|System: PSP, X360, PS3, PC, PS2, Wii, 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. 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
As one of the most prolific screenplay writers and film directors of all time, James Cameron seems to find immense success with every new project. With his skill and reputation combining with state of the art technology, as well as a huge budget, it would seem as though there is very little chance that his latest film, Avatar, will be any different. While Avatar is sure to clean up at the box office, the PSP version of the game based on the film property will probably not be as lucky.
In a strange choice, the events of Avatar: The Game (ATG) aren't taken directly from the film its named after. Instead, players will take on the role of one of the Na'vi - blue cat-like natives of the planet Pandora - simply referred to as The Warrior. The Warrior's village has been destroyed by the Resource Development Administration (RDA), a company from Earth that is pillaging Pandora's resources, leaving him enraged and looking for vengeance. The story basically boils down to an eye for an eye parable that showcases what can happen when you don't respect the rights and customs of other living beings.
The Warrior's quest to regain artifacts that were taken from his people as well as to make those responsible for the destruction of his village pay is a mostly stealth-based affair. A majority of the levels in ATG have The Warrior located in the lush jungles of Pandora, sneaking through tall grass or across high tree limbs in order to get the drop on unsuspecting RDA flunkies. Since your main weapon is a staff and all of your enemies are equipped with guns, being covert is of the utmost importance to your survival. Unfortunately, your enemies aren't the only thing working against you during this adventure.
There are so many things in this game that inhibit your ability to perform the most basic of tasks that it'll be tough to name them all, but I'll attempt to be fairly thorough. First of all, you're given a pretty broken camera that is more likely to give you a close-up of the ground than an adequate view of your enemies. There is no direct camera control to be found to help compensate for this, only the ability to center it behind your character by pressing the L button. This also frequently leads to close-ups of the ground, making it next to impossible to sneak up behind enemies for one-hit-kill stealth attacks or to even know which direction your foes might be facing.
Stealth gameplay is further hindered by the game's environments and the way in which you interact with them. As I mentioned, being on a high tree limb or in tall grass is supposed to make you more difficult to spot but that's not always the case. Whenever there are enemies nearby, the edges of the screen will blur, letting you know you should be hiding. Unfortunately, you can't actually crouch (your only real means of hiding) on your own accord. Instead, the game decides when your character should crouch and when they should just stand upright and get filled full of lead, which is often the case. You can still try to place yourself behind a crate or fully out of view of your enemies until the game decides to make you crouch, but the fact that you have absolutely no control over such an important aspect of your stealth, and that it is handled so poorly by the game, is a constant source of frustration.
Once the stealth approach inevitably breaks down, all you've got are your weapons. The staff is fairly easy to connect with but seriously lacks power, needing to strike enemies many times in order to take them out. As you can imagine, this doesn't work out particularly well when facing off against groups of enemies who have become alerted due to your inability to sneak up on them.