James Cameron's Avatar puts you into the body of a genetically engineered human/alien hybrid sent to explore/invade planet Pandora. In movie terms it's high concept (the humans are the bad guys, the aliens the goodies), and dealt with as such.
The game tackles this thorny moral allegory through the medium of third-person shooting and fetch and carry quests. The setting stays true to the rich mythology of the film, but the core gameplay consists of gathering information from NPCs and fulfilling arbitrary mission objectives. Collect five of this, destroy seven of those, go and talk to the big blue fella. Again. It's achingly ordinary.
Things are shaken up when, in a pivotal scene, you are required to pick which side to fight for. We reckon most people will go with the Na'vi (the blue aliens) and not the RDA (humans). Put it down to a distaste for corporate greed, the recent bellyful of space-marine shooters or just because the humans are portrayed as one-sided pantomime villains. Whatever the reason, it's a decision you'll end up regretting. For the rest of the game.
Planet of the japes
The Na'vi campaign is the weaker thanks to primitive weapons and beasts that can't compete with heavily armed RDA vehicles. Presumably the constant feeling of being overwhelmed by a technologically superior force is intentional. The resulting attempts to balance things out result in some hilarious inconsistencies. How, for example, can an arrow destroy a heavily armed chopper?
The RDA campaign fares better. This is largely because the game works when the emphasis is on shooting. Also, whilst the vehicles lack the wow factor of Pandora's beasts they are more fun and effective to use.
Pandora's sheer variety of flora and fauna is impressive (the night levels look great), and the vast acres of planet are easily navigable thanks to a series of warp points. The controls are functional too, if unsophisticated. Switching weapons on the fly is clumsy but at least the shooting's slick.
For all Avatar's faults, it isn't a typical dreadful game shunted out to squeeze more cash from a blockbuster event. Despite the lack of originality it's playable. Playable but ordinary. And that's what stings. A movie this rich and anticipated deserves something truly extraordinary.
Overall A generic shooter that fails to make the most of the license.