A Lightsaber We Have Always Wanted
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Force Seems Strong With This One
July 18, 2008 – 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. They’ve 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 he’s off across the universe to accomplish this goal. Afterwards, you’ll take the role of an apprentice to Vader (who’s 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. You’ll wield the deadly powers used by the Dark Side and while your lightsaber is a pretty sweet weapon, it’s 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. If you pick this title up on any system other than then DS or Wii, you’re going to be getting a fairly standard, although well-done, action title. Face buttons as well as shoulder buttons are assigned to various actions such as activating the Force and stringing together combos with your lightsaber.
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 you’ll 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, you’ll 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, you’ll even be able to cash in collectibles for trivial upgrades such as changing the color of the secret apprentice’s 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 game’s 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 handheld’s best-looking titles to date. Regardless of which system you buy The Force Unleashed for, you’re 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, you’ll 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 doesn’t 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.