UbiSoft – James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game review

middle-of-the-road game of the most expensive film of all time
Photo of UbiSoft – James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game

Most gamers would feel that they almost have a human obligation to be cynical here. Avatar is the game of one of the biggest and most ambitious blockbuster movies of all time, and certainly a movie looking like the most expensive too.

It’s already roped in a Leona Lewis song to help claw back a few million quid, and thus it’s an inevitability that you’re going to get a tie-in game, too. Add in the old – and usually true – adage of big movies rarely making great games, and the recipe here doesn’t look promising.

Yet while James Cameron’s Avatar is no rival for something like The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, there’s at least the feeling here that somebody bothered, that someone has tried to put together an interesting if hardly ground-breaking game.

Graphically very good, if you choose the RDA campaign it kicks off with your character arriving at a posh base on the planet Pandora, where after a bit of running around corridors you get the gumph about having an avatar of yourself created to send into combat.

That’s assuming you do choose to take the RDA’s side: Avatar allows you to take the other side too, as one of Pandora’s native Na’Vi inhabitants. The side you choose does have repercussions for the game you play, with the RDA offering a more action-packed, Gears Of War-esque approach, while the Na’Vi is less reliant on guns and far more skilled at close combat.

Either way, you’ll spend much of the game taking on small quests which primarily seem designed to get you moving around the game world, earning experience points (to spend on uninspiring enhancements) and gradually building up your capabilities. There’s nothing radical to the main mechanics of the game at all, with unimaginative objectives and fairly routine tasks to perform. If you’ve played any third person action game in the past couple of years, you’ll be well versed in the drill.

The RDA has the better campaign, primarily because the game’s camera and control system handles traditional weapon-based action better than the hand-to-hand stuff. Whichever you choose to head through, Avatar does offer a mixture of side quests too, with other little distractions to keep you busy.

But the game itself is simply a lot more routine than it should be. The game world that it’s based in is genuinely impressive, and we had a lot of fun exploring the surface of Pandora and seeing just how good a job had been done in bringing it to life. Yet at best it was reasonably diverting to play a game in the midst of it. Sure, we enjoyed blasting seven shades out of things, but that’s been done elsewhere and better.

We do give Avatar this, though. If you looked at the game expecting a staid cash-in, it’s certainly not that. There’s some ambition here, even if the final product doesn’t really gel satisfactorily enough to take advantage of it. But you will still get some value out of it, and it does throw plenty at the wall in an attempt to entertain and entice you. It just struggles to justify more than a day or two of your time.

Company: UbiSoft

A terrific game world with a middling game sat in the middle of it. Better than you might be expecting, though.