[2 Minute Review] Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Note: This review is full of light spoilers but does not divulge the outcome or major points of the plot.

Can a game cause a person to embrace the dark side?

Yes, one feels the hatred flowing through them while playing this game. One also feels the elation of redemption once it’s all over.

DO: You are every Star Wars fan’s dream. Kill anything that moves using Force powers–with ultimate effect.

TYPE:
3rd person action platformer

PLATFORM: 360 and PS3 (in this iteration) (360 version reviewed here)

PRICE:
$60

MEAT: Made an orphan by Darth Vader and impressed to become his adept in the Force the player is forced (heh) to become a double agent and start an uprising for the purpose of Vader wanting to overcome the Emperor and have you rule at his side. Premise aside the game is an ongoing trial of frustration. Storm Troopers can block Force powers and unwieldy camera angles make knowing where the action is rather difficult. The camera also helps in missing numerous jumps when it comes to certain levels. Throw in a useless save system and some broken save points and you tend to know what it’s like to experience the extreme power of the dark side. On more than one occasion I felt as if I could Force pull the disc from the 360 tray. The game looks and sounds great, and only during the endgame when you have most of your powers at their full potential does the game play tend to get exciting. Perhaps though the most squandered potential of any video game moment of all time is lost during the often advertised Star Destroyer scene. You’re tasked to use your Force powers to pull it down right out of the sky. Instead of being an epic moment, it becomes one of trial and error and then develops a sense of defecating relief once it’s over. The following cut scene barely manages to cover that guffaw. However that leads me to the game’s redeeming moment: the story. Let me finish by saying that it ranks in the top three of Star Wars stories grouped with The Empire Strikes Back and Knights of the Old Republic. I’ve only done this once before playing a video game, but I teared up during the final cut scene. Maybe my frustration of playing gave way to an empathy with the frustration that the apprentice felt?

PERKS: wielding the Force in its full glory is awesome; excellent graphic design, sound effects, and soundtrack; one of the greatest Star Wars stories–is it any wonder Lucas considers the game canon?

SCREAMS: to have been play tested–by people; to have better enemy awareness; to have an enemy AI other than throwing wave after wave of troopers at you; to display real lightsaber effects and not essentially be a lit wooden pole; to not have Quick Timed Events; to have a better Force power progression; to be made into a proper movie

VERDICT:
Rent. This rating was really hard for me especially if you’ve read my previous frustrations. Rent it for the story alone. Otherwise watch the cut scenes on YouTube or read the book. If it wasn’t for the story I would have recommended that you Pass on the pain. They’ve sold over 1.5 million copies so will probably see a sequel with the same crappy game play.

Here’s my gamercard to show I completed the game.

Comments

  1. SPOILERS BELOW

    I actually thought that the story was one of the weak points of the game. Starkiller is the very embodiment of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Emperor: “How do I figure out who my enemies are? Jedi are my enemies! I know! I will have Darth Vader train an apprentice to kill Jedi and root them out! There must be more than just Jedi who are upset with my iron-fisted rule! I have it! I will have Vader’s apprentice start a resistance movement so that anyone who could potentially be my enemy will join said movement and I will know who they are!”

    Not the brightest bulb in the box, that Emperor. He created the very organization that proves to be his undoing.

    Starkiller had no personality to speak of, much like most videogame characters, so I found him singularly dull and uninteresting.

    The only time at which his personality becomes even the slightest bit interesting is at the very end when he says good bye to Juno, in what has to be the most cringe-worthy parting scene ever. At almost every other point in the game, he’s just an obedient, boring white guy. The angst and conflict in his facial expressions never culminate in any meaningful character development via cut scenes. Like most videogame protagonists, he’s simply tabula rasa, on which players can project whatever personality or characterisation they want. Basically, the work of filling in Starkiller’s personality is left to the player. It’s a cop out.

    The other weak point would be the camera angles and timed button combinations. I didn’t consider the save point problems you had to be issues for me at all. I also thought that the battle with the Star Destroyers was frustrating and drawn out.

  2. I somewhat agree with your points on Starkiller’s personality. However, when I compare the story to the canon of the series, I still think it rises to the top (except for the X-wing books by Stackpole–but they’re not canon)

    I thought it was weird that all of a sudden during the parting scene there was a love interest and it, to me, was one of the better emotional scenes. Just him entering the Death Star was full of coolness.

