REVIEW: Avatar Laser Wars 2

Whether you’re a fan or not, I know I’m not alone in continually looking for a legitimate Call of Duty experience on XBLIG. The nature of the service (small or one-man teams) is prohibitive to that type of scope, but there’s been a few contenders that nevertheless press on and accept the challenge. Some have even done a decent job.

I voted absent for the first Avatar Laser Wars, which was released almost two years ago and well before my reviewing tenure, but a quick sampling of the trial indicates I didn’t miss out on much. The third person camera is tossed in favor of fully becoming an FPS for the sequel, which to me feels like the right step. The graphics and player progression also look much improved. With about three hours of gametime under my belt, I’m confident enough to say that Avatar Laser Wars 2 (80) has taken over as the high-water mark for indie first-person shooters.

Just like the original from DigitalDNA Games (yeah, the CastleMiner guys), the game ships with only one map. Alpha Three, in the case of ALW2. This isn’t a slight against the game either, as its large layout (with plenty of offshoots and levels) works comfortably for most match sizes (a 4-8 player average in my games, with 16 simultaneous players possible). You’ll find most of the action takes place in the ‘reactor’, a central column with three levels that’s excellent for ambushes or sniping. Depending on the number of players present, the game switches on the fly from Free-for-All to Team Deathmatch, and back again.

Its controls are modeled on the standard FPS mold; acclimation should be swift. It can play a bit loose to start (like a Doom or Quake), but that passes, and the sensitivity can be adjusted. With the exception of an odd / limited run speed that never worked when I needed it to, I had no complaints with its general feel.

You level up with XP earned via ‘tags’ (PC term for ‘kills’), with partial scores for hits, headshots, and assists. In true FPS fashion, each level you reach rewards you with something from a cavalcade of unlockable perks, weapons, and killstreaks.

These should be instantly familiar to COD players, with mainstay perks like ‘Sleight of Hand’ and ‘Quick Draw’. The killstreaks in ALW2 (which are completely customizable) tend to be more support-minded than offensive. ‘Recon’, ‘Teleport’, and ‘Optic Camo’, for instance, or, taking a page from the recent MOH, streaks beneficial to others in a Team Deathmatch format (ammo refills or armor for all).

It has minor faults. I’d like to see a stats screen, K/D ratio (there’s currently one for awards (challenges) and high scores) for starters, maybe a new map (or remixed version), and the balancing for unlocks favors higher level players. There are some online issues too, such as players popping in and out, stutters and false starts, dropped matches (the game froze a few times while attempting to connect), which is to be expected given the unstable hoops that multiplayer XBLIG’s have to jump through. Nothing that’ll keep you out of the fight for long, as overall, it’s a solid, attractive option for anyone seeking a $1 FPS.

Just as the Call of Dutys, Battlefields and Medal of Honors of the world don’t look to be losing any wind in their respective sails, it’s doubtful Avatar Laser Wars 2 will have a problem finding a lasting audience. And when it handles and plays close to its AAA brethren, I can’t argue or find a reason it shouldn’t.

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Interested in how a game like this comes together, artistically? Read this.

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27 thoughts on “REVIEW: Avatar Laser Wars 2”

  1. i boght this game (80) and it keeps on freezeing when i hit play it will load then freeze and i relley want to play it have any ideas if so fix it tell me and if its fixed ill give it a good view and tell all my friends also iv told a few and they boght it but they wont play it without me and i kan tell more just someone please help

    1. If you haven’t already, I would delete the game from your Xbox hard drive, then re-download it and try again. If the problem persists, then I’d try contacting the developer (DigitalDNA Games) directly and letting them know. Maybe others have encountered similar issues. Their support page is here: http://digitaldnagames.com/?page_id=40

  2. Actually I love this game I’ve convinced my friends to get it and since they actually listen to me I’m having no trouble finding people to play with on here a couple freezes but nothing major a lot of fun and well worth 80 ms points I originally got it for the code for castleminer z to start with a bloodstone pick but now I’m addicted to this game only one wish and thats for a couple more maps.

    1. Definitely worth the MSP, and no doubt they’ll add some content to it the more it sells. The only downside to running a site is I get very little time with each game before having to shuffle on to the next. That said, ALW2 is something I’ll continue to come back to whenever I get the chance.

  3. Thank you for the review. The run problem is a bug that will be fixed in the first patch.

    @Alan My games have always had a huge online following, if you play Avatar Paintball even now 2.5 years later you can still routinely find people to play. Since ALW2 launch I have seen nothing but packed games.

    1. That’s my thought at well. With CMZ, Avatar Paintball, and now ALW2, I don’t foresee the game lobby being empty. And my pleasure on the review; I didn’t know quite what to expect at first, but the game really nails the feel of a competitive FPS. And I should know. For the sake of dignity, I won’t say how many hours I’ve put into the COD franchise, but it’s -a lot-. Congrats on the release.

      I know it’s a little early to think about it, but besides the patch, any plans for additions to the game, such as a new map or weapons, perks, raising the level cap… that sort of thing?

    2. It is still the first week, so we have to see how the game is received and what the feedback from our fans is. But we try to support our games as much as possibly (i.e. we did over 10 updates to CMZ added dragons etc) So yes as long as people keep playing it we will continue to make it interesting for them.

    3. To my knowledge, there are no plans by the developer to add bots or an offline mode, unfortunately. If it’s AI bots you want, you could try Paintball War or Murder Miners. 🙂

    4. I suspect bots are a lot of work to programme. They’d have to a develop a whole AI thing.

      It’s not an FPS, but another multiplayer shooter with decent bot support is Take Arms.

    5. Good call on Take Arms, Alan. I’m always forgetting that one. Also Null Battles, an obvious (and recent) choice for FPS. The AI in that game is really good, in my opinion.

    6. Also, one serious error (emailed a screenshot to Digital DNA), some Code 4s, and a reload button that stops working at random (yes, with plenty of ammo left). Awesome. Good god. I’ve only been playing for 15 minutes. :/

    7. Yikes! Only had the game freeze up on me a couple of times, no code 4s, reload issues, or errors otherwise. Last time you follow a recommendation from me, eh?

  4. I’d be interested in giving this a try, but it falls afoul of the same problem as all other mutliplayer-focused XBLIGs in my case – it’s dependent on having cooperative friends. Despite my occasionally effusive recommendations, none of my friends will touch XBLIGs (except for that one copy of Dead Pixels) so it comes down to the online community, which is universally nonexistent. The only XBLIG I’ve seen players in is ZP2KX, and even that has 6 at the most.

    Anyway, my point is that however fun a game like this sounds, there’s no point in me buying it, so the recommendation is always a little frustrating.

    1. Normally I’d agree. Online Community and XBLIG are anything but pals (James Petruzzi’s article on Indie Gamer Chick has taught me a lot about what’s possible and what’s not), and even when a game is deserving, most of the activity dies off after a few weeks. The main difference here is that instead of being an OK imitator, with superficial ‘upgrades’ that don’t really alter or amount to much, ALW2 actually ‘feels’ like a COD or similar FPS.

      Word of mouth (and maybe even reviews like this) should build the community on its own. There’s a good deal of leveling involved too (I’m on 14 after 3 hours, with a total of 39/40, I think), and with perks and killstreaks being delivered right until that mark, it’s motivation, the same motivation that drives the FPS community now. Even if it all goes away, it’s 80 MSP, I figure. Enjoy the fun (and it is fun) while it’s here, and maybe the community will surprise us by sticking around.

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