Great story highlights ‘Star Wars: The Force Unleashed’

Comics, Gaming, Nintendo, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

The Force Unleashed screenshot
IMAGES COURTESY OF LUCASARTS

Star Wars:
The Force Unleashed

Published by: LucasArts
Developed by: LucasArts
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1
Release Date: September 16, 2008
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Content Descriptors: Fantasy Violence
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2, iPhone
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Being bad never felt so good.

Stepping into the shoes of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice and using incredible Force powers to destroy Jedi, stormtroopers and anything else in your path is what makes Star Wars: The Force Unleashed such a blast to play. Throw in the fact that it offers one of the best Star Wars stories told in a long time, and it would seem the game is a guaranteed hit.

Unfortunately, there are several disturbances in The Force. Hit the jump to read the rest of the review.

The Force Unleashed screenshot

First off, if you’re a fan of Star Wars you’re really going to like this game. It’s got all of the wonderful trademark qualities from previous Star Wars games and films — amazing locations, characters, vehicles, sound effects, music, etc. — all wrapped around a compelling story that bridges the gap between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope.

Without giving away any juicy details, I can say that the story (deemed canon by George Lucas himself) is the best part of the game. It includes many core characters in the Star Wars universe and connects the two trilogies in a cohesive and interesting way while adding a great deal to the epic mythology.

The Force Unleashed screenshot

You play as Starkiller, an assassin for Darth Vader in his quest to eliminate all of the remaining Jedi. Your weapons are simple — a lightsaber and the Force. While we’ve been able to wield Force powers in previous Star Wars games, The Force Unleashed cranks the midi-chlorian count way up.

As soon as the game starts you’ll be able to throw TIE fighters and electrocute Imperial stormtroopers with ease. As you defeat more enemies, you’ll level up and be awarded points to upgrade your Force powers (lightning, grip, push, repulse), combos and characteristics like health and defense. With a limited number of points available, you’ll have to choose your upgrades wisely. Overall, the upgrade system is simple and makes your “dark side” adventure much more personal.

The Force Unleashed screenshot

Besides using Force powers to destroy people and machines, you’ll also use them to interact with the environment and solve some easy puzzles. The game features an impressive (and much-hyped) physics engine that makes various objects and materials react in a realistic way, though it ’s an imperfect system that does have some bugs. For example, you can Force push a giant tree and watch it explode, but you can’t do the same to a small tree. Also, you can only manipulate objects highlighted by the game’s automatic targeting system.

The biggest flaw of the game is the targeting system. Basically, it tries to target whatever object it thinks you’re looking at, which works fine when you only have a few objects on the screen, but when there is a group of them, it’s almost impossible to quickly single one out. This results in a lot of moving around to reposition the camera and get a lock on your target. It takes you out of the fight and is an issue that recurs throughout the game.

The Force Unleashed screenshot

As you progress through the game, enemies become more difficult and require more power to defeat. To finish off something like the AT-ST Walker and the Rancor, as well as all of the boss battles, you’ll have to press a series of buttons shown at the bottom of your screen. While the correct button sequence makes Starkiller perform a sweet, over-the-top explosive finishing move, you miss some of the action because you’re looking at the button sequence instead of the animation. It’s yet another instance when you feel taken out of the fight.

Some of the gameplay can get repetitive, especially when you figure out how to best dispatch specific enemies. And as much fun as the Force powers are, defeating wave after wave of enemies with little or no room for exploration gets a bit boring and makes you wish you could choose different paths.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Despite its shortcomings, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a great action game that offers mind-blowing Force powers and an impressive story. The eight to 10 hours of game play it offers may be all you need to satisfy your thirst for power, but fans like me will likely play through several times to collect all the holocrons, max out Force powers and abilities, and experience the alternate ending.

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