James Cameron's Avatar: The Game Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC | Wii | PSP | DS
James Cameron's Avatar: The Game box art
System: PS3, X360, PC, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Ubisoft Montreal 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Ubisoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Dec. 1, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

James Cameron once again shoots into the spotlight with his latest blockbuster film, Avatar. Latching onto a mammoth hype machine, the adventure comes home to consoles and PC as well. We jump into the Wii version - MotionPlus and all - and write back with our full report.

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot

Avatar puts you in control of a warrior Na'vi whose homeland (Pandora) has been invaded by plundering humans. In the film, it's easy to see an allegory having to do with natives that are exploited for the precious resources of their land; however, none of the powerful themes of the movie have been effectively translated over to the video game. There's a bit of dialogue here and there, as well as the occasional cutscene, but the presentation, for the most part, is quite frugal. Text between missions does most of the storytelling, and overall, the adventure feels generic and uninspired.

For all intents and purposes, Avatar is a stealth action game, much in the vein of the Tenchu series. The combat here, however, is much more fluid, making enemies generally more manageable when out in the open. It is, on occasion, easier to simply waltz into a human encampment and engage enemies head-on, but stealth will be absolutely crucial in most other areas of the game.

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Play requires both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, with options to incorporate use of the Wii MotionPlus and/or Wii Balance Board. In the case of MotionPlus, it's a sort of double-edge sword that can cause issues with gameplay without actually enhancing the experience all that much.

Movement of your character is controlled with the analog stick; you attack by making swiping gestures with the Wii Remote. With the MotionPlus attached to your controller, attacks are rarely misread, but the reticule - which you will make regular use of - falls easily out of alignment, often making aiming with your bow a clumsy process. Both the A and B buttons are used for multiple purposes, which cause all sorts of additional problems with the controls.

When the controls work, they work fine and often feel fairly satisfying. Though you're doing little more than waggling your Wii Remote to attack, the controller feedback is decent, and again, gestures are read accurately.

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot

When the controls don't work - and that's a good portion of the time - gameplay can be quite frustrating. Your character will automatically enter stealth mode (crouching and lurking slowly) any time an enemy is nearby. It's kind of a neat mechanic, since it both warns you of an enemy's presence, as well as streamlines what has, in other, similar games, required players to fiddle with several buttons simultaneously in order to stay hidden. However, often when you've been discovered by enemies and are required to engage in full-on combat, your character will remain in stealth mode, forcing you to slowly plod toward the enemy. When you're being riddled with gunfire and/or RPG rounds, it can mean a cheap and untimely death.

Jumping, climbing, and vaulting are all handled in like fashion, each with similar results. You'll routinely be forced to fumble around, trying to find a sweet spot in order to simply climb atop some box or ledge. Thankfully, these sorts of activities don't play too heavily into the action of stealth kills or all-out combat. Since jumps are handled for you after pushing a button, collision detection is never accurate when moving from one platform to another.

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot

The adventure moves along a linear path, comprised of individual missions. By pressing the C button on the Nunchuk, your character will automatically face the direction of your next objective, as well as gain sight of nearby traps and enemies. You can lock onto enemies by holding the Z button, but it can sometimes force the camera into awkward positions that obstruct your view.

Your main weapon throughout the game is a staff, but you'll also acquire a bow early on in the adventure. Use of the bow is an enjoyable device that helps keep the stealth action from moving along too slowly. Again, MotionPlus is more of a minus in terms of using the pointer functionality, and since melee combat doesn't benefit greatly from the accessory, the game's best played without it.

Screenshots / Images
James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge James Cameron's Avatar: The Game screenshot - click to enlarge

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