Review by Vivox

"To Star Wars Nerds: Go out and get this game, and do what must be done!"

To Star Wars Nerds: Go out and get this game, and do what must be done!
Vivox's Review of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

I'm a Star Wars nerd, something I freely admit (although I probably shouldn't). I love the Original Trilogy, and I love the Prequel Trilogy just as much (heresy! most will yell, but for me it's 100% true). To me, The Force Unleashed is the biggest game of the year, hands down. There's so many games coming out at the end of this year that just look awesome, but The Force Unleashed I hold above the rest. That being said, did TFU (as the game will be called for the remainder of the review) live up to my own personal hype, or even the hype that everyone else built up for it? Read on.

Story: The story of TFU was the definitely the thing about the game that just kept me hooked the entire time. The story starts with a bang as you take control of Darth Vader himself on the Wookie home planet of Kashyyyk. This is apparently soon after the conclusion of Episode III (I haven't read the TFU book to confirm this), and Vader has come to Kashyyyk for a reason: the Wookie's are harboring a Jedi, and Vader is on a seek and destroy mission. This opening mission sets the tone for the rest of the game, with you as Vader easily slaughtering Wookie's with the Force. The end of the level sets up the rest of the game (and is just damn awesome). After this level you take control over Vader's secret apprentice, Starkiller. I won't spoil anything, but I will say this: TFU has, hands down, the best story of any Star Wars game to date. I'd even place it above that of KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic), and that was a full blown Bioware RPG (Bioware is known for it's well crafted, engrossing stories). The story for TFU has plenty of twists and turns that, for me were pretty damn shocking or just plain awesome. The characters that surround Starkiller during his adventure are also well implemented, and you find that you actually care what about what happens to them. That just shows you how well put together the whole of the story is. The Story gets a 10 out of 10.

Gameplay: After the demo of TFU was released, many people proclaimed that the game "sucked" because it didn't have lightsaber dismemberment of enemies, that the controls were terrible, etc., etc.. My advice to these people is that maybe next time you shouldn't judge a game on a 15-20 minute demo (I even read an article online with a headline that went something like: TFU Doesn't Play Anything Like the Demo!). As to most of their other complaint's, like dismemberment, all I can say is: who cares? The game is fun without dismemberment, it wasn't needed. Would it have been cool? Yes. Would it have made the game better? No. Now to the actual game: TFU is an action game reminiscent of God of War or Heavenly Sword. Most people have proclaimed the game as repetitive. All I can say to that is this: every game in it's own way is repetitive. Especially action games like TFU. The game sees Starkiller battling everything that sets foot in front of him, and the combat is fun and relatively easy to control. Close quarters combat, you rely on Starkiller's lightsaber (which is customizable via color crystals and power crystals). Stringing together combos is a sight to behold as Starkiller fights with the finesse you witnessed in the Prequel Trilogy lightsaber battles.

Gameplay, Part 2: Of course, the main attraction of the combat is the suped-up Force powers and physics, and they don't disappoint. You'll be flinging, smashing, and cooking your enemies with ease. Although I have to admit, the targeting system could have used some work, as aiming and flinging objects or people around using the Force was very inconsistent. Sometimes I would carefully, slowly, aim my target and still find it missing by a mile. Throughout the game you'll gain Force Points (like experience points) for every enemy killed. Varying your moves will net you extra Force Points (like a crush or smash bonus for smacking your enemy into a wall with the Force). Once the Force Point bar fills, you'll "level up" and gain ability points to allocate to Starkiller. There are three categories of upgrades: Force Powers, Force Talents, and Force Combos. Powers are (of course) the Force Powers you use in the game. Force Talents are always active (like upgrading Starkiller's health or the damage he does with a lightsaber). And Force Combo' s are the new moves you can learn. As you explore the games areas, you'll come across Jedi or Sith Holocrons. The Jedi Holocrons unlock 10,000 Force Points, lightsaber crystals, a free upgrade point, or even new costumes. Each level has either 5 or 15 of them scattered about, and it'll take a good deal of searching (and a few times, a little bit of very basic "puzzle" solving) to find them all. In addition, each level also has bonus objectives that will fetch you free upgrade points, such as "Freeze 10 Imperial's in Carbonite", or get 500,000 Force Points.

