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Reviewed: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: October 27th, 2008
Page: 2


Let's start from the beginning - it's as good a place as any to start with, really - and let's talk about what's good about The Force Unleashed, first. It's not 100% bad; there are just enough bits and pieces here and there to convince a gamer, looking to be convinced, that maybe "there is good in Lucasarts yet."

As the game begins, the storyline's intriguing. Darth Vader hits Kashyyk, hits it hard, mowing down Wookies and Stormtroopers alike to get to a rogue Jedi who's been hiding on the planet all this time. He catches up to the Jedi, kills him... and then takes the Jedi's son to raise for his own, an apprentice to be used like the Sith use all their apprentices. A rough decade later, Vader begins sending his apprentice out on missions, to take down other Jedi, and later even to infiltrate the growing ranks of those discontent with the Emperor's rule, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the Emperor entirely.

That's the bare bones of the story... and unfortunately, due to the way Lucasarts decided to play this one (releasing as a novel, roleplaying setting, video game, and a whole host of other things) a barebones story and never-really-developed romantic subplot are pretty much all you get. So much for round one.

On the main gameplay, the game is stunning and gorgeous all at once; the most fun in the game will be had beating up on enemies, tossing their bodies around, tossing them around, lobbing explosives at them, and generally wreaking havoc with all the power and craziness the Dark Side of the Force has to muster. There's pushing, pulling, throwing the lightsaber, lightning... and almost complete freedom to break the stages apart (well, at least the areas designated as breakable).

On the downside: be prepared for a lot of annoyance. With two exceptions, puzzles involving the force powers are almost completely missing from the game (remember to play around with the TIE Fighter wings). An annoying number of enemies carry immunities to certain Force powers, a game mechanic I'm sure the designers felt was necessary to "challenge" the player but which offers little, if any, improvement on the level of fun the game provides; more often than not, it detracts.

Moving around in the world and exploring can be an exercise in frustration - apparently, in order to keep things manageable (even on the PS3), the designers had to cordon off a lot of the world and substituted bounding boxes for actual collision detection. The result? Lots of things that a player should be able to jump on, only to slide off or fall right through them, and an equal amount of very poorly coded (and obvious) "invisible edge of the world" areas.

Boss battles and sub-bosses are equally annoying; despite the fact that having Force powers would seem to offer plenty of options for fighting, for some reason the game's designers decided that a series of cutscenes requiring only that players press the right button at the right time (similar to God of War boss fights) was the way for them to go. If they wanted to show a cutscene of something being beaten up, they could have simply shown a cutscene, but apparently this was more "satisfying" - I say it just makes it harder to watch the cutscene. Inevitably, the "method" for beating a non-Jedi boss is to throw a lot of things at them from long range, and beating Jedi opponents isn't a matter of dueling so much as a matter of memorizing their pattern or trying to trick them into an area where they can't move around much.

There's also the small matter of a "boss fight" involving a certain enemy from Star Wars: Episode I that completely breaks canon and is 100% unexplainable in the context of Star Wars, but they threw it in anyways. No, I'm not sure why.

Even with these problems, Force Unleashed might have gotten a 3.5 or so; what they've done right, they've done WELL, and the vast majority of the game doesn't involve these annoying boss fights, or problematic enemy design, or even the fact that their "Princess Leia" render looks like someone took Carrie Fisher and scanned her current looks into the game, rather than modeling her based on her looks at the time the movies were made. Unfortunately for Lucasarts, the killer (at least on PS3) was the BUGS, OH GOD THE BUGS!

I'll make this as plain as possible: I know of 25 different, repeatable ways to glitch The Force Unleashed on the PS3 such that it either (a) hangs the console completely or (b) reboots back to the XMB. These aren't just any old bugs, either; they occur on boss fights, and at least four occur during the fight against Emperor Palpatine himself. There's no way around this, and those bugs are just the beginning; then there's stuff like this floating around everywhere as well.

If you're going to play this one... rent it. I wouldn't suggest owning it unless you're a completionist who simply has to have a copy of everything that's ever had the Star Wars name stamped on it somewhere.

Side Product Notice: Special notice should go to the PSP version. This game is essentially the same concerning cutscenes and storyline, but it's got a whole lot less polygons and graphical quality, and some odd programming quirks (in order to make multiplayer dueling skins, the Apprentice had to lose his signature "behind the back" lightsaber style). Other than that, it actually crashes a lot less, and if you've got some friends to play with, it can be a decent amount of fun having Force Duels. The game play isn't quite as fluid since the PSP is short on buttons - certain Force powers were moved from "always available" to "only when standing in the right spot" for convenience of level and gameplay design.


Added:  Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Score:
Page: 2/3

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