Review by CrimsonGear80
"What did Obi-Wan tell Luke when the waiter brought him his salad?"
"Use the fork, Luke!
*Pauses to feel a million lives being snuffed out at once*
It been a while since I've played a Star Wars game (Rebel Strike for Gamecube was the last one), and the announcement of The Force Unleashed intrigued me. Sure, there have been Star Wars games that have given you control over a powerful Jedi before ( Jedi Outcast comes to mind), but this one promised to give players control over the force like never before. So, after playing Lucasarts's magnum opus, did they keep their promise? Sort of
TFU's story takes place between episode III (Revenge Of The Sith) and episode IV (The original movie, A New Hope) in the Star Wars saga. Iconic villain Darth Vader is currently on a campaign on the Wookie home world of Kashyyyk, presumably ridding the galaxy of those damn dirty Wookies! Actually, he's there hunting down a Jedi in hiding, who he finds and disposes of. However, Vader also finds a small boy, the Jedi's son, who is also strong with the force. Vader takes the boy, and over the years grooms him into his secret apprentice. Now a grown man, the boy, who Vader gives the code name Starkiller, is ready to do his masters bidding, starting with taking out a Jedi general. Unbeknownst to Starkiller, this mission starts him on the path to an entirely different destiny that will have repercussions for the entire galaxy.
Revealing anything more would be spoiling this, especially for Star Wars fans. I will say that the story is actually pretty captivating and well told, with Starkiller being a great lead character. I wouldn't call it one of the best stories in a game this year, but it's definitely above average. Star Wars fans will most likely rank it up higher.
TFU plays pretty much like a Devil May Cry game: you take Starkiller, with lightsaber and force powers in hand, and go through a level taking out anything in your path, opening the occasional door now and then, and facing a boss at the end. The levels you go through are actually very linear, with the occasional open area to toy around in now and then. You move Starkiller around with the left stick and control the camera with the right stick. The square button does your basic lightsaber combos, holding L2 blocks, pressing L1 activates a dash move, and the X button jumps. Your enemies run the gambit from Stormtroopers to indigenous life-forms to AT-ST walkers. While thwacking these clowns with your lightsaber can get the job done, the game wouldn't be living up to it's name without you being able to use the FORCE!
Starkiller's basic force power (and the one people will use most of the time) is the force grip. Once Starkiller locks on to an enemy or object in the environment, you can hold R2 to grip it and move it around with the analogue sticks, very Psi-Ops-like. Releasing R2 will cause Starkiller to hurl the object or enemy in the direction you are inputting with the analogue sticks. Starkiller will also unlock the abilities to use force lighting, force push, lightsaber throw, force repulse, and lightning shield. Make no mistake about it, the force powers make this game, along with it's impressive physics engine. Pretty much everything reacts to your powers: trees break and starship corridors get decimated by a powered up force push, and pieces of metal can be bent to your will with the force grip. Stormtroopers and other fodder don't stand a chance with the many combinations of destruction you could use against them. You could pick one up with force grip, infuse him with force lighting, and throw him at his friends like a human grenade. You could force grip a guy, impale him with your lightsaber, and then add insult to injury by throwing him out a window. I also find it very fun to pick Tie-fighters out of the air and throw them at platoons of idiots. As you kill enemies and find hidden Holocrons in the levels, you'll fill up an experience bar that will give you force spheres when it maxes out. You can then use these tokens to learn more force powers, lightsaber combos, and to increase your max health and force gauge. So the game does do what it advertises: makes to force a hell of a fun weapon to use.
