The lights are on
The year of 2005 may have been the end of George Lucas's time with the Star Wars saga, but 2008's release of the Force Unleashed proved that the Force is still with the legendary franchise. With such high potential, the Force Unleashed promises you the galaxy and often falls short of that. Average gameplay and boring new combat may drag down what it could'v been, but surprising feats of nice graphics and engaging narrative should help keep players interested in playing this still worthy Star Wars title and exploring the series universe for sure.
Set between the events of Episodes III and IV, The Force Unleashed places you in the boots of Darth Vader's secret apprentice, Starkiller, as you hunt down the galaxy's remaining Jedi and further your and your master's plot to dethrone Emperor Palpatine. With your faithful companions of Juno Eclispe and droid, Proxy, your journey will take you across the Star Wars universe and uncover the origins of the Rebel Alliance and your own mysterious past.
For 2008, The Force Unleashed sports some impressive visuals and designs for the time, even if they don’t cry out perfection. The game’s graphics and textures are rich with a sense of detail that bring its worlds to life with artistic wonder, and for good measure, objects in the environment have an amount of destructibility. Enemies and characters are animated with some good motion-capture, but their occasionally awkward facial appearances may be off-putting to their more engaging surroundings. The respective jungles and trash-strewn shipyards of Felucia and Raxus Prime are modeled much to the likenesses of their Expanded Universe portrayals and others worlds such as Bespin and Kashyyyk glimmer with the same breathtaking looks they have from their movie counterparts. Some cutscenes don’t fair nearly as well with their blocky ship battles; however, the rest feel very polished and are a pleasure to watch. Some of the action pieces for these levels are particularly spectacular, specifically the game's epic Star Destroyer sequence, almost so much that the rest of your experience will seem inconsistent. Another nice touch, all the game’s action is treated with the famous John Williams soundtrack from the films and charge the air with its trademark emotion and orchestral flair.
The greatest shortcoming of the Force Unleashed's can be found in the mixed success of its gameplay. Armed with traditional Force powers and a Sith lightsaber, Starkiller wields all of the typical powers of his Force adept predecessors and his use of them can be average at best. Starkiller’s lightsaber combat consists of of basic “hack-and-slash” gameplay that handles like a baseball bat, striking down stormtroopers like bowling pins and can be thrown around the rooms like a boomerang. These can be stringed together into short combo attacks and can feel fun for a time, but after several hours, it can be found wanting in its lack of variety. Starkiller’s Force abilities are similarly problematic. Consisting of Force Lightning, Force pushes, and Force grips, the apprentice can grab and toss enemies back and forth across a room and clumsily smash them into many of objects of his surroundings. Like his lightsaber powers, these often feel unpolished and you’ll probably prefer to rely on your lightsaber for all of their generally underwhelming power.
The game’s gameplay has additional developments that do something to deepen its experience with some worthwhile features. Points can be earned from defeating enemies and collectible Jedi holocrons can be used to level-up Starkiller's powers and skills. The game also includes various difficulty modes, from hard to medium to easy, each with increasingly more challenging enemies in each playthrough. One plus is that enemies types are numerous and interesting and their various strengths and weaknesses can make your battles with them more varied. For beginning players, The Force Unleashed includes many tutorial missions with Proxy that you can use to learn and test your new powers, but the gameplay is easy enough to learn in levels that many won’t find it necessary.
As a Star Wars game, The Force Unleashed's boldest attempts are in its impressive story-telling On par with that of George Lucas's classic tales, the story spans a great collection of famed Star Wars locales, from Bespin's Cloud City to the the Death Star itself and carries you through an interesting narrative full of notable series guests. The inclusion of Princess Leia and Jimmy Smit's Bail Organa are small touches that make the game feel like a proper Star Wars movie, and that cinematic appeal carries over into the game's story-telling. Fans will find Starkiller and Darth Vader's mutual histories intriguing at least, and it's sad not to see it explored more than it is for all of its fascinating implications into Star Wars mythos. That said, the plot is still far from perfect. Starkiller is a decidedly bland and underdeveloped hero and occasional plot-holes don't help him carry the course of the game's events. You'll often never know why anything happens the way it does, but the fascinating ideas that are involved has will keep your attention well enough. The final boss is quite spectacular at the least and your ability to choose the game's ending is a nice thought even if only one of the endings is interesting.
With such high potential, it's disappointing to see the Force Unleashed fall so short of the greatness that it planned to achieve. However, as many plot quirks and familiar gameplay that the game contains, players can find solace in what noble attempts that the game makes to push the envelope of its genre. Even if the Force Unleashed isn't above average, it's silver linings of throwing Wookies and crunching Stormtroopers are a fun experience that'll make you remember it for the best. The Force may be far from unleashed in this game, but for lovers of the Star Wars universe or adequate action experiences, the tale of Starkiller may be enough to satisfy your sci-fi cravings.
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