risk, where you deploy units to take over abstract territories on the globe of Pandora and reap benefits that apply back to the single-player game. But since the currency in the conquest mode comes from the experience you get in the campaign, it makes it much easier to succeed in conquest after playing most of the campaign, at which point those benefits won't mean much. It's a weird, unfortunate catch-22 situation. More generally, it's pretty faint praise for Avatar that I found this conquest mode one of the more enjoyable segments of the whole game.  
 
Curse you, military-industrial complex! 
I also feel compelled to mention the presence of a multiplayer mode, but only because one is, well, present. The campaign's action is mapped onto a series of perfunctory online modes--capture the flag, king of the hill, and deathmatch among them--that aren't much fun to play at all. I don't care how much balance work was done here; you can't give one team machine guns and powered armor and pit them against another side with clubs and bows, and expect it to be fun. Further consider the nearly complete lack of appropriate matchmaking features and I would recommend you stick to the comparatively entertaining campaign if you do end up in possession of this game.

Avatar is generally a flat-looking game by contemporary standards, but it's worth noting as one of the first games to support a wide array of modern 3D technology. Don't expect to whip out an old '50s pair of red-and-blue glasses to use them, though; you need a new television set equipped with specific 3D hardware to use any of it. If brands like Sensio and RealD mean anything to you, Avatar might make for a novel demo, but don't expect the game itself to be much fun. (Don't count on a few throwaway lines from Sigourney Weaver to enhance the storytelling much, either.)

Fancy whiz-bang 3D effects wouldn't do much to rescue the clunky, mundane action here anyway. Avatar, the film, may indeed advance the art of filmmaking as its tremendous hype has portended--the early reviews at the time of this writing are positive enough, anyway--but Avatar: The Game won't change the poor reputation of movie-licensed games one iota. Brad Shoemaker on Google+
43 Comments
Edited by cstrang

Brad!  Brad's alive! 
 
(Insert sentiment about how the film will not be my cup of tea here).

Posted by inkeiren

I can't help but feel he is biased against the idea of the movie because of the game.

Posted by handlas
@cstrang said:
" Brad!  Brad's alive!   (Insert sentiment about how the film will not be good here). "
game looked like ass and during the quicklook I started doubting the movie would be good as well.  Seems like a stupid concept.  But it has 90+% on rotten tomatoes!
Posted by V_Ben

not entirely unexpected. but still disappointing :-(

Posted by buzz_killington

I rented it because of my interest in the movie, but the very basic mechanics of pointing a gun and shooting feel unsatisfying; although it felt like they put a lot of effort into it.
Posted by Legend

Hopefully, the movie will be better.

Posted by patrick
@inkeiren said:
" I can't help but feel he is biased against the idea of the movie because of the game. "
I think it's the other way around as well. James Cameron must have done something to the GB crew during their youth.
Edited by Rowr

the movie is getting suprisingly good reviews.
 
The tagline on this review is rough, i mean, when was the last good big movie tie in game. Exactly.

Posted by L4wz

I thought it was going to be good :(
Posted by Kenzo287

BAD JAMES CAMERON! You made Brad cry...for shame!

Posted by ADTR_ZERO

Finally!!! Brab is back! I can't wait for the video review!
Posted by Bigandtasty

Yeah, expected a two-star. No matter what you expect of the film, very few expected anything great from the game.

Posted by TooWalrus

I'm glad they let Brad review this game, he and Vinny were the only ones who weren't like "they're blue, fuck this." That said, I wasn't expecting the game to be anything but garbage, like most movie-based games. The movie's been reviewing well.

Posted by Evilsbane

Pretty much what I expected the game NEVER looked promising, but I am still looking forward to the movie.

Posted by Octaslash

Don't mean to pimp other sites, but here's some reviews of the movie. The huge back internet backlash has whipped me into skeptical submission, but it looks like the film might be all right. It's too bad this game probably suffered from time constraints, like other movie games before it.

Posted by Binman88

Demo on PC ran very well and looked extremely nice. Shame the gameplay isn't too great... though it seemed a bit like Lost Planet to me in terms of bullet damage and control, from the small amount of the demo I played.

