Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

The Force Won’t Be with You for Long

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed should be re-titled, Forced & Leashed. This extremely linear game leads you by the hand, giving you very little freedom to do your own thing. Then again, I suppose you can’t expect to be calling the shots when you’re the apprentice of the most controlling and despicable despot of the distant future in a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

You begin the game as Darth Vader and eventually regress to play as his apprentice, Starkiller. Don’t ask me why the game doesn’t progress toward becoming Darth himself. Then again, you may as well learn from the best. While it sounds exciting to play as this unknown, secretive character with insane powers let loose in the Star Wars universe, the DS game fails to capture that exhilaration. Instead, it’s like driving a Harley with training wheels down a flat Saskatchewan highway.

The Force Unleashed is just too ambitious of a game for the handheld. Instead of an interactive movie, the DS version is more like an interactive comic book. There are no voiceovers. The story is told through texts and static images, with the odd cutscene thrown in. These cutscenes, and some of the in-game graphics, especially those in the first level, really set the stage for something extraordinary. But like a magician’s stage, the visuals are merely an illusion. These great visuals sandwich the less-than-spectacular graphics that make up the meat of the game. Unleashed is definitely the low-rent area of the Star Wars universe. The graphics are uneven, and the gameplay is unbalanced. It’s incredibly short, and incredibly easy. The multiplayer components are second-rate. Even the score sounds like it was pieced together using rejected edits from the original Star Wars theatrical soundtrack. I could go on, and I will.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

What Unleashed does have going for it is the storyline. It’s mostly told with text, but if you’re a Star Wars freak, you’ll devour the saga. True to form, these in-between-the-movie scenarios never reveal important information that would be pertinent to the main epic. But it’s still fun. It’s like playing in the Star Wars universe during the Empire’s summer holidays. To keep things relevant and authentic, you’ll come across several main characters, including “the” Darth, as well as popular locations such as the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk. These backdrops do look good, rendered in full 3D, but there are some significant framerate issues that cause the game to sputter and stall in places, once again corroborating my sentiments that the game is too overly ambitious for the DS.

Primarily, the gameplay is hack-and-slash, but thanks to the control system that utilizes the touchscreen and the stylus, this is not a button-masher, at least in the literal sense. The face buttons can be employed, but more as an alternative for left-handers if they are more comfortable with that configuration. The D-pad controls movement of the character, while the Force abilities are activated on the bottom screen. All the visual action takes place on the top screen. Force commands such as slash, push, throw, electrify, and grip are easy to activate and feel natural. As I’ve mentioned, the game is easy to play and in a short time you’ll begin to feel omnipotent. It doesn’t matter if you’re battling faceless Stormtroopers or Jedi Knights; with a few deft moves you can make short work of all of them. On the one hand, it’s good to be able to wield such power, but it’s disappointing that you don’t really have to work for it. Even when you level-up, it’s difficult to judge your power increase, since you’re incredibly powerful right out of the gate. There are very few instances where you are required to use a specific move. Mostly you are just concerned with mowing down the hordes or beating a boss. You are given the option of using a lot of different moves to accomplish the same results. This may feel like you’re given a lot of freedom, but it’s like using different vehicles to drive you from point A to point B, where the only objective is to get from one point to another.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

The main thing that you can look forward to when leveling-up throughout the game is picking up new combos. Accessing the combos is almost as easy as putting your finger on the touchscreen, but instead you use the stylus to connect and combine two regular moves. You’ll be able to pick up an enemy and throw him, or perhaps you would like to slash and electrify them. Connecting the various combos is intuitive and fun, but they are more of a novelty factor than anything else.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

You’ll end up using the lightsaber and the push move more than anything else, as these are the most effective and powerful moves. The others are like designer moves that add a bit of dramatic flair but feature style over substance. It’s nice to try the caviar now and then, but it’s the meat-and-potato moves that get the job done.

I expect more from a Star Wars game than a predictable hack-and-slash, but unfortunately that’s what Unleashed is all about. Each level leads you through a series of corridors with pockets of enemies around corners. The pace increases, culminating with large arena-style battlefields teeming with swarms of baddies, which takes you to the inevitable boss battle. Each level follows that pattern. There are few surprises, despite the fact that there are two different endings. At about five hours, the game is very short, so to artificially extend the replay value you can unlock a different ending while playing in the various unlockable outfits you collected the first time around. You can forget about the multiplayer modes. Deathmatch and one-on-one modes are not very much fun. Once again, there is very little feel of freedom. These are among the most linear multiplayer modes I’ve ever played. You are forced into areas where death for your character is caused more by environmental forces than the other players. The Deathmatch mode can accommodate up to six players, but they will all require a copy of the game.

Graphically, the game is plagued by poor camera angles that cannot be overridden, ghosting, slowdown, and repetitive, blasé character models, with the exception of your character and “the” Darth. The blasts of the lasers and the hum of the lightsabers are pure Star Wars, but the overall sound effects palette is extremely limited.

If you must, play Unleased in small doses, or better yet, just read the book.

Inconsistent graphics. Mid levels are repetitive with static backdrops. 4.0 Control
Great use of the touchscreen and stylus disguises button-mashing gameplay. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
No voiceovers. Limited sound effects palette. 2.3

Play Value
Short game. Repetitive gameplay. Blasé multiplayer modes.

2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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.
  • Examples of unleashing the Force in ways never thought possible. The Secret Apprentice won’t just Force push enemies into walls – he’ll Force push enemies through walls.
  • 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.

  • To top