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2/04/2013

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


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is an action-adventure game released in multiplatform way back in September 2008. It’s a pretty fast and intense action game that takes many key aspects from other similar franchises and mixes them with a very interesting Star Wars environment. Games like God of War, Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry served as inspiration for the gameplay in The Force Unleashed and the overall result, while definitely not perfect, is very cool and enjoyable, especially for fans of the Star Wars universe.

The game takes place several years after Episode III and before Episode IV. Darth Vader goes on a mission to Kashyyyk, the home world of the wookies (like Chewbacca) to hunt down a Jedi Knight. After killing him, he finds the Jedi’s son, saves him from some Stormtroopers and decides to take him as an apprentice on a secret plot to overthrow Darth Sidious, the Emperor.

That is, in fact, the very first mission of the game, which is pretty awesome and climatic. You play as Vader as he walks around the forests of Kashyyyk fighting fierce wookie warriors while searching for this lone Jedi knight. Once this mission is over, the “real” game starts and you begin playing as the main protagonist, Vader’s apprentice who is named “Starkiller”.

During the whole game, Starkiller will travel to several planets in search of fugitive Jedi who escaped the initial Order 66 purge in Episode III. By killing them, he fulfills Vader’s wishes and becomes more powerful. Starkiller is a Sith apprentice so he’ll fight only with his lightsaber (which he wields in reverse-grip) and Force powers. No blasters or ships will be controlled in the entire game.

Graphically, the game is quite nice. It uses a lot of great textures for the characters, locations, explosions, objects and the like. The places Starkiller visits are very pretty. One of the planets he goes to serves as the galaxy’s ship junkyard (named Raxus Prime) so it’s literally a planet-wide waste disposal center and looks very post-apocalyptic and destroyed in a very beautiful way.

The Xbox 360 version of the game has good antialiasing and lightning effects, especially in gameplay. It also has great animations, which can be noticed mostly in lightsaber duels between Starkiller and other Jedi. They move swiftly, fast and beautifully while fighting with their laser swords. But still, while the graphics are good, they’re not on par with other games that came out around that time like for example, Uncharted 1. The Force Unleashed looks more like a 2006-2007 game rather than a late-2008 one.

In terms of sound, the game came out perfectly. The vast majority of the songs seem to be directly taken out of the six movies. So John William’s work is in full force in this game. Even though this is a very intense action game, the music from the Star Wars movies fits perfectly in all of it. Iconic songs like the Imperial March, General Grievous theme, the main Star Wars theme and even Duel of the Fates make appearances here and there. This game has a very, very awesome soundtrack.

Voice-acting was also nicely done in it. The story is very important for the game and it takes it rather seriously, so you would expect it to be told with a good voice-acting. Fortunately, that is the case. Vader’s voice sounds exactly like in the old movies, Starkiller, his pilot Juno, his droid Proxy and the Jedi you encounter are acted perfectly so no complaints there. Emperor Palpatine does sound a little bit different but he’s not bad.

In gameplay, it feels like the game’s developers truly wanted to do a good job and for the most part, they did. But a few bugs, glitches and problems in general affect the overall gameplay experience in a negative way. As I mentioned before, this is a very fast action game like Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry but Starkiller uses Force powers like Push, Grip and Lightning which need a solid targeting system for the player to use the Force on the things he wants to use the Force on. Sadly, the overall targeting system doesn’t work as it should.

During the entire game, you’ll see tons of objects scattered around places like boulders, junk, plants, ship parts and things like that. They look good and make environment interaction nice, Starkiller can use Force Grip on them to throw them at enemies for ranged damage and other things. The problem is that, these objects are everywhere and most times they get in the way when fighting. It’s normal for Starkiller to encounter a group of dangerous enemies, try to use Force lightning on them only to find himself throwing the bolts at a nearby object while the enemies shoot him to death. It’s also common for objects he’s using Force Grip on to be thrown at completely wrong directions even if the player was definitely aiming at the right place. Of course, this doesn’t happen ALL the time. But it does, and it’s very annoying when it does.

But besides that specific issue, the rest of the game is quite good gameplay-wise. Force Powers come in different ways. As mentioned, there’s Force Push, where Starkiller pushes enemies telepathically for damage or trying to make them fall to their deaths. Force Grip allows for Starkiller to make an object levitate, move it wherever he wants using both analog sticks and then throw it at enemies (or more things), Force Lightning allows him to shoot lightning bolts from his fingertips to stun enemies and deal heavy damage and there are others like Lightsaber Throw, Force Repulse and Lightning Shield.

The most beautiful part of the gameplay is definitely the swordplay though. Starkiller has tons of excellent-looking combos with his lightsaber. They don’t dismember enemies like they should (which is quite sad) but the overall animations are excellent and very fast. Lightsaber combos are only available in the X button but mixing them with Force powers like Push and Lightning together with the Y and B buttons plus jumping makes for fantastic combos.

Starkiller can also block melee attacks, repel blaster shots, parry if he blocks well-timed blows, dash and many other things so the game is quite interactive and gives players tons of way of disposing of enemies. In fact, the game itself does tell you to try and kill enemies in varied ways to earn extra experience points to get spheres which can be exchanged for extra attributes like stronger Force powers, more defense, more HP and things like that.

One of the mechanics borrowed from God of War is the use of Quick-Time-Events in bigger enemies. After dealing a certain amount of damage to a big enemy, Starkiller will be able to dispatch it with a QTE just like in God of War. Players will have to press the correct sequence of buttons while watching how the fight continues. It’s pretty cool but after a while some of the animations start to get repetitive, especially the Rancor and AT-ST kills.

Players can also change Lightsaber colors. The default one is red because Starkiller is a Sith Apprentice but during the game, he’ll be able to find hidden holocrons with extra abilities for himself and colors for his saber. Among the available ones are blue, green, yellow, purple and even a black one that looks incredibly cool. There are two DLC missions that take the protagonist to planets Hoth and Tatooine for some extra missions that take place after one of the game’s endings (there are two endings in the main game depending on a specific decision in the final mission).

So, in overall, the game is pretty good. It has an excellent story, great graphics, fantastic sound and good gameplay that could and should have been much better if the targeting system for Force powers didn’t get in the way so many times. It’s rather short so it can be played several times with no problems. It’s challenging but not to the point of frustration like for example Demons Souls. There’s always a good strategy to use on all enemies and playing it forcing yourself to vary the way you play is incredibly fun.


Pros:

-          Great storyline, characters, voice-acting and narrative.
-          Fantastic soundtrack.
-          Lightsaber combos are excellent.
-          Tons of great enemies to kill during all of it.

Cons:

-          Targeting system for Force Powers is buggy and annoying.
-          Some boss battles are a bit weak.
-          Too short.


-          Graphics and Visuals…….…..8
-          Music and Sound Effects..…...9
-          Gameplay……………………7
-          Replay Value…………….…..8

-          Overall Score……………….. 8 / 10

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