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James Cameron's Avatar: The Game Review

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game pack shot
Genre:Third Person Action
Platform:Playstation 3
Official Site:http://avatargame.uk.ubi.com/
Release Date:December 4th, 2009 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
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"A film 14 years in the making." Yes, all right, but it's only taken that long because Cameron wasn't making films!

As you can probably tell I'm not all that excited about Avatar, what with knowing the entire plot of the film thanks to the spoilerific trailer and it looking like a cross between The Smurfs and Ferngully. Still, after diving into Cameron's huge green planet of Pandora a little early I found a predictable, yet surprisingly decent, Avatar: The Game.

Set shortly before the events of the film, the game centres around 'Ryder' a grunt signals specialist sent to planet Pandora to bolster the forces of the Resource Development Agency (read, US Marine Core.)

Ryder, who can be male or female, then goes on to ignite the war between the humans of the RDA and the native Na'vi tribes of Pandora - 10 feet tall blue skinned humanoids with rudimentary weapon knowledge and tribal tendencies.

Ryder is one of a select group of humans who can take control of an 'avatar', a Na'vi/human hybrid which is controlled via immersion in a control pod - basically the human climbs in and controls the avatar remotely.

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot 1 James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot 2 James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot 3

The plot from there is the very height of predictability, but I still won't give too much away, though the one time you're expected to make a decision on which side to join in the civil war, the developers took pains to paint the RDA as the villains of the piece, so it's pretty much made for you anyway.

The game itself is a third-person run-and-gunner, either playing as Ryder himself, armed and armoured with RDA heavy weaponry and a selection of war machines (including a walker that looks like its stolen from Matrix Revolutions) or as a Na'vi warrior, who comes with a bow (which is somehow more devastating than a human shotgun), and a rather nifty pair of short swords.

The Na'vi can also ride on one of Pandora's plethora of animals, be it the flying banshee or the surprisingly cute direhorse, as well as having the ability to jump ridiculously high.

The human and Na'vi also have a selection of special powers at their disposal. The human can use a stunner to scare off the viperwolves, or can turn invisible on command. Playing as a Na'vi gives you the power to run at high speed and heal when hurt, among others.

These powers can be levelled up by gaining experience points through completing missions or killing enemies (or anything if you side with the RDA - the company doesn't like Pandora's fauna much.) This is where the game starts to fall down a bit. While a film tie-in game is never expected to be much, Avatar's campaign has an appalling number of go-here-do-that missions, or missions that see you collecting a certain number of plant samples - joy.

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot 4 James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot 5 James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot 6

Getting around is also an issue. While the RDA or Na'vi can access a large number of vehicles or animals, the control scheme for riding/using them is extremely oversensitive and very frustrating, particularly the banshee, whose flying controls are more likely to see you fly into a mountainside than land in a safe landing area.

The on-foot controls are a little simpler however, and there's a decent selection of weaponry available which keeps each fire-fight that little bit more fresh. Coupled with the main game is the 'conquest' minigame, which is sort of a take on the Total War series without the battles, as the player moves units from area to area on a map of Pandora, aiming to eradicate the opposition. It's simple but effective, and a welcome relief from the tedium of some of the campaign missions.

Also included in the game is a team-based multiplayer which is decent, if uninspiring. All the usual modes are included, though the Na'vi vs human gameplay seems unfairly simian-biased, leaving the players fighting as the Na'vi hopelessly outgunned.

The game itself is pretty good looking. The developers have made good use of the PS3's abilities, rendering Pandora in all its leafy green loveliness. The game even includes an extensive 'Pandorapedia', with articles for just about everything in the game, and indeed the movie - so big fans have something to enjoy there.

The water effects were particularly nice, and cruising along a Pandoran canal can be quite enjoyable just for the experience, even if one of the thousands of Pandoran carnivorous plants is trying to eat you at the time.

The voice acting is atrocious however. The NPC's have all the emotion of a pile of dead viperwolves, and Ryder himself (or herself) is as flat as a pancake and sounds as if the actor just couldn't be bothered and said the words as fast as possible before asking for his or her paycheck.


All in all, Avatar: The Game is pretty decent for a film tie-in, if not anything particularly special or mind-blowing. Fans of the film are sure to find something fun in the absurd amount of detail included in the game, but it's just not enough to entertain a seasoned gamer for long. It is good for a couple of hours at best, if you can ignore the flat voice acting and boring missions.

The bottom line
6.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Nice graphics
  • Amazingly big Pandorapedia
  • One for fans of the film

Not so good stuff

  • Dull plot
  • Dull missions

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