Review by Axel7174

"Star Wars The Force Unleashed is Impressive, Most Impressive"

Star Wars has been around for a long time, and video game spin-offs almost as long as that. LucasArts did not start with the fabled license until the 90's, and it's of little surprise that since then, some of the best Star Wars games have emerged. The Force Unleashed is a rarity developed and published by LucasArts, taking place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. The game has been hyped for its ability to put you in the driver's seat of the greatest Force Powers by controlling Darth Vader's secret apprentice. It's definitely a top competitor with other Star Wars titles, but with all hype there is satisfaction and disappointment. The Force Unleashed has some of both. What works and what doesn't work? Is it worth your purchase? Let's find out.

Concept: Set between Episodes III and IV, you control Starkiller, Darth Vader's secret apprentice. Your mission: hunt down the Jedi gone missing after Order 66 and help the Empire gain galactic control. But are you really fulfilling your destiny as Lord Vader claims, or are you just helping him complete his own agenda? The game is very action oriented and it gives you control over some of the most impressive Force Powers since KOTOR and Jedi Outcast.

Graphics: This is one area the game really delivers and perhaps one of the strongest points for some. Next-gen really brings out the level of detail and the Euphoria engine is right at home here, adding a great deal of physics to make it more realistic. For some, the level of detail is not revolutionary, but it's one of those things that earns the game a positive mark. The characters are very well rendered and look good, particularly in the impressive detail on the faces (you can see the tiny dimples on Starkiller's face close up). The colors are beautiful and the environments have a very nice "Artbook" sketch look to them. This can be seen particularly in the backgrounds and it adds an ambient level of detail. The game has a good amount of lighting in all of the appropriate areas and there are no ragged edges to be seen. Very crisp to look at.

Sound: As you would expect from LucasArts and a Star Wars game, all the classic sounds are here and there are easily recognizable. From the roar of the TIE Fighters to the ignition of your lightsaber, it's all there and it's right at home. As for the voice acting, it's good but nothing to write home about. No major hiccups and all the actors are good. Sam Witwer who portrays Starkiller does a fairly good job. As for Darth Vader, well... James Earl Jones hasn't reprised the role in some time and so Vader has been portrayed by Matt Sloan, famous for the "Chad Vader" series of videos on the internet. If you, like me, played the demo, you got a sample of Sloan's contribution. Hearing him there made me skeptical as to how he could portray Vader, but the full game definitely shows that he does a pretty good job in that role. Finally, the musical score is amazing and many of the classic Star Wars tracks are present. Duel of the Fates is also present and each score truly suits the areas they are heard, creating the perfect Star Wars feel and atmosphere.

Gameplay: Where the best and the worst parts of the game come out. The game is very straightforward and there isn't much room for diversion. It consists of several missions or "levels" that you have to complete. Each usually has a Boss battle or two waiting. You face numerous enemies and gain experience and level up your skills as you move along. Completing a level gains you new costumes and perhaps even crystals for your lightsaber, adding a small but welcome level of customization. The game opens up with an introductory level as Vader. This tutorial level does a good job at giving you a glimpse of what "can be". After that, you get the reins with Starkiller, the apprentice. The apprentice is easy to control with the X, Circle, Square, and Triangle buttons each corresponding to a certain action. Melee combat involves using your lightsaber to cut up enemies, and you can use the Force with R2, Circle, and Triangle. This allows you to spice up combat a little and the great thing about the game is there are so many ways to handle your opponents. This expands even more when you start unlocking more powers and skills. Do I use Force Lightning on this guy, or do I hold his helpless body over a pit and make him fall to his death? Or do I send him flying into an oncoming TIE Fighter? The world is truly your oyster.

Melee combat is simple, and it's similar to God of War or Devil May Cry. Unlike these two great franchises however, it can be a little clumsy sometimes. Targeting isn't always easy and that can lead to some frustrating deaths. Also, the game gets considerably difficult later on because of enemies. LucasArts made a good choice by making enemies that progressively became immune to certain attacks. I mean hey, if every enemy could be force pushed and killed with one swipe of your lightsaber, the challenge would be gone. The problem however is balance. You'll find yourself the victim of many frustrating deaths because of enemies that are very tough to defeat and difficult to gain an advantage on. The fights are rewarding however when you can use your powers and the innovation makes up for the difficulty. For many mini-bosses and Boss enemies, depleting their health enough activates a prompt, very similar (and pleasantly so) to God of War that asks you to put in a certain sequence to unleash a very powerful (and extremely pleasing to the eye) finisher attack. These attacks are beyond amazing and rewarding, but God of War has probably pulled it off better. Finally, one last detraction is that sometimes when a lot is going on on-screen, the game may experience some slowing and possibly even freezing. These instances are very, very rare, but they definitely are frustrating.

Story: The Force Unleashed follows Revenge of the Sith and precedes A New Hope. As such, there are certain expectations, but that's in spoiler town, so we're not going there. Basically, as Darth Vader's secret apprentice, you'll travel the galaxy and hunt down the Jedi gone missing after Emperor Palpatine unleashed Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. You'll also get a glimpse of events that lead up to A New Hope, including one surprising revelation. The story is pretty simple and not particularly riveting. There are a few "Huh?" parts but it's easily overlooked. The tale is interesting enough to hold your interest but it does not set the bar.

Replay Value: Moderately low. The game, although fun, is unfortunately short. You can beat it pretty fast, earning a load of unlockable goodies. It's got enough of a lasting appeal to make you want to play through another time or even a third time to find all that you missed and enjoy the game's high points again. After that however, you'll probably end up putting it back on your shelf for a while. As for the big question of Buy vs Rent, I'll ask you this. Are you a big Star Wars fan? If you answer yes, then buy this game. If you're a casual fan then you might want to rent it. Also, if you liked God of War you might find this game enjoyable in a few respects.

The Good
-Fun and easy combat system
-Explosively fun Force Powers add a great dimension to the combat
-Set in the Star Wars universe and surrounded by familiar characters and sounds alike
-Euphoria engine adds a great level of physics and detail
-Fun Boss battles
-Some customization available with costumes and lightsaber crystals
-Skill/Power system lets you choose how you develop your character
-Good choice for any Star Wars fan

The Bad
-Linear gameplay
-Difficult enemies and fights in the latter stages
-Very short with only a small amount of replay value
-Occasional glitches including freezing

The Final Verdict


Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/25/08

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

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