Review - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

It isn't my fault. They told me they'd fixed it!
The Force Unleashed is not the best game ever made and the Euphoria, DMM and Havok systems aren't utilized to their best effect, instead they represent pockets of physics-fun sharply contrasted against the otherwise static backdrops, much like how the actors in Episode II stood out against the CGI-backdrops in all too many of it's scenes. There are also some camera issues and sound glitches and I've had the game completely freeze my 360 on one occasion ( although I was happy to see that it hadn't red-ringed so it could have been worse).

Impressive, most impressive.
That said, there is much merit to the game as well, the graphics are beautiful, the art-direction and character design is very Star Wars-esq, more so than many parts of Episode II, and some of Ep.I and Ep.III as well... Being set as it is in the highly interesting time-period between Ep.III and Ep.IV there was little chance that TFU would disappoint story wise and it definitely doesn't. The main characters are interesting and bring back the group-dynamic of the original trilogy that was so sorely lacking in the prequels and the slight bits of comic relief provided by your droid Proxy is never cringe worthy or forced. The inclusion of several well-known characters is handled very well, in many other Star Wars games (Jedi Outcast comes to mind) these familiar faces feel like cameo-appearances at best and are often shoe-horned in and fill no real purpose, here they are instead part of the central story and their own origins and background are explained and fleshed out to great effect.

All too easy...
Some critics have complained that the game is too short and that game-play is all too simplistic and that using the force soon looses it's appeal, seeing the game degenerate into a mind-less button-masher. I would say to those people that they have no doubt chosen the wrong difficulty in that case. Seeing as this is a game squarely aimed at the main-stream, the difficulty is scaled back slightly as compared to games like God of War or Devil May Cry (from which TFU has taken a lot of inspiration to great effect) and so where I would usually go with normal difficulty I chose the harder, Sith Lord setting (on completion you will also unlock the Sith Master level for an even greater challenge). This still leaves some frustrations, as the challenges are not very well balanced (larger enemies and bosses being particularly tricky at times and push-overs at others) and you will find yourself dying quickly against easier foes at times without any apparent reason. However over-all the experience is heightened by the need for a lot more strategy and though-through tactics which keeps things interesting. Also if you do get stuck on a section help will eventually come your way...

You are not a Jedi yet.
TFU incorporates a bit of an RPG element in the form of force powers and moves that you can purchase with orbs that you earn or find along the way. There is a long list of combos that can be unlocked as well as increasing your health and force bars, speeding up recovery of these two, as well as improving your ability to deflect attacks. These add more depth to play and you can choose which abilities to focus on depending on your play style, and since you are continuously gaining force points, which go towards your next level-up, even when you get stuck you know that if you aren't able to beat the section on your tenth try help will come soon, making it slightly easier and less frustrating. I found this to be a very smart system, as I hate being stuck on sections for long but I'm also reluctant to go searching for game guides. The only problem is that even though you will eventually be able to beat a boss through sheer perseverance, it is much more satisfying when you figure out their attack patterns and weaknesses so that you can use them to your advantage. This however is another area where the game falls a bit short. It is often hard to see what tactic works and what doesn't, the visual cues are either too subtle, non-existent - or in a few unfortunate cases - obscured because the camera is acting up.

Depends greatly on your own point of view
Like most Star Wars games you're enjoyment of TFU will depend greatly on how much of a Star Wars fan you are. The atmosphere, sounds, music, characters and story go a long way if like me you are the type of person who wants more Star Wars and you love diving into Georges universe. Also if you are slightly put-off by the "kiddier" aspects of the series (slapstick battle droids, Jar-Jar or C-3PO in the droid factory) then you'll be happy to hear that this game is much more "Empire" in tone and being set in between the trilogies it veers more towards the original trilogy than the prequels in look and feel. So depending on your love of Star Wars you may want to add or subtract a point from my score.

My Score: 7 of 10

For a great interview with TFU's project-lead Hayden Blackman listen to this episode of The Force.Net's Force-Cast.


Chad said...

I really enjoyed this game. I have it on the Wii and the Wii controls are fantastic, I was really concerned that they wouldn't be any good, I am glad I was disappointed!

Teboda said...

I happy to hear that not everyone makes shovel-ware ports for the Wii. This is especially suprizing considering how late in the dev-cycle they decided to make a Wii version. Maybe I'll pick that up as well at some point.

After a drought of about a year, all of a sudden there are a bunch of interesting titles out or heading to the Wii. Like de Blog, Warioland: Shake It, Muramasa: Demon Blade, Tenchu 4, Soul Eater: Monotone Princess, Punch Out, Sin & Punishment 2, The Conduit, World of Goo, Disaster: Day of Crisis, Sam & Max: Season 1.

Granted, some of those may not reach western shores, but most of them will. ^_^/b