    I don’t agree with the Emperor being stupid. I actually think he is the smartest or at least cleverest character in the Star Wars universe. He orchestrated everything to put himself in power. It was so convoluted, it worked. Not all his hands knew what the other was doing including Doku and Grievous. To him, it was a master plan. I don’t think turning Anakin was part of that plan at first, but he needed a new apprentice and Anakin becoming Vader was icing on the cake.

    The idea of getting more Jedi makes sense to me because they needed a figure not known among the hidden Jedi to track them down. Vader was too high profile by then.

    Of course, this is all just fanboy conjecture. As far as me tearing up, I think it has to do with a lot of things: the score, the emphatic frustration of playing the game, the lack of sleep on my part, Starkiller’s being the only Jedi (by that time he was) to face Vader AND Palpatine one after the other and totally dominate them. The only other person to do that was Windu and that was just the Emperor.

    Luke was amazing for what he did, but when you are the only one of your kind (at the time) you’ll rise to the top. The things is, by doing the prequel trilogy, Lucas made Vader the one who brought balance to the Force, not Luke. That is a huge fundamental change. Also, the balance was not in the way all of us had thought.

    I think Star Wars arcs as a whole are better when they are redemption stories: Starkiller, Anakin, Luke (for not listening and failing in ESB), and even Corran Horn. …and then there is the story in KOTOR. Holy crap.

    I don’t follow the Expanded Universe that much because I think it tends to repeat itself. (Isn’t a grandson of Han and Leia now a sith lord?)
    I’ve have heard that the Clone/Commando books by Traviss are good, but I’ve not given them a try.

    At any rate, I did end up finding the game to be enjoyable–at least even now more the second time through and my Force powers are maxed up. However, the game play left a LOT to be desired. LucasArts raised the bar in a lot of areas and met all of them but gameplay.

  3. All I want is a good New Jedi Order RPG/flight sim.

    Or Republic Commando 2…

  4. I’ve been playing through Republic Commando using BC. It’s been a treat to do it all over again.

  5. Dash BRendar says:

    Aiieee!
    Yes, this game is just too frustrating! I don’t think I’ll finish because I can’t help but feel my time and sanity are too precious to waste on the star destroyer scene. It should have been awesome, it should have been epic, but sadly it’s just a childish revisitation of 90s games with repetitive gameplay that’s basically on rails. Why do TIE fighters keep harassing you? How did they even identify you as a target? Why do they send wing after wing (seemingly without end – I haven’t finished the scene and I can’t be bothered because there doesn’t seem to be any progress after defeating 4 or 5 flights of TIES. The star destroyer just floats around at about the same distance.) Why can’t I just go inside and pull down the ISD whilst peeking out a window?? What frustrates me more than forced gameplay is when it forces you to act like a moron! The idea is great, it should be a sensationally vulgar desplay of the Force – but it’s just cheapened by the cycle of interupting TIES and feels too much like the kind of arcade games aimed at children for me to enjoy. I really can’t understand why Force Unleashed wasn’t an RPG.

    Likewise the “finishing move” sequences would be great if you could just sit back and enjoy them, but I found that because I was watching for the next button to push I could watch the actual fight and see what my character was doing. It was also frustrating in that why force me to kill something one specific way? If I want to just slash the life out of it and save myself some stress I should be able to. Special finishing moves should maybe just be bonuses, and also you should simply select the one you want and sit back to enjoy the show.

    There was something interesting about Juno Eclipse… She had an indefinable quality or some flaw that really made her look incredibly “real” and quite attractive. I can’t place it but I liked the character (great english accent too – not an american voice actor trying to fake it!) Since I haven’t finished the game I can only assume/hope she and the PC were getting attached to each other.

    I don’t approve of any game not allowing you to save where and whereever you are, but since the game isn’t that deep I suppose it doesn’t count as a major flaw. Stormtroopers (anyone really who doesn’t have Force training) resisting Force powers is just annoying and goes against the mythos I think. The game was in the most part fun, but just has too many irritating gameplay flaws to be more than a rental game. It’s too fast and hack n’ slashy, which doesn’t lend itself to exploring your environment. It would have been nice if there were things to find, people to talk to, and so on.

    I agree whole-heartedly with Brock. My dream Star Wars game would be an RPG which focussed on getting a starship (with 100s to choose from), customising it, modding it, and just exploring the galaxy trading or bounty hunting, or whatever (a little like Freelancer mixed with KotOR). The SW galaxy for me is about freedom; the Empire is free to make harsh laws, but you’re free to break them and live on the fringe – that’s where the real excitement and interest in Star Wars lies.

    King of Star Wars games and plots is still KotOR 1. All hail Revan – Long live the King!

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