Edited by buckybit

 3D-Enabled TVs (*tested during development):

- Mitsubishi: WD-57833, WD-65833, WD-73833, WD-60737, WD-65837, WD-82737, WD-60735*, WD-65735, WD-65736, WD-73735, WD-73736, WD-65737, WD-73737, WD-82737, WD-73837, WD-82837, WD-65835, WD-73835, L65-A90.
- Samsung: HL-T5076S*, HL-T5087S, HL-T7288W, HL-T6189S, HL-61A750, HL-72A650, HL-T5089S, HL-T5676S, HL-T5687S, HL-T5689S, HL-T6176S, HL-T6187S, HL61A750, HL67A750, HL50A650, HL56A650, HL61A650, HL72A650.
- Hyundai: S465D*.
- JVC: 463D10*.
 
 3D-Enabled PC Monitors (for use with PC version only; *tested during development):

- All NVIDIA® 3D Vision™* supported PC monitors and TVs available at: (http://www.nvidia.com/object/3D_Vision_Requirements.html)

- Hyundai: W220S, W240S, P240W, S320D.
- Miracube: G240S, G320S, G460X.
- Zalman ZM-M220W.
- iZ3D*: H22OZ1-G01.
 
That's all from the official game forum. 
 
Tech nerds like me used to buy a new graphic/audio card for every new game that needed one (on PC). We buy games just to enjoy the tech. I am also enjoying the environment and the fauna in this game. Remind you, Brad's review is for the Xbox360 version. I think the PC version is not a better game by any means, but more impressive to look at.

Posted by Madyew

And to think James Cameron came out to E3 to promote this game.

Posted by F1

Thanks for the review! I was never overly excited for this game as I am for the movie. The movie looks amazing! I'm going midnight next Thursday! 
 
I still might rent the game if the movie is good!

Edited by SuperSecretAgenda

...What happened to the vague sub-titles that didn't refer to the score. 'But can Modern Warfare 2 live up to the original?' and stuff like that. Now it's just 'This game sucks'?

Edited by Milkman
@patrick said:

" @inkeiren said:

" I can't help but feel he is biased against the idea of the movie because of the game. "
I think it's the other way around as well. James Cameron must have done something to the GB crew during their youth. "
He's an arrogant douche. James Cameron thinks every time he does a new project it's going to "revolutionize the movie industry". He's pretty much the Peter Moleyneux of film making except without the British charm or hilarious balls. It sure looks pretty but the movie seems to have no depth and no heart. It's just CG money making blue people. I'd love for James Cameron to prove me wrong and for Avatar to be spectacular but nothing about anything relating to this movie intrigues me in the slightest bit.
Posted by JeffGoldblum
@inkeiren said:
" I can't help but feel he is biased against the idea of the movie because of the game. "
There is a difference against biased and disliking something.
In fact you are biased FOR the idea because you are defending it before you see the movie or play the game.
This game could get a 5/5 and people like you wouldn't be satisfied.
Online
Posted by StingingVelvet

I thought the demo was a firm OK.  Like a cheap bargain bin shooter to get someday.
Edited by bybeach

patrick..good response. As for Brad, I feel confident as a pro reviewer he gave this game the fair shake. And checking out other reviews, hes not alone, by any means. Being biased cause of the movie is too easy.  Not the first movie to do well as a movie, either.
Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles
@Bigandtasty said:
"Yeah, expected a two-star. No matter what you expect of the film, very few expected anything great from the game. "
Posted by inkeiren
@JeffGoldblum said:

" @inkeiren said:

" I can't help but feel he is biased against the idea of the movie because of the game. "
There is a difference against biased and disliking something. In fact you are biased FOR the idea because you are defending it before you see the movie or play the game. This game could get a 5/5 and people like you wouldn't be satisfied. "
Nonono, see, given the reviews out there, I completely understand giving a 2/5. In fact, if it was given a 5/5, I would complain. He even stated in the review "Playing this mediocre tie-in shooter might make you want to skip James Cameron's latest movie completely".  Whatever the case, I respect Brad's opinion on video games.
Posted by Smoolander

A movie tie in game that is not that great? I am just shocked that something like this could happen. Let me see, testing criteria for development of this game:

  1. Can the player shoot with a degree of accuracy - check
  2. Can the player move around ok - check
  3. there are no game crashing bugs - check
  4. is it fun to play? - wait, I don't see that on the criteria sheet, ignore
Posted by Kohe321

Awesome review Brad.

