|By Andrew Raub||Monday, 3 Nov 2008|
The Star Wars franchise has a history of some of the most exciting and high-profile games. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, of course, follows this pattern. Being announced for every system available and promising an awesome new physics engine (for the 360 and PS3), the hype for The Force Unleashed was off the charts. Does it live up to the hype and promises? In some way yes, but unfortunately in some ways it is a major let down.
The strongest part of The Force Unleashed is by far the story. Filling in the gap between the movie trilogies, the game unravels the tale of Darth Vader’s apprentice, Starkiller, along with the formation of the Rebel Alliance. The story is filled with twists, mystery, and uncertainty. I won’t go on too much more, as anything else would reveal too much.
Graphically, The Force Unleashed has plenty of ups and downs. At times it can seem majestic, and at other times it seems blocky and flawed. Not much more to say here.
In terms of gameplay, The Force Unleashed starts off strong, giving a taste of the full power of the force in a prologue level where the player takes control of Darth Vader. Once the game goes into full swing, the player takes control of Star Killer, who has only a limited amount of force abilities compared to Vader. As the game progresses, Starkiller gains new abilities and other abilities can be upgraded. Force powers include the expected push, grab, and lightning abilities as well as a saber throw, repulsion, and a multitude of combos. Unfortunately, many of these powers are useless against bosses, and their strength is inconsistent throughout the game. But more on that later…
Combat is fairly standard 3D platformer action. Lightsaber moves combined with force powers can unleash awesome combos unto the enemies. At times the game is way too easy, and at its toughest it’s really more annoying than it is difficult. Some enemies can knock Starkiller down, and recovering takes a few seconds, allowing other enemies to get in a few hits. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so unavoidable at times. Bosses are a mix between standard combat and cinematic action sequences that require quick button presses much like God of War. As I mentioned, bosses are often immune to many of the force powers, and for most of the game my strategy devolved to nothing more than draining my force lighting, getting in some saber hits, and using more lightning when it has recharged. When it comes to standard enemies, the sky is the limit and there is a huge potential for fun with screwing with stormtroopers.
The levels are fun, but can drag on a bit. It’s also disappointing that some of the levels are recylced and revisited later in the game. There are some interesting bits, like exploring the inside of a sarlacc, or battling through the under-construction Death Star, but other levels are more unfamiliar or even drab. Overall, the levels are mostly straightforward, and don’t really require any exploration. There are hidden force cubes that grant ability or experience points, or even saber upgrades, but finding most of these requires very little thought. One of the levels that was most looked forward to is where Starkiller pulls down a Star Destroyer. It starts off awesome enough, but eventually it becomes frustrating as the instructions on screen are somewhat hard to decipher, and even when you do what it says, it doesn’t register sometimes. It’s also puzzling how Starkiller can muster the force strength to perform a feat this amazing, yet there are certain enemies that can never be picked up and tossed around.
The game is mired in these inconsistencies and let downs that really detract from the potential for fun. The game can be difficult at times, but it’s really more in an annoying way than a challenging way. To be honest, I have some regrets about paying full price, but I don’t really have any regrets about playing the game. It’s worth a play through if you’re a Star Wars fan, but I’d suggest it as a rental or when the price drops.