Ready for Southern Gamer’s first Single Sentence Stance!? Well here it is, with full thoughts and commentary following:
I have spent the past week playing Lucasart’s latest — The Force Unleashed, and while I can’t exactly endorse it on its purported level of leashedness, I can say that it will satisfy every Star Wars fan out there who also happens to also play video games (Shyeah… right, like those people even exist.)
The first thing that hit me while playing The Force Unleashed were its uncanny similarities to previous Star Wars installments such as the Nintendo 64 classic, Shadows of the Empire and even more so, the PC force-a-thons, Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. These forebears, while not quite as refined experiences as Unleashed, laid the way for its predictable, though not lackluster, design. Like Shadows of the Empire, FU is very linear. There’s definitely nothing next-gen (or now-gen) about being shoved down a single path with arbitrary invisible walls and spawn-closets around every corner, although it does do a fairly good job of disguising all of this with beautiful backdrops and a fairly quick pacing. The similarities between FU and the Jedi Knight games is a little more apparent. The Apprentice uses all of the force powers you would expect — push, grab, throw, lightning… and, of course, double-jump. Unfortunately, none of these powers exceed the levels demonstrated in previous Star Wars games, even at their maxed-out stage, so the cutscenes are forced (no pun intended… seriously) to legitimize the ‘Unleashed’ moniker. Only in these prerendered movies does Starkiller seem especially powerful. When the game hands the controls over to the player it feels like any other decent third-person beat-em-up in which you happen to be able to move things around telepathically (and even in that way, FU is comparable to other past games such as Psi-Ops or Second Sight.)
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that this isn’t a game that likes being poked and prodded — in other words, it’s glitchy. If you try to go outside the boundries of the level, get hit during the beginning of a cutscene, or do anything at all that the designers didn’t think of, the game will hate you. You will get stuck in walls; you will fall through things you shouldn’t; some things that should happen won’t.
Where The Force Unleashed really shines (at least in my opinion as a fanatical Star Wars geek) is its story. The cutscenes are all quite short, but they manage to convey quite a bit of emotion and overall quality narrative. I haven’t dug into the book yet, but I expect to enjoy reading it based on the short snippets the game supplies. The graphic novel also does a good job of expanding on the game (although it does cut a few parts out, such as Kazdan Paratus.) While I’m on a paper-media rant, it’s also worth noting that the “Art and Making Of” book for The Force Unleashed is absolutely astounding. It has tons of commentary, concept art, unused ideas (someone PLEASE make Jedi Outlaw and Star Wars : Underworld), and even a foreword by Hayden Christensen.
All flaws aside though, it all boils down to the fact that you’re a likable anti-hero running around with a lightsaber, picking up Stormtroopers and frying Jawas — and isn’t that what we all want anyway?
Also, one final tip: Play the game on Sith Master. It shows bad game design in that Lucasarts didn’t require more skill from the player for the hardest difficulty, but simply made the enemies do way more damage while the Apprentice does less. So, after trudging through the game on that difficulty (which requires as much luck as anything), go back and play it on the easiest setting. Then, and only then, do you feel like Starkiller is the bad-ass, walking into blaster-fire, killing 20 stormies at once, god-like Sith/Jedi that he should be.
Posted in: General Gaming– September 25, 2008