Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review for the Nintendo Wii

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Review for the Nintendo Wii

In a year that has already received a slew of great games and is slated to receive a pile more by the time 2009 rolls in, it’s surprising that a game like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed garnered much attention at all. Yes, it’s a Star Wars game, which, in itself, is enough to appease a legion of fans of the intergalactic saga, but, as a game, The Force Unleashed isn’t that impressive. Under all the hype and excitement regarding Force Powers and the Dark Side, is a fairly average hack-and-slash title. It can be enjoyable at times, but when all’s said and done, it feels shallow and more than a little disappointing.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

Surprisingly, the game’s plot is one of its most enjoyable aspects; storytelling is done quite well. You take the role of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, and while it’s obviously not a character that existed in the movies, the game does a nice job of weaving him into the lore of the series. Simply put, everything makes sense. There are no unexplained plot holes and this apprentice wasn’t just tacked-on for the sake of having a plot. Character development is actually pretty good, and if you’re a fan of the movies, you’re really going to enjoy The Force Unleashed’s storyline.

After a ridiculously cool level of controlling Vader himself, you take the role of Starkiller, the apprentice, and you’re off on a quest to vanquish a number of living Jedi. Starkiller feels quite different from Vader and while it’s cool to play as a quick, speedy Sith, it would have been nice to have a bit more character variety.

Once you settle into the game, you get down to the combat. Despite some interesting storytelling, the fighting is what this game is all about, but sadly, the battle mechanics don’t feel as good as they probably could have been. The Force Unleashed combines much-hyped Force Powers with lightsaber mechanics and, at times, the combos and strategies that result can be pretty interesting. Just as often, however, The Force Unleashed feels like a shallow Wii-style button-masher.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

You’ll swing around the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to perform swipes and stabs with the lightsaber, unleash Force Powers, and string together complex combos that can take out foes with ease. Pulling off combos, admittedly, can be pretty difficult and requires excellent timing on your part. But generally, just swinging around can get the job done, and there isn’t much incentive to intelligently take down enemies. Still, the Wii controls are preferable to mashing buttons and jiggling analog sticks.

The lightsaber may be a bit of a let-down, but it’s hard to argue with how cool the Force powers are. From the Force Grip that you’ve got from the get-go to more advanced Force-related attacks you earn later on, The Force Unleashed gives you a level of control over the Star Wars universe that we’ve not had before. It’s very cool to be able to take control of these powers; sadly, it doesn’t stay fun for long and, after a while, you may find yourself using the same basic combinations to take out wave after wave of hostiles.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

To add to the problems, the level design isn’t all that great and many times locales feel like little more than areas to kill people. Star Wars fans will find more to enjoy here than most people and areas of particular story significance are neat. When the game has a focus on wiping out as many people as possible, I suppose it’s understandable that making intelligent, interesting, and cohesive levels may have dropped a bit on the list of priorities. Still, just trudging from one area to the next gets old really quickly and does little to distract you from the monotonous fighting that makes up the bulk of the game.

That said, there is a real sense of charm about the game that stems from the fact that you’re given a lot of freedom what with the force powers and all. The game has no qualms about throwing hordes of enemies at you, but it also encourages you to get creative with how you dispatch them. Hurling foes around, tossing them into each other, and bringing down lightning on their unsuspecting heads is sickeningly satisfying. But ultimately, it’s not enough to make up for the fact that, as a game, The Force Unleashed lacks any real depth in terms of gameplay.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed screenshot

In fact, that sense is present in other facets of the game as well and, at times, The Force Unleashed feels rushed even though it’s been worked on for quite some time. For example, there are a number of oddities present in the game that feel really out of place, from a ridiculously glitchy boss fight to some issues with targeting certain force powers. It’s not that anything’s broken, rather, the game lacks the polish it deserves.

Even the graphics feel a bit neglected, despite the fact that The Force Unleashed is generally touted as a technical spectacle. Yes, there are some very cool visual effects and watching your character wreak havoc is undeniably awesome. But the Wii version of The Force Unleashed doesn’t look as good as it should; of course, it’s not going to look like the PS3 or 360 versions, but even so, it’s not quite the visual powerhouse I expected. Graphical glitches pop up occasionally and issues tend to be more pronounced with lots of action on-screen at once.

Despite some really irritating problems, The Force Unleashed isn’t a bad game. The Wii controls are solid, and blazing a trail of destruction with the Force powers is a great game premise. But there are just some aspects of the game that feel half-baked and poorly-done. For example, the character development sections where you upgrade various aspects of Starkiller feel tacked-on and don’t seem to have any real bearing on gameplay. Ultimately, it’s a game that’s going to appeal most to hardcore Star Wars fans, thanks to the solid storytelling and high-quality music. If you’re looking for a basic action game, though, you could do a lot worse than Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Some impressive bits, but there are too many bugs and glitches to call The Force Unleashed a great visual achievement. 3.7 Control
Using the Wii Remote to control Starkiller is satisfying and surprisingly intuitive; stringing together combos and discovering clever uses of Force powers is also quite enjoyable. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While it gets repetitive, the music is pretty solid. Epic Star Wars tunes are present throughout — it’s hard to argue with that. 2.8

Play Value
The really awesome parts of the game are sadly overshadowed by a general lack of polish and dearth of gameplay depth.

3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • The power of the Force: The core powers of the Force can be upgraded throughout the game. Use Force push, grip, repulse, and lightning in powerful combinations. Force grip an enemy in mid-air, zap them with lightning, and then throw them to the ground.
  • Familiar and new universe elements: Interact with familiar characters such as Darth Vader and new adversaries such as fugitive Jedi and Force-sensitive Felucians. Visit locations including Episode III’s Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk, the floral Felucia, the junk planet Raxus Prime, and 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.
  • Intuitive and satisfying Wii controls put the powers of the Force under you control.
  • Screen Resolution: Up to 480p (Progressive Scan, Widescreen).

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