by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
And it was going so well...
The world of Pandora is amongst the most beautiful fantasy worlds ever created, both on the silver screen and in Ubisoft's new Avatar game. It is lush, colorful and teeming with life. The native humanoids, called the Na’vi, are tall and appear to combine characteristics of both Smurfs and panthers. They live in peace with their surroundings and are the caretakers of unobtainium, a rare ore that makes for the single most powerful energy source that humanity has ever seen.
Humanity, on the other hand, has been less than harmonious with their planet, Earth. The twenty billion earthlings have almost completely stripped their planet of energy sources. Things are looking dire indeed. In order to survive, the human race is prepared to do whatever is necessary and that means turning Pandora into a mining colony.
Pandora itself does not seem too keen on being strip-mined. The native fauna is not really big on outsiders and even the flora seems to want to defy the intruders, doing everything they can to protect the planet. Humanity, represented by an organization called the RDA, isn't exactly subtle about gaining access to unobtainium, coming in guns blazing and taking what they want with force.
Welcome to Pandora
Events in the game take place before the accompanying movie, so it is not simply an interactive version of what takes place in the cinema. Everything that we have seen illustrates the savoir-faire with which the RDA handles itself on Pandora. We started out in a gunship and the goal to get down to the surface and help secure the perimeter. Right away, Avatar showed its graphical prowess to the fullest while we blasted our way through some very impressive floating rock formations and trees before we could land.
As soon as we touched the ground, the planet threw everything it had at us. Friendly looking plants turned out to be booby traps, packs of Vyper wolves identified us as worthy prey and massive dinosaur-like bulls started toppling over anything that we put in their way. Fortunately you're not alone. You will bump into squads of fellow RDA soldiers that are duking it out with mother nature's aberrations and will surely appreciate it should you join the carnage. It makes for a very vivid setting rather than just you being the lone hero wondering where the hell your backup is.
Fortunately you are a very nimble and resourceful soldier. You are quick on your feet and know how to roll out of harm's way fast. In addition, you are trained in operating RDA vehicles. Aside from the aforementioned gunship, you also come across big mechanized suits that turn you into a slow but deadly walking gun-turret and buggies that are armed to their proverbial teeth. Cameron's production team has worked closely together with Ubisoft’s developers. They were more than prepared to design additional vehicles to meet the game's particular needs rather than to take the stance that whatever was featured in the movie was the full extent of what the game had to work with.