STAFF REVIEW of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008.
by Stephen Cameron

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Box art Since Biowares Kights of the Old Republic, weve all been longing for another good, deep Star Wars story to get lost into. Well, at least I have been! With titles, like Full Throttle and Sam and Max no longer in the picture...waiting for another great title from the San Francisco Lucasarts developement studio has been a nail biting experience to say the least.

How is Star Wars Force Unleashed to HUGE fan of the series? Well, folks without letting any cats out of any bags herethat wait is over for now, our prayers have been answered. Read on.

In SWFU, you play the role of Darth Vaders secret apprentice code-named Starkiller. Which is voiced by the actor Sam Witwer (hes been in a couple of episodes of Smallville and CSI), while his real name isnt very cool, Galen Marek, hes still the new kid on the block.
He is quickly joined by a humoristic robot sidekick named Proxy (Eat your heart out Jarjar!) I guess the force cant really help you in the humor department. Besides, the goofy sidekick, you meet a fine young lady named Juno Eclipse, played by the actress Nathalie Cox (she played in the film Jumper, anyone see that?), she also works for the dark man too, shes not funny, she drives your ship. The adventure kicks off were you both set off into the sunset to kill off some of those pesky Jedis. The End. Just kidding.

The story is told between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. If youve been living under a rock, you have some homework to do. SWFU is a very intriguing story wedged between the two movies, with some colorful characters and very interesting plot twists and turns. Its top notch; Id even go as far as saying it might make a good animated mini-movie someday. On a side note, an individual named Sean William wrote a novel based on the games storyline, and it spent a few weeks at #1. As the dark lord would say Impressive, most impressive.

On to the meat and potatoes of the game, the gameplay of SWFU is actually pretty good, after playing quite a bit of Too Human in the past few weeks, the enemy targeting reminded me a lot of that. Force grabbing an enemy, and then tossing him is all too easy. On the larger enemies, it uses what I like to call the simon-says--button-sequence trick. Press Y, then X, etc Personally, Im not too fond of this method of gameplay, why? The player has a tendency to watch the button sequence, rather than the intended glorified cinematic fight. Afterwards, we look up and the whole thing is over. So, the value is unfortunately very low. But, the bad-ass feeling you receive after remains. Now, the reference I made earlier about KOTOR, well, it plays nothing like it. SWFU, is actually more of an action/adventure title, reminded me a lot of God of War on the PS2. Can you tell, I miss KOTOR?

Speaking of feeling like a bad-ass, at the beginning of the game I spent quite a few minutes force pushing wookiees off the wood bridges. Hell, I even unlocked an achievement called Bossk Defeated 200 Wookiees on Prologue. Man, that felt good. I meant killing the wookiees, not getting the achievement. Other high points in the game, was taking down the humongous star destroyer with the force. They sure pitched the game correctly, Kicking ass with the force.

In the controls department it felt really good. Executing all the various crazy force combos available to you, was a little tough to remember. But, you can always refer back to the purchase menu for the exact button sequence. The game also encourages you to solve various environment puzzles by using the force, in one level you have to align some rotating rings in a set time limit in order to get thru a tunnel with a massive laser beam shooting thru it.
The visuals in the force unleashed are simply beautiful. According to Lucasarts they hired the help of ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) for the character animations. Good use of the force there George! Each character is beautifully rendered with every nuance of the actors uniqueness. Including facial expressions, and mannerisms. From watching the web docs on Marketplace, man they really came close to reproducing the real life actors. Well done!
Lets not forget the very familiar sounds of John Williams original score. Its cleverly threaded throughout the game, along with all the authentic light saber and environmental sounds. Which entirely immerses you into the whole Star Wars experience.

The total amount of hours to finish the game from beginning to end on the Sith Warrior difficulty, was about eight hours. Grant it, I was blasting through the game at that point.

Im currently going back thru the game on the Sith Master (highest) difficulty to max out all my achievements. Yes, the completion achievements are recursive, so youll unlock all of them if you finish the game on the highest difficulty.

Heres the bad, which actually isnt show stopping bad. First off, in the past Lucasarts has been relatively unsuccessful in putting together a solid Star Wars title. SWFU is a full redemption, since KOTOR! I also ran into a few minor camera issues, and the rare invisible wall throughout the game. Unfortunately, the problems were not reproducible, so trying to send Lucasarts a bug list was out of the question. Also, when you die the game reloads every single time, Im sure this is done to refresh whats in the memory, but it was a little annoying. Especially, when youre kicking butt, you just want to head back to the action. Besides, the game never crashed on me once. Good solid game.

Overall, SWFU is a great concept and does belong in your Xbox 360 collection, especially if you are a Star Wars fan. It smells, tastes, feels like a genuine thing. So, run out and pick it up.

Coop mode would have been cool.

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10



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