The Force Unleashed Review

By Mike on 7:11 pm

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Ok, so I reviewed the demo of Force Unleashed. The demo was fun all be it underwhelming. How does the full game do when compared to the demo? First a little background on the game. It takes place in 3BBY (Before Battle of Yavin in "A New Hope", this is how dating is done in the Star Wars universe) You play the role of Starkiller, Darth Vader's secret apprentice. He discovered the apprentice as a boy after killing his Jedi father on Kashyyyk. Vader takes in the young boy to raise him as a Sith in hopes of eventually overthrowing the Emperor. The game follows the Apprentice as he serves Vader and is forced to make his own difficult choices.

The game's first tutorial level has you playing as Vader himself. The events I introduced above are listed in this level. It also does a good job of showing off the game's highly touted Digital Molecular Matter (DMM) and Euphoria AI. Basically, Vader is there to kill the Jedi and he has to make his way through a bunch of upset Wookiees to get to him. Vader is pretty powerful, allowing you to get close to fully unleashing the force. Vader's attacks include standard saber techniques, force push, force grip, and force choke. Force Grip is probably the most used power in the game since it allows you to pick up objects or NPCs and throw them at other things. When a blue halo is seen around an object or person, you can pick it up with R2. You can move it in the air back and forth, left and right using the left stick. The right stick allows you to move objects up or down. Pushing either stick in a specific direction will hurl the object in the matching direction. There is some degree of auto-targeting for this power but its vary rough. It will throw the object in the general direction of a target but you have to be pretty aligned with it to make it hit. As I said in the review of the demo, the feature is clumsy and useless in fast paced battles. You also can't move when using the technique leaving you vulnerable to attack. When attacked, you'll drop the object. The other techniques are pretty self explanatory. You hit the button and the character will attack in the direction he's facing. Force grip is replaced by force lightening with the Apprentice. Other force powers include force repulse, sabre throw, and lightning shield, which can all be used while blocking with L2.

Combat is interesting to say the least. It's similar to other third-person melee games like God of War. You have your basic sabre attacks, then your combos. You can also block using L2. Combat is fairly strait forward against blaster wielding opponents such as Stormtroopers. You can deflect their shots and then go in for the kill. Melee opponents make things interesting. While the apprentice is quick on his feet, melee attacks feel vary sluggish. While the actual attack is quick, I have noticed a delayed reaction between control inputs and the actual character reaction, if they actually do what you want them to at all. Sometimes I'll press the right buttons for a combo or action but the Apprentice will not follow through. This gets extremely frustrating during boss fights as your mashing the buttons while getting shredded to pieces, while the Apprentice just stands there and does nothing. Oddly, I did not notice this in the demo, though most opponents there had blasters. What ruins the game is the combat controls being so sluggish.

The levels in the game are fairly linear and there's nothing particularly challenging about them. Each level has a sub-boss at the halfway point and a boss at the end. End level bosses are typically other force sensitives wielding light sabres. Boss fights can be difficult and frustrating due to the sluggish control system in the game. In addition, you can also search levels for hidden Jedi and Sith holocrons, which can be used as power ups or to gain additional force points or lightsabre crystals. Force points spheres can be traded to upgrade your force powers or to unlock new powers. You'll need to upgrade whenever possible to stay on top of your enemies. Other than that, there's not much to say about gameplay. If you've played God of War, you'll be familiar with how Force Unleashed plays. Force Unleashed has no online muliplayer mode. The game is surprisingly short lived and can be beaten in 5-7 hours.

Regarding the story, I think LucasArts has done an alright job at filling in the gaps between Episode III and Episode IV, including answering one of the biggest Star Wars questions of all: how the Rebellion started. However, I did feel there were a lot of plot holes in the story. KotOR 2 was known for this but Force Unleashed is somewhat worse. Some things that were poorly explained included Shaak Ti's story. Shaak Ti was heavily featured the games promotional material but here actual on-screen time is limited. I think Star Wars fans were all itching to know how she escaped Order 66. She's also picked up her own apprentice known as Maris Brood, a young Zabrak woman. According to promotional material, Maris seeks revenge on Darth Vader, though the game poorly explains her role. The Databank feature fills in some story with character profiles but who the heck wants to read stuff that should be in-game. Databank entries also have to be unlocked first. The game doesn't include any original locals to visit so it really doesn't add much to the Star Wars universe.

When it comes to technical aspects, Force Unleashed is really a mixed bag. As I said about the demo, the graphics look quite nice but they're hardly in the same league as games like Uncharted or MGS4. The game runs at 720p. Audio wise, we get the same mix of excellent Star Wars movie sound effects combined with John Williams classic score. The music in game, however, is mostly recycled from the moves so there's nothing particularly original about it. The big technical features of the game were DMM and Euphoria. DMM allows metal to bend, glass to break, and wood to splinter as it would in real life. For such a heavily marketed feature, the game doesn't do Digital Molecular Matter much justice. The first level as Vader on Kashyyyk is really the only place where it really shines. The same goes for Euphoria. It's fun to pick up Stormtroopers and watch them flail about and try to grab things, but most of the time, the game is going too fast to notice Euphoria in action. In the end, neither really adds much to gameplay. The game also uses Havok physics but I personally think the physics in game are not vary realistic.

The game also has some technical issues. During the final boss fight, I was just about to finish him off when the game froze. This was followed by a string foul language that would make a navy man blush. This was right after being killed by the final boss once before when the game's camera suddenly decided it wanted to pan below the arena by itself, blocking my view. I've often accused a game of cheating in frustration but this is the first time I've seen a game actually cheat. To add salt to the wound, the game makes you start back at the beginning of the rather lengthy three-part fight should you quit the game. According to LucasArts, the reason Force Unleashed was delayed so long was because of difficulties programming for the Playstation 3. However, can that excuse really be used anymore since every other developer has figured it out. Aside from that, I did not notice any issues with frame rates or sound.

Loading screens with Unleashed are also numerous. Even to load the menus in game, it goes to a loading screen. This is odd since it requires a manditory 2gb install to the hard drive.

In their promotional material, LucasArts promised us a Star Wars game that would rival Knights of the Old Republic. What we got was something that was far from it, in a bad way. The Force Unleashed is not a bad game but it's not exactly a good game either. We were all stoked for it but once again, the hype machine has failed us. It's a pitty because I think such a game has excellent potential had LucasArts done it right. The sluggish and unresponsive controls tend to make gameplay more frustrating than fun. The game is also short lived, taking only five hours to beat it. There's not a lot of replay value. I also felt that the story, while good in concept, was poorly explained. You might want to hop over to Wookieepedia to fill in some of the gaps. Lastly, I don't exactly consider Force Unleashed to be original. It's too similar to God of War and your force abilities in game are not much different than what Kyle Katarn has been wielding. We all thought we'd be able to wreak havoc with the dark side but we got just another generic Star Wars title. With this one, the force unleashed was not. I'd give this game a rent but I wouldn't buy it.

What Works:
-Decent graphics
-Good story concept fills in gaps between Episode III and Episode IV
-Character customization

What Doesn't Work
-Technical flaws such as freezing and load times
-Game doesn't show off much publicized DMM or Euphoria well
-Plot holes in story
-Sluggish and unresponsive controls
-Not original

Score: 7 out of 10

Tips and Easter Eggs:
-On Imperial Kashyyyk, you can find out what really happened to Jar Jar Binks. In the Imperial museum, you can spot him frozen in carbonite. This likely isn't cannon but it's something hardcore Star Wars fans have been wanting to see.
-After learning force lightening, hit Square, Square, Triangle, Circle for a devastating combo.

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