James Cameron's Avatar: The Game • Page 3

Purple pain.

The AI's flimsiness also spreads into the general set-piece behaviour. Pandora is meant to be at war by the latter stages of the game, binding you tighter to your chosen path - but in practice you can sprint between the yellow markers ignoring most of the ongoing skirmishes, which have no relevance to your story or character development except where specified, and so as the gameworld becomes more congested you feel less a part of it, and even more of an interloper, running between NPCs who stand on the spot waiting for you rather than doing anything else.

Events are also undermined in a couple of fundamental ways, the most surprising of which is that nobody ever explains why the RDA is on Pandora (not even in the "Pandorapedia" in the menus) or why they are using the Avatar programme (it can't be for infiltration - the Na'vi are fully aware of it). The divisive choice that sets you on an RDA or Na'vi path is also rather silly in the cold light of day: you're being asked to choose between people manifestly committing genocide, or the oppressed locals. It's hardly shades of grey. Nor does the writing really support it.

One point of interest is that the campaigns portray key characters from opposing perspectives, but it's too heavy-handed to work. For instance, one RDA officer who instructs you is a hard worker exasperated by troop deaths, or, from the Na'vi perspective, he's a soldier in a mech with a different icon above his head. The dialogue is also clichéd and inadvertently comical, particularly on the Na'vi side, where the person speaking broken English peppers it with unpronounceable Na'vi words like "Wdeasdjkng", and then translates them into things like "The First Voice". Ryder doesn't help. At one point my (female) version responded: "me no hablo Na'vi". That's not funny, that's a bit...

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It's third-person, but your character is positioned slightly to the left of centre, and this means you often end up firing arrows or bullets into rocks you're accidentally behind.

Outside the main campaign, there's a Risk-inspired meta-game where you invest XP in buying units to take over territory. It's a novelty initially, but it's mostly about coming back at intervals to stack a particular area with overwhelming numbers and then click on the adjacent one, so it doesn't hold your attention for long. There are also regular multiplayer modes - Team Deathmatch, CTF, Capture and Hold, King of the Hill and Final Battle (destroy enemy locations before they reach yours), and to be fair, I didn't get to try these pre-release. It's also fair to say, however, that the combat is sufficiently poor that it would not be able to support compelling gameplay in these generic modes.

Investigating these things on my way out of Pandora for the last time made it all the more disappointing, because as you run around the world itself it's evident how well put together it is. It may be a bit silly with its giant bats and weirdo rhinos, but it's a beautiful place, and that gully and waterfall bit over there would make a great set-piece, and that cliffside section is very atmospheric, and so on. Pandora could well lend itself to a great film, and would lend itself fabulously well to a good third-person action game. Unfortunately, despite Ubisoft providing two third-person action games here for the price of one, both of them are dull and forgettable.

5 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy James Cameron's Avatar: The Game Tom Bramwell Purple pain. 2009-12-01T17:00:00+00:00 5 10 Follow Eurogamer.net on Steam to get more PC game recommendations

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