Gameplay, Part 3: I've been reading alot of things online that say that TFU is glitchy, with the game freezing and enemy life bar's disappearing, etc.. I can honestly say I didn't encounter either of the above mentioned glitches. I'm not saying that the game doesn't contain these glitches, but as far as my own experience with the game, I just didn't encounter them. The game has its fair share of boss fights, and they are handled very well. With some you'll need to be cautious and wait for your moment to strike, while with others you can just let loose ( on a few of the bosses, I tried beating them with skill, only to discover that I could just beat the hell out of them attacking like a nutcase). At the end of the boss fights (also at the end of a fight with the larger enemies, like an AT-ST) you'll be prompted to some QTE's (cinematic button presses with a short time limit to finish the enemy off). This QTE's are very basic and way too easy. Throughout the game, I only failed one, and it was because I didn't even know I'd entered into a QTE.

Gameplay, Part 4: Later on in the game, some enemies will be shielded and you'll be unable to attack them with some of your Force abilities. Alot fo people have said that this ruins the game, making it so you play the rest of the game with "very basic" lightsaber combos. This is completely untrue. These enemies are not rampant, or over used. Only a few are immune to all your Force abilities, while some are just immune to Force Lightning. And to say that the lighsaber combat is boring just shows that some people just played the demo. The ACTUAL game has a good amount of new lightsaber combos for you to buy, and they definitely make the lightsaber combat fun and varied. I've also heard it said that you can beat the game "just tappin' the ol' X button". Last time I checked, the lightsaber button was square, not X. So by just tapping X the whole game, your gonna jump your enemies to death? Overall, with all the available upgrades and hidden items, TFU is just a fun game. Not once did I find myself bored. Whew, hope I covered everything I wanted to in the Gameplay section of the review. Time to move on. The Gameplay gets a 9 out of 10.

Graphics: TFU is a great looking game, but not one of the most impressive looking games this console generation. The art design in the game is absolutely top notch. All the new (and old) planets you'll visit are just extremely well done. They all seem to fit into the Star Wars Universe quite well, from the junkyard planet of Raxus Prime to the "jungle" planet of Felucia. One area where I felt the game slipped a little in the graphics department is in a few of the character models. Why does Darth Vader look more like an action figure than a living person? The Force powers themselves look pretty amazing, especaily my personal favorite, Force Lightning. The Graphics get a 8 out of 10.

Music/Sound: Not much can be said for the games soundtrack. As far as I could tell, we've heard it all before. That doesn't mean it's bad. On the contrary, the game has a great soundtrack, its just what you'd expect from Star Wars, nothing more. The sounds in the game are very well done as well, from the hum of your lightsaber to the crackle of thunder when you unleash Force Lightning. The voice acting is also top notch, except, in my opinion, the stand-in voice for Darth Vader. To me, it was good, but it was noticeably not James Earl Jones. The Music/Sound gets a 9 out of 10.

Replayability: The game has plenty of upgrades and secret Holocrons to find (plus two different endings). For me, this is plenty of incentive for more than one playthrough. But what about people who aren't Star Wars fans? These thing's probably won't make you play through the game more than once. For me, the game has already earned it's permanent spot in my collection. But others may be turned off with the lack of multiplayer or other single player modes. For me, I don't really play multiplayer as much as the everyone else, so I didn't find its absence all that distressing. The Replayability gets a 7 out of 10.

Buy or Rent?: For me, when someone asks if they should buy or rent something, its a tough question. I personally loathe renting. I'll buy something used (and therefore have the option of returning it) over renting. For Star Wars fan, I would say buy it: the story and characters are amazing, and the stories twists can be shocking for fans. For non Star Wars fans? Maybe rent it, and if you like it, buy it, that way you saved yourself around $50 bucks.

ORDER 66 (Conclusion)
For me, TFU lived up to it's hype. It's a fun, thrilling action game (as it was supposed to be, I don't know what everyone was expecting, the next KOTOR?) The story is awesome, the characters are great, and I'm already hankering for a sequel. Don't think I liked this game just because I'm a Star Wars nerd, I've been a "gamer" (I hate that word...) longer than I've been a Star Wars fan (I've been playing games almost literally my entire life, I didn't see the Original Trilogy until l was five or six). I can be a pretty easy person to please when it comes to games. Give me a good story, characters, and a fun game built around it. The Force Unleashed gave me all of these, and I can honestly say I loved every minute of it (well, except for one segment near the end of the game that nearly had me pulling my hair out. People who've beaten the game will know what I'm saying. As I read on the board earlier: IGNORE THE BUTTON PROMPTS!)

EXTRA INFO (Just for Fun)
+Good ammount of "nods" to characters from Star Wars movies who aren't in the game
+For once, you won't find yourself on Tatooine
+For once, you won't find yourself slaughtering the entire Sand People population
+For once, you won't find yourself beating up Boba Fett

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/25/08

Game Release: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (US, 09/16/08)

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