Avatar: 3DTV hands – on preview

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Ross and I found our time at the Eurogamer Expo to be surprisingly limited once the interviews (including one with Avatar: The Game’s UK brand manager, coming next week) had been done. So far as Avatar went, we had a choice. Did we try it out on one of the 2D screens, or the whacking great JVC branded 3D monster complete with special glasses?

Well, duh.

I don’t want this to become an advert for 3DTV technology, so I’ll get the 3D side of things out of the way first. People watching me play, once they’d put the surprisingly ungeeky looking glasses on, constantly came out with comments like ‘that’s amazing!’. Even Ross declared it to be ‘incredible’. And yes, Avatar in 3D is very impressive. Rather than the game seeming to jump out of the screen at you, the optical illusion here (created by combining two different sets of images) is one of depth. You don’t feel that the characters are going to reach out and touch you – but you certainly feel as though you could reach into the TV and pull out a handful of grass from the lush jungle environment.

Avatar’s being released in December but, er, 3DTVs aren’t arriving in the UK until spring…and when they do, the very cheapest will almost certainly be dangerously close to £2000. Oh well.

I was tearing through the aforementioned jungle as a human marine; the ten foot tall Na’vi were not playable in the demo. The very first part of the demo however, had me piloting a small gunship. This brief intro sequence consisted of nothing more than moving forward, and shooting missiles to blow up rock formations that were in the way. The falling scenery did look particularly lovely in all that 3Dness though.

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After touching down on the landing pad (having first bumped the craft on a piece of scenery due to my cack handedness) I continued on foot, again in third person. All was quite, until I started coming across the enemies, which were…

Alien dinosaurs!!

Well, they’ve probably got a better name than that. But aliens are awesome, dinosaurs are awesome, so alien dinosaurs are super awesome. Their bold colours – particularly noticeable on the huge beasts – make them look like something my daughter’s made by sticking play doh onto rocks. That’s not necessarily a criticism; I much preferred these bright and colourful beasts to the dank and uninspiring design of the Helghast in the Killzone titles.

My primary weapon was a machine gun type rifle. This picked off the smaller alisaurs (see what I did there? Eh? Oh, please yourselves) with ease, and even proved effective against one of the huge horned creatures that acted as a mini – boss (“you’ve got a grenade launcher” said the guy walking me through the demo, taking pity on me). Talking of weapons, which one is always great fun to use no matter what the game? Shotgun? Nope. Mech? Not always, but you do get a go in one here.

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Flamethrower.

Turns out I was carrying one of those as well. Sweeping the flame across the ground, the grass quickly caught fire in a satisfying and realistic manner. It came as no surprise to be told that this was built on the Far Cry 2 engine, as that game of course contains fire that looks and behaves equally realistically.

There’s a promise of more than ‘run forward, shoot everything that moves including the foliage’, too. Another feature was a Predator style cloaking device. At one point I employed this to sneak past a group of what I was warned were particularly dangerous alisaurs (I like the word, and I’m sticking with it) and activate a ‘repulsor’. The repulsor did pretty much what you’d expect from the name; it repulsed the alisaurs, creating a small area of safety where I could catch my breath.

I will at this point remind you that people watching me play were oohing and aahing at the 3D effect of the TV, and add that as well as things such as “Wow”, I was also hearing things like “haha” and “He’s rubbish!”. This is because my experience of the game was hampered slightly by the inability to invert the Y axis for aiming. Aiming in this way felt awkward and unnatural to me, as writing with your left hand would feel to you. Er, unless you’re left handed or ambidextrous. Anyway. The point stands. I’m not that bad at games! I was assured that the option to invert will be in the final code, however.

The game will also feature multiplayer, which did not feature in the demo. Avatar is bursting with potential; but how much use it makes of this potential remains to be seen.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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