Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Xbox 360
Published by: LucasArts
Developed by: LucasArts
Release Date: Out Now
There was a time when anything Star Wars was superb. The first three films will be remembered as some of the best films of all time and the early Star Wars games are still revered by those who spent many hours enjoying them. Times have changed however. The prequel movies were of an inferior quality and whilst some Star Wars fans don't mind them, most loathe them. Star Wars games in recent years have fared a little better. Overall we've had a mix of the excellent and the mediocre so you never know what you're going to get. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has its problems but on the whole it's a gutsy game that Star Wars fans will appreciate.
In Star Wars: The Force unleashed you'll play as Darth Vader's secret apprentice, codenamed Starkiller, after completing a prologue/tutorial level playing as Vader himself. The story is set between the Episode III and IV movies and essentially involves Vader acquiring himself an apprentice who he hopes can one day help him overthrow the Emperor. It's worth pointing out that because Starkiller is supposed to be a secret to all but Vader, a holodroid companion called PROXY and a female imperial pilot called Captain Juno Eclipse whom Vader himself has picked to ferry Starkiller to his destinations, you'll have to fight against both rebels and any imperials you encounter during your various missions in the game. Initially your main objective is to assassinate Jedi Knights for Vader. There's much more to the story than that of course but we certainly aren't going to reveal any more details. In fact it wouldn't be fair to do so because the story is the best part of the game and it's surprisingly engaging (which is more than can be said for the prequel movies).
Starkiller begins the game with his light sabre and a couple of force abilities but as the game progresses he'll acquire more and be able to upgrade them too. You can lift up rather large objects using the force. You can also fling enemies around using this ability. You can use a force push ability, which allows you to smash your way through both doors, literally buckling them in the process, and groups of enemies in an effective manner. Sometimes you'll have to use the force abilities to solve puzzles such as opening locks or firing projectiles. The force abilities lead to the game having a lot of physics based game-play and at times it can be a lot of fun. It's rather odd that you encounter a variety of enemies who seem to be able to withstand the power of the force because this is completely at odds with how the nature of the force was portrayed in the movies. It's rather fiddly to target enemies and items at times and this allows frustration to creep in. In boss fights you'll have to make use of these force abilities and you also get some God of War style button press sequences, where you have to press the appropriate button at the right time to carry out the move.
As enjoyable as the game is at times, there's a real unfinished quality to The Force Unleashed which is disappointing. Visually the game looks good but it has lots of clipping issues and graphical glitches which manage to put a dampener on this visual quality. You'll knock enemies from high platforms only for their bodies to be suspended in mid air before they inevitably vanish into thin air. Some animations are also rather awkward with the characters walking in a rather stilted fashion which looks completely unnatural. The frame rate does suffer when the action becomes intense and you'll even notice it pause quite a bit too, when these frame rate drops occur. Some of the load times just seem plain silly. Even calling up the menu to upgrade your force powers inflicts load times on you. At least the physics in the game are quite impressive and it can be a whole load of fun using the dark force powers in a variety of ways to defeat your enemies. Unfortunately targeting enemies is not as straightforward as it should be thanks to a less than intuitive targeting system. The camera will also become a source of irritation throughout the game and often leaves you with a less than ideal view of the action when in enclosed locations.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is subtitled but you wouldn't think so at the start of the game. Checking out the options menu before beginning a new game you'll find audio and brightness options. Indeed when you begin a new game there's some dialogue which isn't subtitled. As soon as you gain control of Darth Vader however, you can press the start button to access the options menu and this time you'll find many more options, including the option to enable subtitles. This is a very peculiar method of enabling the subtitles and it means deaf gamers will miss a very small amount of dialogue at the beginning of the game which is unfortunate. The subtitles are simplistic in that they don't have a character name or portrait displayed next to them but for the most part this doesn't cause too much of a problem. Mission objectives are given in text and can be recalled at any time. Tutorial messages are shown in text. If there's one complaint I do have it's that some of the communication messages you receive from Captain Juno Eclipse disappear far too quickly, meaning you have to read them fairly quickly.
Whilst Star Wars: The Force Unleashed definitely has some technical shortcomings, there's no denying that it's one of the better Star Wars games in recent times and the quality of the storyline means that it's easier to forgive the general lack of polish the game has. It can be irritating at times however and it's a shame that the graphical glitches, performance problems and targeting issues hadn't been sorted out prior to release. Those who aren't interested in the Star Wars element and are simply desirous of a futuristic action game may not be so forgiving. Star Wars fans will be able to forgive the problems and will enjoy the game even if they won't be enamoured with it.