Platforms: Xbox 360|PS3|PS2|Wii
Developers: LucasArts|Krome Studios|n-Space|Universomo|Activision|Aspyr Media
Publishers: LucasArts|THQ Wireless
When I first heard about The Force Unleashed I thought it was a cool idea, then I saw some of the videos displaying the visual technology and graphics engines, and I was drooling onto my keyboard in anticipation of a game which I thought was going to be spectacular. Then the long wait for its release began and all that sustained me were small glimpses of gameplay and an awesome scene showing The Apprentice bringing down a Star Destoryer using the force. Finally the release date popped up on my calendar and I ran out of the house to grab a copy.
The story unfolds during the relatively unexplored period between the two movie trilogies, which was something that particularly interested me because I was wondering where they were going to take the plot without damaging the continuity between episodes III & IV. You drop into the shoes of Starkiller who just so happens to be Darth Vader’s secret apprentice and the implement through which the wheezing Sith Lord hopes to defeat his wrinkled master. Vader needs to be sure of his apprentice’s abilities before he pits him against The Emperor, so he sends him to eliminate the last few Jedi remaining in the galaxy after Order 66, and that’s where the story starts to pick up a bit of pace. I won’t give away too much more, but I will say that I was a little bit disappointed with both endings.
Playing as the conflicted Starkiller is great fun and although the lightsabre mechanics aren’t anything to shout home about, his force powers make you feel like a Jedi who’s gone off the deep end. You can smash through barriers using force push, eliminate enemies quickly with your shocking force lightning, decimate an entire battalion who have surrounded you using force repulse, or fling your lightsabre into hard to reach foes. Force grip is probably the most useful all round power as it allows you to bend objects to your will, throw items into a group of stormtroopers, or lift hostile characters into the air at which point you can smash them into objects or fling them over cliffs causing them to plummet to their deaths.
It’s also important to note that the AI controlling the various foes you’ll come across is pretty impressive; not only will enemies react differently each time you play the game, but they try and foil your attempts to destroy them. For example, if you’re waving a stormtrooper around for your own amusement before finishing him off, he’ll grab hold of any nearby railings or even one of his fellow companions in order to try and ground himself, which’ll result in you trying to brutally rip him from whatever he’s seized hold of, or elevating whoever he’s embraced into the air as well.
The various mini-bosses, including Rancors, AT-STs, and giant junkyard robots that you come across during your travels’ll need to be defeated with a combination of quick sabre strikes and formidable force attacks, and they’ll usually culminate in a quick time button sequence during which The Apprentice’ll pull off some pretty impressive moves to put them down. Unfortunately, the quick time events for each boss type are almost always the same and once you’ve sat through a few you’ll quickly find yourself becoming bored with them. End of level boss battles usually involve you dodging out of the way of your enemies force attacks or lightsabre strikes, however they do tend to increase with difficulty as you progress to face force users of equal or greater skill than your own, with the exceptions being Kazdan Paratus who you face very early on in the game despite the fact that he’s one of the most infuriatingly difficult bosses to defeat and Captain Ozzik Sturn who possess no force powers whatsoever, so you’ll have to keep your wits about you.
The campaign is thoroughly enjoyable to play through despite the fact that the story might start to grate by the end for uber Star Wars fans. There’s a nice increase in difficulty between the different settings and having worked my way though most of them I found the final battle with The Emperor on the Sith Lord difficulty setting to be particularly challenging, taking roughly two hours to finally complete. I’m currently struggling my way through the Sith Master setting, and let me tell you you’ll need to use every trick in the book to stay alive against even the simplest of enemies.
For all you completionists and achievement whores out there, you’ll be glad to hear that the task of finding all the Jedi holocrons that are sneakily hidden around the levels is particularly difficult, plus once you’ve discovered their locations you’ll then have to work out how to best exploit your force powers in order to get hold of them.
Despite a couple of flaws here and there, this is a great game for any Star Wars fan, especially when you really start to root around the environments and discover all the little in jokes and references to the movies that are hidden away.
- Awesome force powers
- Stunning visuals
- The chance to single handedly take out a Star Destoyer
- Repetitive boss battles
- Lightsabre combat isn’t anywhere near as fun as using the force
- It’s over too quickly
The Short Version: The game provides you with the chance to really experience what it’s like to be a powerful Jedi whilst exploring the relatively unknown period between the two film trilogies, and is a blast to be a part of even though there are a few creases present that could do with ironing over.
First published on Dealspwn (24 July 2009)