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Avatar: The Game - Pandora: The World
on 7 February 2010
There are many reviews available for this game and many different opinions. I believe there are two different people who will play this game. 1) Fans of the Avatar movie. 2) Those simply looking for a good game. If you are looking for a good game, you might not necessarily find it here. However if you are completely besotted by the world of Pandora and want more, this is the game for you. Avatar: The Videogame, is set two years before the events of the movie and tells a completely unique story. You have the chance to play as human, human in an avatar body and Na'vi.
The storyline is completely separate from the movie so don't expect to see Jake or Neytiri in this game. However minor cameo appearances are made by Dr Grace Augustine, Colonel Miles Quaritch and Trudy Chacon, all voiced by their movie counterparts.
The player character, "Able" Ryder, is a Signals Specialist (SigSpec) sent to Pandora as part of the Avatar program. The first hour of the game will see you complete various small tasks for the RDA while learning several key elements such as combat or vehicle driving. You also get to try out your avatar body as well, to get a feel for your new blue skin. Eventually, after a series of events, you will be presented with a dilemma and you must chose to side with either the gun toting humans or the arrow shooting Na'vi.
Either way, the story concerns Able Ryder (Who can have any one of twelve diferent male or female appearances on starting the game) collecting shards of unobtanium and using them to tune several musical willow trees in order to find the ancient well of souls, a dormant site with great power. Obviously the Na'vi want you to protect it and the RDA campaign would have you control it. The storyline isn't the game's winning feature and sadly it all feels as if the developers simply threw it in last minute as something for you to do whilst on Pandora. Some elements of the story don't feel consistent with the established Avatar universe but can mostly be overlooked.
Gameplay divides when you choose your side. The Na'vi are mostly staff and knife melee based while the RDA humans use nothing but guns. I personally feel that the Na'vi campaign is more fun to play. Running up to a tiny human and chopping him up or stalking from a distance to put an arrow in his head is great fun. However the RDA campaign lacks this balance, there are a variety of guns, but all mostly useless when the Na'vi are standing on top of you as humans have no melee option. The Na'vi are definitely harder to kill as a human. As Na'vi, the world of Pandora is mostly forgiving and the creatures tend to leave you alone, but there are humans swarming everywhere. However as a human, the moon's hostility is evident. Plants attack with acid sap, viperwolves constantly hunt you and the odd Thanator may jump out and try to devour you whole.
There is a wide variety of vehicles that can be driven/riden, although the humans have more available. Na'vi can ride Ikran (Banshees) and the Direhorse, as well as the Toruk (Great Leonopteryx) which seems to completely ignore the established movie canon. The human vehicles are plentiful and quite easy to drive. There's anything from the AMP suit right up to the massive Dragon gunship. There's nothing quite like flying amidst the Halleluiah Mountains in a Scorpion or atop your own Ikran.
Most of the missions however will have you running about the generous sized maps in search of an objective before running all the way back to the person who made you do it. There is a lot of travelling and not a lot of variation. It consists mostly of go there, shoot them and come back. Now and then a vehicle section or boss battle may break up the monotony but these are scattered and too few. There is an option to teleport to previous destinations but they aren't always very well placed. The RDA campaign seems more structured and driven while the Na'vi campaign can leave you wondering just what you are supposed to be doing.
There is also an XP system with a metre that fills with the more you kill. The more XP you get, the more "skills" you acquire. Skills give you a variety of powers for a short period of time, including increased damage, air strikes, invisibility or even calling a friendly Nantang (Viperwolf) to fight for you. These skills can help to spice the combat up and can save your life in some instances.
There is a pretty cool feature called the Pandorapedia, which has articles on every single element of the Avatar universe. The player can add these elements by "scanning" each item as they find it, including characters. The information will be displayed in the Pandorapedia by viewing the pause menu. This isn't a very well documented feature and I managed to completely miss it until halfway through my second play through!
Each level is huge and there is a wealth of detail. The graphics won't win any awards but the world of Pandora looks stunning despite this. Every plant, animal and bizarre rock formation from the movie is in there and it is evident that James Cameron had a hand in the design procedure. Everything is crafted beautifully and looks just like it did in the film. The humans aren't looking too good and the likenesses of movie characters are doubtful but the scenery more than makes up for it. The creatures are fantastic, especially the Palulukan (Thanator) and are truly terrible when you have to take them down. And yes, the red spiral plant that Jake touches in the movie, is in the game too. It's just as much fun to touch it and watch it shoot into the ground!
You'll get the opportunity to explore areas from the movie too, including Hells Gate, Iknimaya and Hometree. Hells Gate looks good and within you'll see the avatar link chambers, command room (Where Selfridge was in the movie, not in the game though) and the AMP suit bay (Where Jake met Colonel Quaritch in the movie). They are mostly useless and provide nothing more than fan service, but each one is meticulously crafted and a joy to view.
The game soundtrack isn't bad but it's no James Horner. I bought the official soundtrack and ripped it to my Xbox 360 HDD and played that while I played the game. The 360 replaces the game music with the playing music so you still hear sound effects and voices as normal, it improved the experience no end and really helped to make me feel like I was in Pandora once more. Try playing "Jake's first flight" when you first ride an Ikran, or play "Climbing Iknimaya - The stairway to Heaven" when starting the Iknimaya level. You won't regret it!
Overall this game does nothing inherently wrong, but neither does it blind anyone with its innovation or originality. It's a good solid third person action/adventure game and fun to play for maybe a couple of hours. There is some replay value however as you will want to complete both campaigns, despite not necessarily wanting to kill the beautiful Na'vi (I sure didn't!) However if you have seen the movie more than three times and can't get enough of Pandora, this game is a perfect substitute for those times when you need to feed your addiction and can't get to the big screen.