|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: LucasArts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: LucasArts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
Star Wars is considered by many to be one of the greatest film series ever conceived. It has spanned six movies, even more books, and (surprise!) plenty of video games to boot. From hack-and-slash titles to action-RPGs and even a racing game, LucasArts has never been shy about creating Star Wars titles. Theyve ranged from surprisingly good to disappointingly bland, but the newest title, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, is shaping up to be one of the best Star Wars games yet.
The Force Unleashed places you in the shoes of Vader to begin the game in between episodes III and IV. As the story goes, Darth Vader is attempting to wipe out all the remaining Jedi and hes off across the universe to accomplish this goal. Afterwards, youll take the role of an apprentice to Vader (whos never a part of the movie and is instead fabricated specifically for this game). The apprentice was actually created specifically for the game and, apparently to stay true to the plot, is nameless. The rest of the game follows in the steps of this fairly basic plot set-up. You play as a member of the Dark Side, helping Vader rid the world of the Jedi. Youll wield the deadly powers used by the Dark Side and while your lightsaber is a pretty sweet weapon, its the Force powers that you take control of that make you a force to be reckoned with. Using the Force, you can grab objects (or more satisfyingly, enemies) and hurl them around, push items where you want them, and execute countless other tasks useful for dispatching foes.
Regardless of which system you play The Force Unleashed on, the controls are sure to be tight and intuitive. On the DS, control is essentially what youd expect: lots and lots of stylus action. The DS picks up the maneuvers quite well and youll be hacking and slashing your way to victory in no time. This is really nice because it allows you to execute touch inputs with your thumbs, which gives you a sturdier grip on the system as you play through this intense adventure.
Though it may seem like a straightforward button-masher (or waggler) at first, combat is subtly challenging and strategy will pay off. Sure, you can beat the life out of enemies by initiating attack commands over and over again, but youll do more damage if you instead choose to time your attacks and chain them together. Moreover, once you add your Force powers to the mix, your character will become unstoppable. Tossing a foe into a group of his friends and then smashing them with a combo of lightsaber moves and Force powers not only does lots of damage, it also promises to be really satisfying.
The combat system is deep enough as it is, but the developers have taken another step and added some character-building elements to the game as well. As you defeat enemies, youll obtain what are called Force Points. These Force Points will be used to obtain level-ups, which in turn give you Skill Points. These can then be used to upgrade various aspects of your characters, from important stats to various Force Powers. Over the course of the game, youll even be able to cash in collectibles for trivial upgrades such as changing the color of the secret apprentices saber.
One of the biggest draws of The Force Unleashed is its phenomenal graphics engine. The game is going to look significantly different depending on which version you buy of course, with the pinnacle of the games graphical achievement occurring on the 360 and PS3. Textures look great and visuals are amazingly detailed. The game also has a neat physics engine that will certainly affect the way you play. Even on less graphically powerful systems (the DS in particular) the game looks great. In fact, The Force Unleashed is shaping up to be one of the handhelds best-looking titles to date. Regardless of which system you buy The Force Unleashed for, youre in for a visual treat.
Rather than operating as a sandbox game, The Force Unleashed takes on a mission-based gameplay structure. After each mission, youll return to your ship, where you can perform a variety of system actions (saving, for example and then move on to the next mission. Aside from acting as a hub in between levels, the ship serves no particular gameplay purpose (not that we know of yet, at least). While this set-up doesnt allow for free-roaming gameplay, it does set the stage to allow for some good storytelling.
The Force Unleashed is a fairly linear game, but at the same time it definitely allows players to tackle scenarios the way they want. Often, missions will simply be obliterate the enemy in a situation where the enemies are fighting against each other anyway. Do you choose to throw yourself into the battle and kill everyone in sight? Or do you hold off a little bit and let both sides soften each other up a bit? The freedom to play as you want is definitely a good thing this title has going for it.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is shaping up to be the next blockbuster Star Wars video game. In terms of graphics, gameplay, innovation, and storytelling, The Force Unleashed has tons of potential. Keep an eye out for this promising title when it releases early this autumn on all major video game systems.
CCC Freelance Writer