At the end of this year, James Cameron's new film, Avatar, hits the theatres. Before that, however, the game based on the film's world hits the consoles, and I got a chance to see it in action at Sony's annual PlayStation Holiday Preview event in Toronto.
Before I actually began to talk to the developers showcasing the game, I saw it in action as others played it, and was impressed with what I saw. It's a third-person action game that takes place two years before the events of the movie, involving a soldier in the Resource Development Association (RDA), what is essentially an invading force on the distant alien planet of Pandora. The planet looked pretty good from what I could see, likely a result of the development team from the game working so closely with the design team from the film. There were fully-realized alien plants and creatures, some more hostile than others, and as the in-game day progressed to night, everything looked even more impressive, like it was a completely different world. Of course, nice as the local wildlife looks, it does everything it can to prevent the accomplishment of your missions.
As you play the game, you recieve objectives. Not only will you have the story objectives that must be completed, but there are a number of sector objectives that will reward you for exploring and discovering them. I saw only a couple, such as culling a race of creatures or setting up repulsors to keep away the fauna, but I'm told there are a wide variety of things to do, each of which give you experience points. Levelling up awards you with new weaponry, armor, skills such as air strikes and cloaking devices, and whether you're completing objectives or defeating your enemies, you'll be earning points towards each level.
You begin the game as a member of the corps, but soon will be forced to make a choice to either stay with them or join the alien race as an Avatar. This is where the game branches in more ways than one. In addition to having a different storyline, playing as an avatar is different from being a soldier. Firstly, combat is a lot different, with a greater focus on melee and a kinship with the wildlife that allows you to walk safely through it. To accompany your new form are new maps and objectives as well, which I'm told means that playing the game twice gives two entirely new experiences.
There is a form of multiplayer involving combat between the aliens and the soldiers, but the developers weren't permitted to say much more than that. Regardless, look for the title when it appears this November.