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Avatar ImageStar Wars: The Force Unleashed Review
By: | January 23rd, 2009 | Xbox 360
Review |X360

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Ever since Luke Skywalker decimated the Death Star, Yoda lifted an X-Wing, and Darth Vader conquered the Emperor, fans of Star Wars have wanted desperately to wield the “force.” While there are still no Jedi Academy recruiters visiting local high schools for prospective Padawans, Lucasarts has developed “The Force Unleashed” for those hungry to learn the ancient ways of the force. The question is, is this an honors course or remedial studies?

The Force Unleashed drops the player somewhere between, “Revenge of the Sith,” and “A New Hope,” allowing control of Lord Vader for the training level on Kashyyyk. The representation of the force on this first level is an exaggerated, menacing incarnation of the graceful power found in other reaches of the Star Wars universe. It’s entertaining to see force lighting-blasted Wookies being slung off of flailing bridges, but the real initial draw is seeing the dark, ominous Vader stalking about the vibrant, green wildlife of the planet. Never before has one of fiction’s greatest villains looked so amazing on screen. His cape billows around him as he plows through ranks of Wookies, always keeping a determined, steady pace without running. The essence of Vader is captured perfectly here.

Image courtesty of Galactic Empire Softball League.

Image courtesty of Galactic Empire Softball League.

The nostalgic bliss that flows through the first level is immediately interrupted by a stubborn camera. The game urges the player to use quick God of War-like combos to dispatch foes, while simultaneously babysitting the viewpoint. The problem only gets worse when introduced to the game’s main protagonist, Vader’s apprentice “Starkiller.” This main character is far faster than Vader, utilizing dodge moves and lightning fast attacks that leave the sluggish camera in the dust. Even with the sensitivity cranked all the way up, the camera never truly felt like it was flowing naturally with the combat. Boss battles take a different, yet equally annoying approach as they opt for a mostly static camera angle that zooms in and out at its own leisure. Just when it feels safe to focus on dodging and combos the broken camera snags and awkwardly shifts, punishing you in a way no boss in the game can. Think of trying to watch the Darth Maul lightsaber scenes of Episode I with a 5-year-old holding the camera. You get the picture.

As control shifts to Starkiller, the mighty powers that were bestowed upon the player as Vader are immediately stripped, and so begins an upward climb to regain the powers. Throughout the eight hours of the game Starkiller will learn the Star Wars video game standards like force grab, force push, force lighting, lightsaber throwing, etc. Nothing too new here, except in the execution. Doors do not simply open when force push is used upon them, their hinges are shattered as they blow apart. Enemies aren’t simply tossed about the air with force grab, they cling to objects around them like other troopers and hand rails as they float helplessly through the air, only to be thrown into an abyss. In these terms the force is truly unleashed.

However, the fun that is produced by manipulating objects with the force is fleeting, and these sorts of antics are not required to complete the game. In fact, toying with your subjects like a bully with a magnifying glass and an ant farm will most likely result in a blaster-shot through the heart. This boils down to quick flicks of the joystick to toss enemies aside, and devastating lightsaber combos to clean up the mess, a concept not altogether extraordinary compared to other action games. The lock-on system is automatic and very touchy, making it is difficult to target who you want to reach out to with the force. Additionally, the melee combat is sloppy and imprecise, causing “expert Jedi” Starkiller to hack through an enemy with a movement-restricting combo that inevitably causes him to fall off a cliff. Sometimes it doesn’t even take a fierce battle to cause premature death, several times the character would be stationary, only to slide down an imaginary slope and fall to his doom. Despite the lack of never actually playing on the ice-planet Hoth, there is the consistent feeling that Starkiller is treading on ice, never with sure footing. The platforming sections of the game are deplorable for this reason. Imagine trying to throw a tennis ball on a pyramid and getting it to stay put, that’s what it’s like trying to get Starkiller to jump on a platform at times.

Do you really think Stormtrooper armor does anything?

Do you really think Stormtrooper armor does anything?

The game takes a quick turn for the difficult after the TIE fighter factory, throwing tough, force-immune droids at the player. It is hard to feel like a Jedi when made to run like a chicken for cover while waiting for the force meter to be replenished. Attempting to soften the blow of oddly overpowered enemies, force powers are gained and upgraded by racking up kills, leveling up, and finding hidden orbs. Throughout the process of the game the awe of force unleash-ness never matches the magnitude of the first level.

