Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, 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: Sep. 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
A Lightsaber We Have Always Wanted
by Matthew Walker

August 28, 2008 - What can I say about Star Wars? You either love the original trilogy (the first movies) and hate the new abominations (the new trilogies) or vice versa. Then there are those few that say they love them all; I call you people "pleasers." Whatever the case may be for the fandom of Star Wars, one thing is consistent:, we cannot get enough of it.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

No matter what feelings you may have over the recent treatment of the beloved pop culture phenomenon, there does seem to be some individuals within the Lucas family of companies that want to give us the Star Wars we love: riveting storyline, epic scale, Force power displays, and lightsaber battles that wipe clean the existence of Jar-Jar Binks. Well, I am here to tell you we will have that in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed title. That is, if everything I have experienced thus far holds true.

When I first started the game, there was a little "training" exercise, where you could learn your Force powers. I tested these and immediately I felt calm and wowed enough to get ready to become Darth Vader's apprentice and do everything the Sith Lord wanted me to do, well except maybe polish his helmet. The first thing I noticed was the musical score thundering in my surround sound. The familiar music vibe we have come to know and love from John Williams has been retooled with more of a darker side to the classic melodies and with good reason. This is the Dark Side's tale after all.

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The music was so good that I was transfixed with my ear on the low hums of instruments putting a new flavor in the Star Wars universe. Because the sounds were so crisp and beautifully put together, I almost, that's right; almost, didn't notice the opening cinematic with Vader and Starkiller. The environments look full and flow naturally around the characters. Even though this was in the loading dock of a ship, it didn't matter; it was already feeling like Star Wars. The character model of Starkiller looks a little off in the cinematic, but during gameplay he looked really well put together, so hopefully this will be ironed out before the release.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

A factor that helped during the gameplay was the Euphoria engine. Everything that I have experienced thus far with the game is a great step up from the usual stiffness of characters, especially when you hurl them along or damage them. The enemies are smarter than in other games, mostly, and they look like physical beings rather than the traditional cardboard cutouts, again, mostly.

For combat thus far, I'd say that it is a lot of fun trying to figure out the various abilities of Starkiller. There is a combo system, but with the demo I was able to play, those combos are not all revealed for you before you dive in. In fact, the three combos you are shown during the button explanation screen are only the tip of the Dark Side. I was able to do one combo where I threw my light saber at an enemy and then pulled the enemy towards me to pull out my lightsaber. There was one thing I don't like about the combat, I haven't figured out how to cut off limbs. I mean come on, this is Star Wars, the one franchise that loves to amputate characters hands all the time.

The Force powers worked great, even when not in combat situations. The interaction with the environment was something of video game legend for Star Wars fans. Using the Force to burst through closed doors will give anyone that feeling of being a Sith Lord. It's also about variety as well. For example, during the section on the demo where the TIE Fighters are swooping by you on the left and you are fighting the random Imperials. Instead of dodging the TIE Fighter's fire, you can use the Force in order to unhinge the archways and just wait for the TIE Fighters to fly by and watch the fireworks. Granted, the flybys still happen, but it is awesome to watch a couple of times.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

As I was nearing the end of the demo, I was squaring off against an early model AT-AT. Most will remember them from the Return of the Jedi movie, but I have to say, I was a little surprised with it being a semi-boss battle. Either that or just a taste of the upcoming enemies we will have to face in the stage. Either way, toppling these massive machines was fun, even the timed button executions you have to press in order to finish them off. Of course, that was it for me on the demo, but I was treated to a solid video of all the things I could look forward to from the game. It appears that we will also be dealing with a leveling up system to advance our Force abilities and hopefully our use of the lightsaber as well.

With so many thinking that Star Wars needs to stop with spinoff games, more movies, and animated series, it is refreshing that some projects know how to treat the fans of the series without smacking them in the face. Whether or not there will be improvements to the game before the release, a deeper combat system, or an overall exemplary storyline for us to fall in love with remains a mystery until the full release of the title. For now, I can assure those eagerly awaiting its release that the Force is strong with this one, and the Dark Side will be as tempting as ever.

By Matthew Walker
CCC Project Coordinator


Game Features:

  • During the period between Episodes III and IV, players hunt Jedi in the role of Darth Vader's Secret Apprentice.
  • Unleash and upgrade the Secret Apprentice's four core Force powers - Force push, grip, repulse, and lightning - throughout the course of the game, and combine them for ultra-destructive, never-before-seen combos.
  • In addition to new adversaries created just for the game, such as fugitive Jedi and Force-sensitive Felucians, players will also confront and associate with familiar faces from the Star Wars films, including Darth Vader.
  • Visit locations such as Episode III's Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk and the floral Felucia, the junk planet Raxus Prime, plus an Imperial TIE fighter construction facility.
  • Decisions made by players throughout the game will determine the path of the story, including multiple endings that will rock Star Wars continuity as they know it.
  • The Force Unleashed is LucasArts' first internally developed title for next-generation consoles, and it represents the first in-game collaboration of talents and technology between LucasArts and Industrial Light & Magic, two companies now finally under one roof at the new Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco's Presidio district.
  • The Force Unleashed debuts Digital Molecular Matter from Pixelux and euphoria behavioral simulation from NaturalMotion Ltd.


  • Screenshots / Images
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