It's not all saber thwacking and force pushing goodness though. The game features a simple lock-on system where Starkiller auto-targets whatever object or enemy is closest to him, and you can stay locked on to a target by holding the R1 button. This of course presents problems when trying to target certain enemies or objects. I could be trying to target a jet-packed rocket equipped stormtrooper flying above me, but instead I target a lowly stormtrooper closer to me on the ground. The same could be said about throwing objects at enemies with force grip, where to game mostly chooses for you the target that the objects will hit. While this is fine most of the time if your facing the right direction, but often the game wouldn't cooperate with me and my object would end up thrown at nothing or even up in the air for seemingly no reason. It also doesn't help that enemies will become more and more tedious to fight as the game progresses. While fighting and using the force against regular stormtroopers or life-forms is fun, the game does have to give you a challenge, so out come the dark troopers and rancors and AT-STs to give it to you. The force hardly works against these guys, so it becomes a tedious trial and error of lightsaber thwacking, backing off, more lightsaber thwacking, and so on and so on until the God Of War-like quick time button pressing event flashes on screen and your able to clear it to perform a finishing maneuver. Attacking like this can be fun in games that can do it in style, but not here, it's just boring and dull. I also love that Lucasarts has made use of the Lost Planet technique in regards to enemies with heavy weaponry that can knock Starkiller on his ass. When knocked on his ass, the enemies seems to time it just perfectly so that when he get's up, a rocket shot will once again knock him on his ass. The enemies then repeat this process until Starkiller is dead and I'm contemplating shoving a piece of broken glass into my eye. Later levels, as you may guess, throw these types of situations at you quite often.
Another qualm is with the games bosses. Imagine the backing-off/lightsaber thwacking situation I described above coupled with a Jedi or Sith, and you have what most of these battles boil down to. A few of them (especially the last bosses) can actually be strategic and fun to play, but most of them are just as tedious and boring as fighting the larger enemies in the game. One fight in particular involving a Star Destroyer is one of the most unnecessarily frustrating boss fights I've ever played in any game. Its if the developers of the game hate the people who intend to play it.
Mixed feeling here. For one, levels that take place inside starfighters and such look fantastic and have excellent artistic detail, despite their linear designs. On the other hand, levels that take place outdoors, like Felucia, have bland looking and ugly textures despite being colorful. Just take a look at the tentacles in the sarlaac pit and tell me those aren't PS1 quality at best. Raxus Prime may have an impressive looking backround, but everything is dominated by the color brown, making it lifeless. On the other hand (yet again), character models are impressive, lightsaber and force effects look great, and cut-scenes are wonderful.
There also reports of this game featuring various glitches, but the worst ones I ran into during gameplay were getting stuck on invisible objects and being sucking into the ground in a couple areas and forced to jump out. However, I did run into a glitch after defeating the last boss that caused the game to automatically quit back to the PS3 XMB menu, forcing me to defeat the last boss all over again. Great, huh? Lastly, the game has to load for EVERY option you choose in the options screen. Want to lower the sound, loading screen. Want to level Starkiller up, loading screen. Want to save your game, freakin' loading screen! Isn't the mandatory install supposed to eliminate this kind of crap?
Overall, TFU's sound is excellent. All the music in the game comes from the Star Wars films, so of course it phenomenal. Sound effects, from lightsaber whooshes to laser blasters to explosions all sound solid and get the job done. Voice acting is also great and well done, I didn't even mind the sound-alikes for some of the returning Star Wars characters (Starkiller himself is the voice AND likeness of actor Sam Witwer, who some may remember as the main soldier from the movie The Mist). All of this can be presented in up to DTS 5.1 surround sound. Very cool.
THE FORCE CAN BE BETTER UNLEASHED
TFU is a pretty short game, as I beat it in six and a half hours. However, it does give some incentive to come back, including multiple difficulties, unlockable lightsaber crystals and costumes, unlockable galleries, and some other stuff. Fans definitely have some incentive to go back and wreak havoc with the force.
Unfortunately, The Force Unleashed didn't offer all that much to me. Using the Force is great fun no doubt and the presentation is good, but there are enough issues with the tedious gameplay that turned me off. Star Wars fans should buy the game just for the story alone, but most gamers will be satisfied with unleashing the force over a nice weekend. Looks like it's back to Jedi Outcast for me
+Using the force to destroy fools is tons of fun
+Great physics system that reacts to force powers
+Nice leveling-up system
+Some impressive graphics
+Impressive sound and voice acting
+Replay value for fans
-Crappy lock-on system
-Fights with tougher enemies can be tedious and un-fun
-Lost Planet Technique is included
-Frustrating boss fights
-Some unimpressive graphics
-Some glitches are present
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 09/29/08
Game Release: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (US, 09/16/08)
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