Published on November 22nd, 2009 | by prime0
Avatar – Game Preview
By now. You’ve probably seen the trailer of James Cameron’s 3D opus, the laudably ambitious Avatar, but you may not be aware of the videogame tie-in. after s strong showing at this year’s E3 (on a 103-inch 3D plasma screen, no less), we have been fortunate enough to spend extensive hands-on time in bizarre alien world of Pandora. And it’s a very strange place indeed.
Ubisoft Montreal has worked closely with 20th Century Fox and Cameron himself to ensure that the gorgeous flora and utterly fantastical fauna from the world of Avatar has been brought to life. Certainly, after a brief but underwhelming tutorial sequence that’ll probably only make sense after seeing the movie, we’re thrust into the shoes of a very capable soldier, and into one of the most deceptively hostile game worlds yet conceived.
Deceptive, because it looks so damn lovely. There’s vibrancy to the greens and blues that highlight almost everything you see, but behind the beauty lies serious danger. Fellow soldiers warn of plants that can take off limbs, and that’s before you encounter the wolf-life enemies of the opening battle. Let alone the giant Elephant/Rhino/Alien/nightmare that ended up killing us.
From a purely functional point of view, Avatar is a Gears of War-style cover shooter, with the appropriate amount of rolling about on the floor, sliding behind low walls and firing at anything that moves. Even in the early stages though, it feels like it has a touch more class than some of the ropier Gears wannabes of recent years. Aside from the visuals, which are indeed lovely, there’s a good weight to the characters, and weapons feel meaty enough to puncture holes in alien-animal torsos.
It’s the exploration side of Avatar that sets it apart from the pack, though. An early mission asks you to take command of a slightly unwieldy buggy, and hurtle through the jungle to fix some communication beacons. Nothing new there then, but it’s what you see on the way that makes it interesting. If you’re not distracted by the plant-life that’s doing everything in its power to kill you, then taking a wrong turn and finding yourself face-to-face with the aforementioned Rhino-beast is enough to awaken even the most cynical shooter fan. We’re not going to lie to you folks; it was a genuinely scary experience.
And if it’s fear you’re after, then surely the myriad 3D options can only enhance an already oddly unsettling experience. Basically, if you’re one of the few people on the planet to actually own a 3D-compatible TV, then Avatar supports almost any mode you could care to mention. Reports from E3 suggest the results are spectacular.
As with any game that throws so much at you in its early stages, there’s the fear that it won’t maintain the pace, and while Avatar’s shooting is stronger than say, Terminator Salvation’s it isn’t going to challenge Gears or GTA in the low-walled battle stakes. It’s all about variety. If Ubisoft Montreal, and indeed the visionaries behind the movie, can throw enough interesting sights and scenarios our way, then Avatar will definitely earn the right to call itself a movie tie-in with substance. Until then, we’ll be living in fear of the Rhino-beast. He’s in our dreams now.