Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Posted on October 15, 2008 by


I’m going to assume right off the bat that you’ve seen at least one star wars movie at some point, or are aware of the franchise on some level, because frankly if you haven’t, then you’re probably some weird stinky hermit with no friends.

As a rule, most people who follow the franchise will  probably have  watched the six films. The more hardcore among them will have delved whole-heartedly into the expanded universe, wherein lies and lot of really utterly freaky things, and they could probably explain to you in detail what would have happened to those annoyingly cute Ewoks once a moon-sized battle station (900 km in diameter, about 5200 km above the surface) explodes in orbit of your forest moon. (Basically, billions of tons of metal in sizes ranging from ‘small enough to slice up your lungs’ to ‘continent squishingly huge’ plumetting towards the helpless little teddy bear folks. I laughed.) But there is a biting point between the people who watch the movies and the people who still believe Aaylla Secura survived Order 66, and these are the people who buy the video games.

Never one to fail on cashing in on a franchise (read: Flogging a dead horse), Lucas does love his video games. The majority of Star-wars games have obviously been movie tie-ins, from the abominable Super bombad racing to the genius Battlefront. As I noted in my review of Mercs 2, Lucasarts has an excellent track-record for compelling, humourous, story-driven video games, most notably the Monkey Island series, and who else would George leave to develop his precious Star wars games?

And so with that unusually long intro out of the way, allow me to present Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Story-wise ths game is more on par with the older original trilogy on the basis that it didn’t leave me with a pressing need to make some flow charts and question every single ‘Plot twist’. The plot involves the player taking control of the preposterously named ‘Starkiller’ (The name originally used for Luke Skywalkers character in early drafts of A new hope) who is Vader’s secret apprentice,(One of about a dozen in the EU) and who gets sent around with his cardboard cut-out ‘love interest’ Juno Eclipse, (Whose facial animations always put me in mind of a cartoon rabbit) and the sometimes amusing Holo/Battle droid Proxy to hunt down errant Jedi who survived order 66. (Sorry, still no Secura.)

The story is set somewhere around 10-5BBY, (Before the Battle of Yavin for non-geeks) meaning it slots neatly in between episodes three *shudder* and four *Hurrah*. Which leaves the writers a leeway of being able to put whatever the hell they like into the twenty year gap. A young Leia makes an appearance, looking dissapointly dissimilar to a teenage Carrie-Ann Fisher (Darn it darn it darn it) and even Artoo has a bleep. (Unfortunatly you don’t get to slice either of them in half, thanks to the ever so shocking ‘Plot Twist’. Go on, guess what it is. You’re an evil uber-powerful force wrecking ball of destruction, but according to Lucas ‘Nobody is evil’ (Just misunderstood) and so soon, your days of Wookiee slaughter are over. (Just once I’d like the cannon storyline to be evil. Why can’t the bad guys ever win? Do the story writers never read history books or something? Evil people always win!)

The gameplay is much like that of the Jedi Knight games, except more acrobatic (Although unlike Jedi Knight you can’t dismember your foes. I was very disappointed) with far more accessable force-powers. Which are:

1) Force Grip: Pick objects up, move them, hurl them at foes. pick foes up and beat them into the walls. Can be combined with-

2) Force Lightning: Like Emporer Palpy, you get to fry people. Pick up a girder and use lightning on it, and it becomes and big lump of metal charged with a gazillion volts.

3) Force Push: …Pretty straightforward. Can be used to warp some items in the environment, or for blasting stormies across a room.

4) Lightsaber Throw: Two varieties: Hurl it at foes on the ground for a one-hit kill, or hurl it at foes you’ve picked up with force grip, while pumping them full of voltage at the same time. (For the esp. sadistic)

5) Lightning Shield: A big ball of lightning to protect you from um… stuff. Also zaps any foes within range automatically.

6) Force Blast: Basically an all-around charged force push, fun for blowing doors open, or when you’re surrounded by pesky stormies.

These will almost all come into play at some point, either in a ‘cunning’ puzzle, a crowded battle or because you went and spent your hard-earned points on them and want to test them out. Starkiller is ridiculously powerful, and shows considerably more talent than any Skwalker ever did. On the other hand, Starkiller spent his entire life being trained, maimed and beaten by Vader untill he was a Bad Mutha Funker. As a result he is considerably more ‘Unleashed’ than say, Wangsty Anakin or whiney Luke, and gets to be badass while doing so. The problem I have is that none of these powers ever really feels very Unleashed. They’re certainly souped-up, but none of them are really anything new. (Like say, ripping your foes limb-from-limb, blowing them apart from the inside out or throwing AT-ST’s about.) and it doesn’t help your feeling of immense power when the game routinly throws you at enemies with defenses against your force powers (Apparently, they never realised they could use them to go and kill Vader) and forces you into close combat with your fly-swatter of lightsaber.

There are a variety of saber combos, and you can customise the blades colour and stability (For pretty sparkly effects) and the affect it has on foes. (Increased damage, better reflection, health drain, less costly force powers etc.) but for the most part you’ll try to avoid saber combat when it’s easier the wang boulders at the tiny stormies in the distance and fry the ones up close.) Saber combos of note include charhing the blade with electricity, and a force move which opens up the highly under-utilised ariel moves.

This game was also being used to showcase three new game engines, running side by side. Euphoria (First used in GTA IV) means that characters react realistically to their environment (For example, if you force grip a stormy, he may try to hold onto something or someone to save his sorry ass) and we’re told ‘every single reaction will be new and varied’. Apparently this means ‘New and varied in many tiny ways that you’ll probably never notice’. Digital Mollecular Matter, or DMM, programs how the environment reacts, making glass shatter (And then vanish) tree’s splinter (And then vanish) and metal warp (And then twang back into place like rubber). It also gives mass to objects, so picking up a huge rock is harder and slower than picking up a dude and slamming him mercilessly into a wall while you laugh maniacally at his tiny flailing arms and screams for mercy. Finally, an updated Havok engine runs real-time physics. This means that when you pick up a stormy and he grabs a crate which gets lifted with him, and then hurl him through a window into space, causing a vacuum and sucking out other debris, all three engines are running together to ensure the maximum of realism.

The game gets quite repetetive quite fast, and you’ll find it’s often only the story that keeps you going, unless you’re a sadistic nut-job who enjoys frying stormtroopers over and over, but is worth three or four playthroughs of it’s somewhat brief eight-hour campaign, if not just to get the fun costumes and try out the different difficulties but aside from that, you’d have to be strong in the force to enjoy this game and not have nagging doubts about how much better it could have been. In short, I got it, I played it, I loved it, and then I shelved it untill some time in the future when I feel the urge to play an awesome star-wars game and kick some ass. Untill then it’s back to Call of Duty for me.

Coming soon: a review of Fallout 3, once I finally get my hands on it. And Maybe that new spider-man game if I have time.

Posted in: Games