It’s been a while since I gave Avatar a first shot, and on my first attempt I was more pleased with myself than was warranted – mostly because I was even more of a novice and hadn’t been left alone with a gun before. Nothing quite like the pride of the idiot over their first kills.
Having exhausted all things Mass Effect, I hooked up to my Na’vi and roamed Pandora. I no longer squeak every time I let off a bullet, but I wouldn’t describe myself as past the beginner stage. Which is why this game is quite the breath of fresh air: it’s challenging enough (often for the wrong reasons), but not frustrating for the ammo-challenged. A novice delight, you might say.
It has a whole new canon-approved story for Avatar completists (though Gamer Boyfriend’s reaction to said storyline was a non-spoiler-driven “wtf??”), it sticks religiously to Avatar mythology and often expands upon it, there are sector challenges to occupy the anal and the scenery is truly beautiful. You can choose whether to champion the tall blue victims or the dastardly humans, and the bow and arrow you’re given as a Na’vi is a – probably guilty – pleasure.
But even I, a gaming innocent, can see the flaws. Though the aforementioned bow and arrow is something akin to a native sniper mode, there’s no zoom function for any weapon I’ve tried, just standard point and fire. Gameplay outside the sector challenges (which can mostly be achieved by following the plot) is particularly linear, and the multiplayer seemed sadly deserted.
Worst of all? I bought the game to fulfil the dream of the movie: flying my own Banshee. I don’t have the most auspicious history when it comes to game transport, but with a bit of effort I still saw myself circling the clouds, ducking under flying rocks and performing aerial gymnastics.
The flying controls are inexplicably different to all other game controls and impossible to manage. Nor do they match any other control system in any other game I’ve played. Landing is a hopeless quest, as is finding somewhere to land, as is getting anywhere in the first place.
And don’t get me started on the noise the thing makes when you get stuck. It’s not your usual warning noise, quick and informative, oh no. It carries on for every single second of your misery – and with a flying system like this, the misery can go on for a while. And so the game, on the Na’vi path, has come down to endless repeats of one offputting sequence, explaining why I cannot comment on much past the first few sections:
Cliff *screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech* rock *screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech* flap flap turn in a circle rock again *screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech*.
Freedom of the native lifestyle, my arse.