So it's finally here, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
for all consoles big and small. I remember the first trailers back in 2006 I believe, where it showed the possibilities of playing with the Force, unleashed. Now it's finally here, but does it live up to the gigantic hype?
The Force Unleashed is set between Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) and Episode IV (A New Hope). Initially players take on the role of Darth Vader, assumingly shortly after he (Anakin Skywalker) becomes the Dark Lord. Vader arrives on the planet Kashyyyk (home of the Wookiees) where the Empire is pretty much slaughtering them all. At this stage, it's a tutorial level where the player receives the majority of the Force powers given in the game at maximum level. At the end of the level Vader duels against a lone Jedi Knight before discovering he has a son. Upon taking the life of the Jedi, the Dark Lord realises the boy's potential and takes him in as his secret apprentice. Fast forward quite a few years later and this is where the player takes on the role of "Starkiller".
Starkiller is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Although while you do not have many powers to begin with, the Force grip ability serves as the apprentice's primary Force power, being able to pick up objects and enemies and throw them at walls, other enemies, other objects etc. It's a lot of fun. The three game engines (Havok, Euphoria and Digital Molecular Manner) all play vital roles in the game, for realistic physics, semi-realistic destruction and all out mayhem. The player can also use Force push to begin with, but must unlock the majority of their powers and abilities through an RPG-style level up system.
When the player levels up they receive "spheres" for three categories. Lightsaber, Force Talents, and Force Powers. Force powers are obviously all your core Force abilities, while Force Talents provide bonuses to your character, and Lightsaber enhances your ability with a lightsaber, giving you more combos and techniques, such as empowering your lightsaber with Force lightning, or adding telekinetic blasts behind some lightsaber swings. You can also find bonuses throughout levels, "Jedi holocrons", which increase your character's Force capabilities, or bonuses such as lightsaber crystals and extra costumes.
Lightsaber combat compared to using the Force, is not nearly as fun. Some lightsaber techniques are quite difficult to pull off, while many of the easier combos seem to be very repetitive and in a way, somewhat dull. The game definately encourages the use of Force powers over lightsaber combat, it seems.
Throughout the game you'll be taking on hordes of enemies. The game is essentially a beat 'em up. The difficulty can range from area to area. Despite being out numbered, sometimes it's very easy and fun to dispatch all your enemies, especially with all the destructable carnage. Sometimes however it may become very frustrating and you'll have quite an amount of trouble, especially with some of the game's future enemies who cannot be harmed by Force powers.
Speaking of combat, the game's combat system with the Force is quite fun however as said before, lightsaber combat feels repetitive and tedious. Even worse, there are many bugs and glitches within the game. It makes me wonder "How did this get past play testing?". For example, some stormtroopers become magically invulnerable to all but Force grip (while they are well capable of harming you), the targeting system is shocking (aim stormtrooper, fire lightning, hit barrel) and Starkiller might find himself getting stuck in some of the level design. During one boss encounter with a Jedi as my brother was playing, Starkiller fell to the ground but did not seem to want to get back up. The Jedi then took this opportunity to perform a downward stab attack upon him, eight times, leaving my brother as Starkiller nearly dead.
Boss battles too are also quite uninspiring. The camera angle takes on a Revenge of the Sith (the game) style view, and you simply fight the boss. Some bosses as mentioned before are incredibly cheap. When the boss is nearly down, the player has the option to execute a God of War-style quick time button event thing, where the game takes a cinematic stroll as the player has to correctly press the on screen buttons. If the player fails, they'll be hurt and have to try again. Sure it looks cool but at the same time, this design is quite lazy. You've just been kicking the bosses' arse with repetitive attacks, now you're given the opportunity to watch yourself kick their arse further with super awesome attacks? Well, fantastic. No, it's not really. This is an old tiresome process, and why everyone praises God of War for doing it is beyond me.
Graphically, the game is excellent. The cut scene graphics are fantastic, as is the voice acting and overall story, which is very surprising. The actual in-game cut scenes though seem to transition very badly, and at times the sound synchronising is a little, to completely off.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is unfortunately, no where near as good as it could, or should have been. The use of the three engines is a great idea but doesn't perform as well as promised. The game has a horrific amount of bugs, and while the Force is fun to use, combat can be very tedious as well as frustrating. The game is incredibly short (one can finish the game in six hours) and there really isn't much to unlock in the end.
The Force Unleashed is indeed a very fresh game with good ideas, but not so great execution. The storyline is very interesting and is well performed in the cinematic cut scenes, this could be considered the best "Jedi game" around next to the Jedi Knight series. Unfortunately though as mentioned before, this game is not as good as it should of been. A rental at best but, get it if you're a Star Wars fan.