(Also available on: PS3 & PC)
Ubisoft compares Avatar's
3-D display option (not available in the PC version; HDMI required
) to digital surround sound. It enhances the gameplay experience, but isn't required -- good thing, since chances are you don't own a 3-D stereoscopic television. Of course, Ubisoft does have a few of the newfangled sets in its possession and sat me down in front of one, passing over a pair of 3-D glasses (also required, but not bundled with the game) as a developer plodded through a few short in-game scenarios. The immediate 3-D effect is exciting -- it's both retro and futuristic -- but by the end of the preview, I did feel a tinge of dizziness. It's not so much that the game is constantly propelling objects out of the screen than it is creating layers in the environment that your character appears to be ever progressing into.
The world, the fictional planet Pandora, is jungle-like, and the green-
green foliage is rendered in captivating three dimensions, albeit more pixelated than I imagine the standard, flat display appears. At several points I was compelled to reach out and swat at the objects that seemingly filled the space between the screen and where I was sitting. The color palette has the vibrancy of the Halo
games, cartoonish, yet mature-themed. This version of The Game
is actually two, where one chooses to play either a third-person shooter (as a human) or a third-person action-adventure (as a Pandora native Na'vi).
Along the human path, I witnessed a conventional, open-environment level in which the character, an employee of the Resource Development Administration (read: greedy military-industrial organization), stormed about with a machine gun, activating relay beacons for a security grid and blasting alien critters, big and small, which were clearly threatened by the RDA invasion. At a later point, I was told, the character would be able to realize the error of his ways. Of course, that's a decision left up to the player.
A helpful conceptual comparison is to imagine Lost Planet
... in the tropics. Further into the Avatar
demo a mech suit was commandeered and used to put down Pandora's most dangerous protector, the Na'vi (not
pictured above). Still, in the absence of proper immersion into the game's narrative -- again distinct from the film's following of Jake Sully (who will not appear in the game) -- my attention waned from the chaotic on-screen battle that ensued as a group of Na'vi stormed the RDA outpost. Beneath the polished (and popping) visuals, this was any, old shooter.
Perhaps sensing my disinterest, Ubisoft segued into the more compelling path in The Game.
While the preview of the Na'vi hunter's campaign was exceedingly short (a few twirls of the bow staff and a brief, soaring canyon ride atop a winged beast), it was enough to make my decision: If and when I play the retail game, I'm going in as a ten-foot-tall, glistening-blue warrior. Wouldn't you?