Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (360)

Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (360)

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Matthew

Star Wars can be very hit-and-miss with the bad games outweighing the good. The last memorable Star Wars game I played was Jedi Outcast. The Force Unleashed is memorable, but sadly most of that is for all the wrong reasons.

As you will probably know the story takes place between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and concentrates on Darth Vader’s secret Sith apprentice. As a big Star Wars fan myself the story was one of the main things I was looking forward to and I wasn’t disappointed – many characters from both trilogies and the Expanded Universe make appearances along with some famous locations.

Every game can be improved by Force Grip.

Every game can be improved by Force Grip.

The game takes the form of a 3D hack-and-slasher. Obviously living up to the name, the Force powers are this game’s main selling point. All the powers that you would expect are here – lightning, grip, push etc. and their strength can be upgraded throughout the game as you level up. More powerful combos can be bought, as well as the ability to increase various aspects such as your maximum health and Force energy. Obviously with this being a Star Wars game things are made a little more special due to the fact you are using a lightsaber, which unfortunately feels rather underpowered compared to what you would expect.

You won’t see any decapitations or limb dismemberment here, probably a move to keep the game’s rating down. Instead enemies will merely stagger back then quickly brush it off. One annoying thing to note is the fact that you cannot move and block at the same time. This isn’t a problem during the early part of the game where the strongest thing you come up against is blaster fire which you automatically deflect with the lightsaber. But later on it becomes a pain when you come face enemies with stronger attacks. Annoyingly I often found myself in a vicious circle of being knocked down, recovering and immediately being knocked over again. The main culprit being the AT-STs and other enemies with heavy firepower.

Lunch money... NOW!

Lunch money... NOW!

The Stormtrooper and Rebels you encounter are merely cannon fodder. The real fights are the boss battles with the Jedi you are sent to assassinate. While these should really end up being the best parts of the game they often become a very frustrating and unenjoyable experience due to the unfair difficulty at times. Most of your Force powers are useless and are merely blocked and reversed. An awkward switch from free-floating to a fixed camera angle is no help either and ends up being more of a hindrance – on one particular boss fight it resulted in my vision regularly being blocked by scenery. The final moments of these battles take place exclusively in quick-time-events, very similar to those seen in God of War, and rather than being annoying and intrusive they are rather enjoyable to watch. Ultimately thought, these fights feel more like a chore when it really should be the exact opposite.

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Rich

Secondary Review

Whilst never being a fan of the films, I’ve always had a lot of love for the Jedi Knight games so any chance to run around force gripping rebel scum whilst wielding the big glowy sword is welcome and whilst this game does, at times, offer you an unparalled feeling of badassness (well unparalled until the next UFC game – if Chuck’s in it) the party is somewhat spoiled by other, unnecessary annoyances.

The boss battles are all clumsy and unenjoyable, the quick-time events are utterly hateful, the level design is often unclear and messy and the game is probably a little too short and repetitive for its own good.

The force powers are highly enjoyable to use and, in combination with the excellent physics engine, give you plenty of options for dispatching your enemies and, in the good levels, can make the game very enjoyable. It’s just a shame that a fun-ruining moment is always just around the corner.

Production values veer from standard film tie-in budgetry to actually very good with some well acted, if cheesy, dialogue and some epic-looking levels to run around in. The story is throwaway but enjoyable enough to be a part of and there are a few unlockables thrown in to reward persistence.

Overall, The Force Unleashed is a potentially great game let down by enough annoyances to ruin both its score and a player’s enjoyment of it but should mildly diverting for fans of the films and is worth picking up on the cheap if only to play around with the physics engine.

Secondary Score: 6/10

Ever since the early trailers and screenshots a lot as been said about the physics engine, especially the “Digital Molecular Matter” which is particularly impressive. Using your Force powers on metal doors and beams results in them bending and twisting as they would in real life. Trees and giant mushrooms sway realistically with the power of your Force blasts. Many sections of the game require you to alter pieces of the environment in order to progress and the way this is handled is pretty interesting. The Euphoria engine (also seen in Grand Theft Auto 4) is put to good use here. Basically the next evolution of ragdoll physics, Stormtroopers will hold on for dear life as you attempt to lift them up with the Force and launch them in the air, grabbing onto the nearest obstacle or sometimes even each-other. It does however get a tad ridiculous when you notice enemies tripping over rubble and somersaulting around the place when trying to charge at you.

Graphics-wise this game is pretty stunning in places, particularly the outdoor levels. The wastelands of the junkyard planet Raxus Prime being my favourite as you will recognise the wreckage of many ships from the films. The psychedelic-coloured forests of Felucia are also worth a mention, covered in giant mushrooms and exotic plants. The familiar locations (which I won’t spoil) have all been translated extremely well and will have your inner-fanboy grinning with excitement. For the most part the character animation is excellent – especially during the QTE cutscenes – but the facial animation is rather clunky and unnatural. As with every major Star Wars game, a lot of work has gone into the sound design. You will recognise many memorable pieces of music including the Imperial March, and of course the game wouldn’t be complete without the unforgettable hum of the lightsaber. The voice acting is rather exceptional with my only gripe being that James Earl Jones does not provide the voice of Darth Vader. Too much to ask perhaps, or am I just being picky?

Despite enjoying a lot of this game, I regularly found myself getting frustrated by poor game design. The frustrating boss battles being one of the main culprits but the section which requires you to bring down a Star Destroyer with the Force is massively flawed and one of the worst parts of the entire game. It also suffers from a fair few glitches, one of which resulted in me being stuck under the ground during a boss fight. There is also a notorious glitch which prevents any Holocrons you collect from registering, requiring you to start an entirely new game if you want to go for a certain achievement. It is also a very short game and could probably be completed within a day and a second play through in even less time. Given the epic nature of Star Wars and previous games this was somewhat of a disappointment, it ends up feeling rather rushed when it could have been so much more. I’d only recommend buying this if you are a Star Wars fan, possibly not at full price though given the length. Replays are encouraged due to the amount of collectable costumes and lightsaber crystals but ultimately two play throughs were more than enough for me. While it is a perfectly playable game, it is wasted potential and the Star Wars licence saves it from mediocrity. Just.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 6/10

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