As boring as it was listening to James Cameron talk about Avatar: The Game at E3 for roughly 25 minutes without actually showing anything, I now realise he wanted to give us the emotional experience of playing the game.
You begin by being exited, expecting something really special and as the time goes by you start to think that it is not going to happen but hold onto hope. Then finally at the end when it was over and he exited the stage you felt bored, frustrated and like your time had just been wasted. That pretty much sums up my experience with the game.
I cannot remember the last time I struggled to get through a game as much as this one. I wish I could say better things but the truth is the game is boring, frustrating and has almost no redeeming features
You are a human soldier wanting to extract valuable resources from the moon of Pandora. However, the native Na’vi do not take kindly to the damage you are doing. Long story short, you are able to control a Na’vi body (your Avatar) and early on in the game will have to choose a side; Human or Na’vi.
On the human side of things you get a lot of different types of gun and vehicles. The Na'vi get bows, melee weapons and animals to ride. Humans play like a more traditional third-person shooter, whilst the Na'vi add some melee to things. Both sides have various skill powers you can use, such as going invisible for a few seconds, quickly healing yourself or calling in a swarm of insect to kill everything around you. Each of these powers has a cooldown so you need to choose wisely when to use them in combat.
The combat is extremely chaotic in Avatar. A lot of the time you will be shot at from multiple directions, but you'll have no clue where any of the enemies are. They do not show up on your minimap and are actually quite difficult to see in the environment. You will also spend a lot of time swinging the camera around trying desperately to get a bead on your target. The controls, I am sad to say, are a mess and will cause you to die often. Luckily there are many checkpoints scattered around the level; so while dying will never set you back too far, it still is not much fun to do it over and over again.
Getting back to the skills, there are some roleplaying (RPG) elements to be found in Avatar. You gain experience for almost anything you do. Eventually (when you finish certain missions) you will level up and gain access to new skills and weapons. I should point out that there is no choice here; each skill and weapon upgrade is dictated by the game. While you may choose which weapons or skills to equip you will never decide which one you will want to get next. This is a shame, because it would have given the game a bit more flexibility and allowed you to figure the skill out at your own pace.
This is a common problem I found with the game; the lack of any real tutorial. For a game with so many features, almost nothing is explained to you. You will have these skills; however you don't know why or how you got them or when best to use them. They simply are, and you must figure it all out on your own... during chaotic and frustrating combat I should add.
The level design and quests also need a lot of work. Waypoints on your map do not always do a good enough job showing you how to get there, and the quests look like they were taken right out of World of Warcraft. Most are boring fetch quests that require you to go collect/kill five of these and ten of those. They do a poor job of developing the story (not much of a story anyway) and are boring. Really boring.
You will also spend time using vehicles or riding animals, and once again the controls do a fantastic job of ruining any sense of fun that might have been there. You will fly, drive and ride into walls... a lot. The flying controls in particular I found difficult. Going straight is fine, but when having to turn and move up or down, it was a disaster. This is a shame, because when flying through the world you could see just how beautiful it all is.
Avatar is a good looking game, especially at night. The beautiful colours really bring the jungle to life. Unfortunately it all starts looking very much the same towards the end so the lack of different environments begins to hurt the experience. If you happen to be lucky (and rich) enough to afford a TV with 3D capability, then Avatar has you covered with a 3D mode.
Sound is not as lucky as the graphics though, as the voice acting is just bad. Most of the characters are stereotypes you will not care about who sound bored or unfazed by whatever is happening most of the time.
There can be quite a bit happening too, just nothing that special. I get the feeling the developers were going for some big moments in the game, but their reach was a little bigger than their grasp. Nothing feels or is as epic as the game makes it seem it should be. This is a shame because you can see they had a few good ideas, but they're not executed well.
A perfect example of this is Conquest Mode. This is, essentially a Risk style turn-based strategy game you can play. Anything you do in the game earns credits you may spend to buy units in order to conquer territories around Pandora. Capturing these territories gives you in-game bonuses such as extra experience or damage. It is a nice idea and can be fun, however, it is not tied into the main game at all really and you could easily go the entire game without ever looking at it.
Another thing I imagine few will try is the multiplayer. While the idea of having two, quite drastically different sides to play is appealing and actually balanced well, it is not much fun. A lot of this comes back to the poor controls and the fact that combat in Avatar in general is uninspired. With so many great multiplayer games currently out I imagine very few people will give this a try.
Avatar: The Game is the perfect example of jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It has all the features that popular games have; RPG elements, third-person combat, special powers, two different campaigns, multiplayer with two unique sides to play and even a turn-based strategy game to boot. The sad reality however, is that none of these are done well at all. The RPG elements are tacked on and you level up when you achieve a certain point in the game. The upgrades are given to you without you getting to choose what you would like. The combat is chaotic and frustrating, the powers aren't tied into things and some of their cooldowns are too long. Both campaigns are boring with characters that are uninteresting in every way. Finally, we have conquest mode, which is a nice idea but not tied in with the rest of the game or explained well enough to really matter.
Perhaps if Ubisoft focused on just a few of these features, instead of trying to cram it all in, this may have been a better title - we will never know. As it stands, it is your typical movie tie-in. Fingers crossed the actual movie is a lot better, it sure look like it is.