Posted by Ghostiet
@Milkman said:
" He's pretty much the Peter Moleyneux of film making except without the British charm or hilarious balls. It sure looks pretty but the movie seems to have no depth and no heart. "

Cameron made only one groundbreaking classic, one great sequel and one awesome overall film, so basicly he is nothing compared to the Scott brothers or even Robert Zemeckis, and none of those guys is as pompous. The rest of his portfolio is a good action comedy, awful TV series, a series of movies about religion and "mysteries" that insult the viewer's intelligence, a bad "underwater" flick, a horrible sequel and Piranha II: The Spawning. It's known that he's a total dick on sets, which was confirmed by a couple of actors, crew members and other involved people. Also, he talks shit about killer technology, which is 3D, so he's only recycling ideas and trying to sell them as new ones.

Molyneux, in comparison, has actually groundbreaking concepts and ideas for the video game medium, but always fails to deliver. It's easier to believe he's going to make a game someday that'll totally change our view of video games, than to expect that Cameron will change the way we'll watch films.

Anyway, the game didn't seem SO bad from the Quick Look. Dick Marcinko = Avatar. Awright.

Posted by TwoOneFive

nah, nothing could make me want to skip seeing the movie. sorry brad, but it aint gonna happen. 

Posted by jangofett88

I am almost surprised that this game was even played by the Giant Bomb staff, much less reviewed.

Edited by MeatSim

I think there is a good chance that your game won't be good if it has the subtitle "The Game" in it.

Posted by Jayzilla

Ubi makes solid games. Why couldn't this have been done well? It's almost like the get the movie tie-in payday and mail in the long hours to make the game. I don't think it matters who the developer is for a game made from a movie. They always end poorly it seems.

Posted by Skins
@Ghostiet: I love that. He only made one ground breaking classic. Go find more people that do that. The man is clearly a genius.
Edited by Ghostiet

@Skins: I don't see, for example, Ridley Scott acting like a twat, and he's insanely bigger than Cameron. Not to mention others.

About the "one groundbreaking classic" - on the surface, it sounds ridiculous, yes, and maybe requires rephrasing. But... You remember The Deer Hunter? A groundbreaking classic. Now, would you call Michael Cimino a genius? No.

Cameron thinks he is bigger than he already is. Directing "Legend" does not compare in assness to wasting time on pseudo-scientific "documentaries" and trying to reintroduce an old technology as something totally jazz. Also, fucking Piranhas II (j/k).

Still, if the movie kills me with it's awesomeness, I'll apologize with great satisfaction. Especially after my last adventure with Watchmen - buying the ticket felt like being a kid in a toy store and I was stoked to watch that movie, but after 300 I had literally no expectations for Zack Snyder not to turn the movie into a piece of shit. I walked out of the cinema with a huge banana instead of my smile and I am still running tears of joy after recalling parts of it.

Posted by Yagami

Great review B-Rad! One of my friends had this game and it was not so good at all. Fully agree with you!

Posted by Shadow

I don't get why Giant Bomb picks THIS movie game to constantly hate on when by movie game standards, it's actually good.

Posted by Fawk

The game is fine.  And the only people that would let a game influence whether to see a movie are the clowns at GB that have bagged on this movie for 3 months now.

Posted by FoxMulder

Amazing movie!  Despite the bad reviews I still kinda want to play it just to see some more of the planet Pandora!

Posted by Nettacki
@Rowr: like, Spider-Man 2? Or arguably X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
 
Other than that, I got nuthin'
Edited by Cikatriz

Watching Avatar (the movie), I couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching a game. Not because of the CG or anything, but the pacing, environment, and story all left me with the same vibe I get after a good gaming session. Hell, there was even a boss battle at the end.
 
Did anybody else pick up on that?

Posted by Media_Master

The movie is definitely better than this.

Posted by Jiquk
@Cikatriz: I felt the exact same way about the film.