Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Posted on October 16, 2008

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There’s nothing quite like rushing home from another crummy day of work to shred the wrapping off a cool new game you’ve been salivating to play for months. Such was my anticipation for this Star Wars installment. Previews look sweet; concept sounded sweeter. For whatever lame altruistic reason I haven’t come to terms with, I love playing the good guy. But after coming out of the space ship as Vader, a.ka. the intergalactic grim reaper, I was sold on the “it feels good to be bad” mantra.

Lights off, wiping the drool off my chin at the edge of my seat, eyes fixated on Vader stomping towards my victim, I knew this would be the Star Wars experience to equal the theater experience of Star Wars back in the 70s. But, LucasArts must’ve played the ol’ Jedi mind trick on me.

The simple possibilities and fun in using The Force is there–nobody can deny that of the game. But, its shortcomings are so apparent that it cripples the character. It’s like having half the abilities of a Sith: you get the sorcery, but you’re are deprived the saber-play.

Before I continue groaning, I have to admit that the visuals of the game are great. The levels are masterfully rendered, and the environments are spot on and highly interactive. I’ll even go as far to say that the character’s suits are pretty sweet–a surprisingly pleasant deviation from the rags and robes of the Sith and Jedi (which are also out there if you can unlock them). But, unless you’re dressing up your evildoer and going out for a scenic stroll about a planet or spacecraft, you’re going to get frustrated with one gaping hole in gameplay or another.

Defense. The simple concept of throwing a block up turns out to be the most impossible feat for Vader’s apprentice. You really don’t have to block as Vader himself because you cannot die as him, but you most certainly can, and will die with his protege due to chain hits that you can’t cut short. A “counter” attack is claimed to be rewarded to a well timed block, but for some reason the light saber must weigh about 200lbs. when defending. You simply cannot throw up the block button soon enough. Instead of timing and countering with a saber, the safest move is to sit on the block button and Force Lift whatever foes are foolish enough to draw in for the kill. A great possum tactic, but do that every other skirmish and you will soon be saying, “why the hell can’t I use this red glowy thing?” Oh, and they decided to make a flower have the ability to spit goop on you from about 2 miles away with the accuracy of Peyton Manning on Aderol, so be prepared to jump early and often (because blocking doesn’t work) when going after those things.

Light saber combat itself is straight out of the age-old school of button mashing. There are cool combos that mix in some force-power elements, but LucasArts certainly has to move past the “X + Y = Combo” style. Since when does a laser sword not have the ability to cut someone in half? It’s a villain’s game…let us be villains. Up the A.I. and make the game more about defense and countering. Disarming and executing. Isn’t that what they do in the movies? Oh yea, this game’s sole purpose is to explore The Force. This little idea is VITAL, and it can save you your sanity when playing through the story.

Now I’m not sure if there are multiple endings to the game, I let my cousin borrow it almost immediately after I beat it, but the ending I saw made ZERO sense in the scope of Star Wars lore. Now, presumably this game is supposed to be slotted between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope” chronologically, but if one of the characters in “A New Hope” DIES in the Force Unleashed (whom I won’t mention in case you have not played it yet), didn’t LucasArts kind of miss something? I’m not even one of those people who can name all of the planets and species in Star Wars “mythology” but I picked up on that.

The upgrade system was passable, but the load times for every single screen is a fly in my soup. The camera was a nuissance during boss battles. And Force battles seemed to be raw concepts rather than polished products (if you have to be reminded how to do a Force battle every time one occurs, it’s probably not done right). And lastly, I don’t like the health system of the floating health-regen. orbs after defeating an enemy. Aren’t we past that in this day and age? You might as well go Streets of Rage stylee and have enemies drop ham on a bone. I’m pretty sure that was S.O.R., but if you’ve read this far, you’re my hero and are welcomed to bash me for the oversight.

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Posted in: Op-Ed