The main draw of this game for any Star Wars fan should not be its interpretation of the force, but rather the canon storyline, stamped with George Lucas’s approval. The plot features standards like Vader and Emperor Palpatine, along with many familiar faces that I won’t mention for sake of the fanatics that have yet to play the game. Lets just say that the cameos are likely to cause a wistful shiver to run down any fan’s spine. Epic Star Wars characters aside, the plot contains some confusing twists and a somewhat sloppy origins story for a vital component that defines the classic trilogy. Despite all the minor issues with the story, this is Star Wars canon, enough said.

Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review

Rating Category
8.0 Presentation
This is a beautiful looking game, and hosts the best virtual representation of Darth Vader I've ever seen. However many of the level designs are uninspired, and enemies are recycled far too often.
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5.0 Gameplay
A finicky camera forces you to babysit during the level, then during the bossfights it becomes rigid and constricting. Force powers and lightsabers can only carry uninspired and sloppy controls so far.
9.0 Sound
All the brilliant ear candy from the movies is here, including solid voice acting.
4.0 Longevity
I have no desire to play this game ever again. There are multiple endings but it only takes selecting the last level from "level select" after beating the to quickly see the other ending. The unlockable outfit changes are hardly incentive to replay this game.
6.0 Overall
In the end The Force Unleashed felt like a rushed and unpolished vehicle for a good Star Wars story. If it had spent another year in development and had all the kinks smoothed out, it could have been a truly memorable gameplay experience. Only diehard Star Wars fans need apply.

  1. Good overall review pal. I have to desagree with the level design comment in the presentation section as the graphics and the design choice like the first mission with Vader and the couple of mushroom levels, along with the second level are amongst the most gorgeous.

    • avatar Mahi

      skyace156601 / @SpetsnazDeltaTVYes there is a sequel cionmg out on the 26thAnd I played the Wii version, all you do is waggle the wii and the graphics aren’t really that good so if you have a 360 or ps3 I suggest getting it for those so you can enjoy the game more.

  2. Nice review, yeah I agree that the graphics look great.
    I’m yet to try the gameplay though.

  3. Good points. The mushroom level was pretty, but I thought Kashyyk was sort of uninspired.

    Thanks for the comment though.

    • avatar Nelly

      Obi Wan Kenobi and its my favorite chratcaer xD in this collection, in the one of ep 3 ALL all the figures are more than awsome the best collection EVER!!! but i im looking for General Griveous with 4 Lightsaber the one that was realeased at Ep 3 not the one of the clone wars and Darth Maul I LOVE STAR WARS SOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!

    • avatar Scott

      The Soviet Union developed its own style of Abstraction in its viausl art, especially after Glasnost. While Russia was largely cut off from the west, and under an authoritarian government, it still managed to develop a unique modern art style, the acme of which seems to be their graphic design.

  4. Great review. I feel the exact same way about this game, and I LOVE action-adventure games.

  5. avatar Adam

    I just think I’m in love with The Apprentice.

    • avatar Nikita

      My Junior is really into star wars. He has been wanntig one of thos “voice changer masks”, but we have been unable to find one….So we have the transformer voice changer mask!

    • avatar Craven

      FuzzyScotsman / Got this on the PC bases on this review, sadly the PC vesoirn port is awful, next to no graphic customisation to take advanatage of PC video cards, a menu system that us alien to most PC users and game lag to make it almost unplayable in some parts .im sure its fun on a console but sadly im a pc only kinda guy.

  6. avatar bobo yuk

    great review but why 6? this gameplay is not that broken…. it’s very enjoyable.. the story is awesome, cause it adds to the main story as you pointed out… millions of copies have been sold.. and a 6 point game , it is not.

  7. avatar w00ze

    While the game isn’t perfect I had a lot of fun playing through it. I’d probably rank it 8 but mention the fun factor.

  8. I was frustrated just watching the game , granted i didn’t get the full experience of the storyline, seeing failed attempts repeated one after another due to bad camera angles and sloppy platform construction was enough to deter me.

    • avatar Hidhayat

      I wish I would have thought of that for my NT son when he was that age. Actually, I am suespirrd that the boy who made a bow and arrow set out of plastic hangers and wooden spoons didn’t think of it himself!

  9. avatar jakeyboy201

    i think this game was bloody brilliant the good and bad endin were just awsome never played a game like it

  10. avatar Melis

    Reviewer; .this was a really bad reivew, and I don’t mean a negative one. I mean a useless example of the art of reivewing .Instead of mentioning, much of any importance like; combat mechanics, the much vaunted ragdoll physics, the story, or even grapphical quality, you wasted most of the reivew talking total shit about a your’ genius lando cocktail game or how much you’d love to make your SW action figures fight your’ GIJoe and transformer figs’. This was wanking to game footage.

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