September 24, 2009 – If you haven’t yet heard about James Cameron’s Avatar, than you must’ve been living under a rock for the past several years because this movie is being hyped as the next must-see sci-fi epic.
It’s understandable that the film would be getting a lot of attention, as it marks Cameron’s magnificent return to the big screen since Titanic. It was also to be expected that there would be a game to go along with it. Cameron chose Ubisoft to make the Avatar game, and since then the two have collaborated heavily to make sure the game doesn’t turn into yet another bad licensed title. In fact, some of Ubisoft’s creature and vehicle designs ended up being incorporated into the film.
Like any good sci-fi epic, Avatar promises to bring beautiful landscapes, exotic aliens, and intense action. It’s safe to bet there will be more than a couple explosions and some forbidden romance to be thrown into the mix as well. Like the film, the game will take place in the lush jungles of the planet Pandora, home to many dangerous creatures and an alien race called the Na’vi. The game is essentially a prequel to the film, where you take control of an RDA (Resources Development Administration) soldier who has to get a precious resource from the planet of Pandora. It’s also been confirmed that there will be some sort of multiplayer functionality in the game, though how it will tie in to the rest of the title hasn’t yet been revealed.
This is a third-person shooter (similar to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune) with some awesome vehicle action tossed in to help break up the run and gun gameplay. Throughout the game you gain Effort Points (EPs) by causing destruction and killing enemies, then you can take those EPs and use them to make your character stronger. Avatar also looks to be the first 3D game, using the same technology as the film. If implemented correctly, it could make this game exponentially more immersive.
Even though there’s probably a good amount yet to be unveiled, there seems to be a large variety of vehicles, weapons, and enemies in the game. As you progress through, you will be able to use Na’vi and RDA weaponry (over 60 weapons total), choose from plenty of character customization options encompassing 40 skills (20 for each clan, the RDA and the Na’vi), and use several imaginative vehicles (the most notable being the Samson vehicle armed with missiles). Being able to choose from such a vast variety of weaponry from two completely different species will definitely keep the combat from getting dull, and that’s important for a game that concentrates heavily on gunplay.
The most promising aspect is that Ubisoft was given total creative freedom that allowed them to create a story unique to the game without being shackled by the usual restrictions most other movie tie-ins have to follow. The game will also feature voice work by much of the film’s cast, including Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine, Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon, Giovanni Ribisi as Carter Selfridge, and Stephen Lang as Col. Miles Quaritch. Rodriquez and Quaritch will be exclusive to the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC versions of the game, and Lang will only be in the Wii version. Having a professional cast of actors, some of whom have even done voice work for games before, will certainly help make the games feel more believable.
There will be some major differences between most of the versions of the game. For starters, the Wii and PC versions will not have 3D. Also, the Wii offering will not be a port of the console versions. Instead, Ubisoft has chosen to make it a more casual endeavor with some optional MotionPlus mini-games, drop-in co-op, and a different story. In it you control a Na’vi hunter who’s on a mission to avenge the destruction of his village, and with the exception of the mini-games, the PSP version will also share the same story. It’s nice to see that the weaker consoles weren’t just given leftovers, and instead they got their own stories and gameplay that matched the strengths of the console.
All in all, the Avatar games promise to deliver satisfying experiences set in the same gorgeous world as the film. My only major concern is that at this point there doesn’t seem to be too much helping the games stand apart from the plethora of other third-person adventure games out there. Whether or not Avatar joins the sparsely populated ranks of great licensed games is yet to be seen, but being able to explore Pandora’s awe-inspiring locations in 3D is more than a little exciting.