The levels (there are 13, and I completed them all in less than five hours on the normal difficulty) come in two types: the stealthy third-person action described above, and on-rails flying. Unfortunately, the flying levels are even worse than the on-foot ones. Here, you ride a griffon-type beast by moving the Nunchuck and fire explosive arrows by aiming a targeting reticule with the Remote. The controls, again, suffer from relying too much on waggling: the Nunchuck drives with as much responsiveness and control as a drunken elephant, and all you're really trying to do is hit mines with arrows. Occasionally, an RDA craft drops in for some attention: here, you need to whittle down its health, avoid machine gun fire and then quick time event it into oblivion. You're able to play these flying levels using the Wii Balance Board, but I can't see why you'd want to; it's even more unresponsive.
The game supports the Wii MotionPlus, but this doesn't improve the waggling. It only, strangely, adds the ability to control fire wasps found in certain areas of a level. Movement of these creatures is governed by pointing with the Remote, the idea being to scout and temporarily stun soldiers with a sting attack. But, like the Balance Board support, the game's MotionPlus support is pointless, and adds little to the experience.
Avatar: The Game's true failing, however, is not its frustrating combat or flying, but the sheer repetitiveness of the gameplay. Ubisoft Montreal had two ideas, stealth and flying, which is fine, but the challenge is repeated over and over again. It's quite astonishing, really. The on-foot levels are all the same: a bit of platforming, climbing, vaulting, jumping, zip lining, all basic and linear, as you make your way to an RDA compound. Then it's a case of trying to avoid detection as you pick each soldier off. Then, maybe, at the end of the level, you go up against an uninspiring boss fight. It is a path repeatedly walked, and becomes well worn after about an hour.
The flying levels are all the same, too: fly, shoot mines and take down an RDA craft with a QTE. Rinse and repeat. Even as I neared the end of the game, I hoped it would throw something new at me, but it didn't. To cap it all off, the final boss battle is one of the worst in recent memory. It further exposes the game's combat failings, if indeed they needed any more exposure by that point.
It's not as if there's an intriguing plot to motivate you to soldier through, either. Nothing is explained. Some online research tells me the game is set before the events of the upcoming film, and is separate to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. 20,000 years of peace have come to an end: You play the last of a noble clan whose totemic animal was the deadliest land predator known to the People – the thanator. Years ago the Newcomers destroyed his home and stripped his clan of their sacred artefacts. The warrior has waited for years, but now is the time to take the artefacts back. Each level is preceded by a wall of text - a lazy narrative device at the best of times. Conrad – the man in charge of the RDA in the area – merely exists; we're told nothing of his motivations or background. Sean, another soldier character, is totally out of control, although Conrad insists to his concerned boss that this isn't the case. Your alien doesn't like Sean or Conrad. Sigourney Weaver turns up. There you go, that's about it.
Avatar: The Game's only redeeming features are its impressive graphics and the fact that it offers something different to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. The latter, though, isn't much of a redeeming feature - it's just something we're not used to with Wii versions of multiplatform games. But, credit where credit's due - the graphics are great. Pandora's jungle environment has been impressively brought to life on the power-starved Wii. It's lush, with ambient sound that does a convincing job of making the environment feel alive. The flying levels look particularly good, and the vistas are genuinely stunning for the Wii. It's just a shame that Avatar: The Game is better watched than played.
Indeed it's a crying shame, because if you were able to map the various actions to button presses the entire game would be vastly improved (why can't I fly with the Nunchuck analogue stick?), while the stealth gameplay occasionally shows glimpses of what could have been. What has been, unfortunately, is yet another disappointing movie tie-in.
VideoGamer.com Score5 Score out of 10
- At times decent stealth
- Lovely graphics